Studio Farris Architects reinterprets a traditional waterfront house in Belgium

Turning the traditional townhouse layout on its head, the Antwerp-based firm designed the Canal House around hidden courtyards while emphasising the views of the maritime canal.

by Nadezna SiganporiaPublished on : Jul 30, 2022

In a wonderfully picturesque town in Belgium, lie a row of quaint townhouses overlooking the Brussel-Scheldt Maritime canal, which splits the Humbeek town in two. Even though they are right on the waterfront, the inhabitants don't get the most out of the location. The traditional layout of houses has the living quarters on the ground floor with high windows protected by curtains for privacy. The result is a disconnect between the view and the outside world.

The house has been designed to make the most of the available space while being respectful of the neighbouring architecture and surrounding gabled roofscape | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
The house has been designed to make the most of the available space while being respectful of the neighbouring architecture and surrounding gabled roofscape Image: Koen Van Damme, Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects

Sitting in the midst of these townhouses and designed by Studio Farris Architects, is a single family-residence fronted by an exposed brick façade which thrives in its waterfront location. The Antwerp-based architectural firm founded by Italian architect Giuseppe Farris designed the Canal House to make the most of the available space while being respectful of the neighbouring architecture and surrounding gabled roofscape.

The living areas have been placed on the upper floor affording sprawling views of the canal while the sleeping and private areas are tucked away on the ground floor | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
The living areas have been placed on the upper floor, affording sprawling views of the canal while the sleeping and private areas are tucked away on the ground floor Image: Koen Van Damme, Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects

Redefining the typical

The studio replaced a pre-existing building with a private residence that maximised the view of the canal as well as blurred the boundaries between the interiors and exteriors while affording ample privacy. In an elegant adaptation designed to extend the potential of the site and redefine the use of the house, the studio reversed the layout.

  • The view of the canal from the living room on the upper floor | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
    The view of the canal from the living room on the upper floor Image: Koen Van Damme, Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects
  • On the ground floor are two bedrooms cloaked in privacy from the filtering front gate and wall which leads to an intimate entrance courtyard | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
    On the ground floor are two bedrooms cloaked in privacy from the filtering front gate and wall which leads to an intimate entrance courtyard Image: Koen Van Damme, Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects
  • The house establishes a connection with the exterior world while still affording ample privacy to the residents | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
    The house establishes a connection with the exterior world while still affording ample privacy to the residents Image: Koen Van Damme, Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects

The living areas have been placed on the upper floor, affording sprawling views of the canal while the sleeping and other private areas are tucked below on the ground floor. Shielding the bedrooms is an entrance courtyard which acts as a buffer between the street and the house while the posterior of the house opens up to a small garden.

  • The view of the entrance courtyard and canal beyond from the ground floor | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
    The view of the entrance courtyard and canal beyond from the ground floor Image: Martino Pietropoli, Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects
  • A staircase accessed from the main door at the entrance courtyard leads to the living area on the upper floor | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
    A staircase accessed from the main door at the entrance courtyard leads to the living area on the upper floor Image: Martino Pietropoli, Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects

A staircase accessed from the main door at the entrance courtyard leads to the living area on the upper floor, which opens up to a terrace and the panoramic views. The living room leads into a dining area and finally the kitchen at the rear which overlooks the 'secret' garden in the back. On the ground floor are two bedrooms cloaked in privacy from the filtering front gate and wall; one opens out onto the intimate entrance courtyard while the other overlooks the back garden.

One of the bedrooms on the ground floor | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
One of the bedrooms on the ground floor Image: Martino Pietropoli, Courtesy Studio Farris Architects

Connecting with the outside world

The reversed layout and two small courtyards work well to bring the outdoors in. The studio further opened up the home by adding the glass-bordered terrace which was created by a purposeful 'cutting' of half of the roof volume. The terrace creates a beautiful sit-out while bringing in light and ventilation. 

The entrance staircase leads to the living room on the upper floor which opens out on to the terrace | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
The entrance staircase leads to the living room on the upper floor which opens out on to the terrace Image: Martino Pietropoli, Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects

At the entrance, the idea was to discover this small courtyard once you enter through the filtered gate. A solitary tree set within the pebbled courtyard introduces a feel of the natural world to the home and infuses the space with a sense of warmth. Both the ground floor bedroom and upper floor terrace visually and physically connect with this space. At the rear, the second ground floor bedroom and upper floor kitchen overlook the tiny garden.

The terrace creates a beautiful sit-out while opening up the canal views and bringing in light and ventilation | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
The terrace creates a beautiful sit-out while opening up the canal views and bringing in light and ventilation Image: Martino Pietropoli, Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects

There is a consistent relationship purposefully established with the exterior world which reveals a different view with every turn within the home. At the same time, the studio's residential design offers abundant privacy from the road. The interior design, with a palette of light wood, stone and white is accentuated by just the right amount of black with splashes of green in the furniture and frames. The home is minimal, warm and always looking out to the natural world to elevate the design.

  • Italian architect Giuseppe Farris, founder Studio Farris Architects | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
    Italian architect Giuseppe Farris, Founder, Studio Farris Architects Image: Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects
  • Diagram of Canal House | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
    Diagram of Canal House Image: Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects
  • Ground floor plan | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
    Ground floor plan Image: Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects
  • Upper floor plan | Canal House Humbeek | Studio Farris Architects | STIRworld
    Upper floor plan Image: Courtesy of Studio Farris Architects

Project Details

Name: Canal House Humbeek
Location: Humbeek, Belgium
Architectural firm: Studio Farris Architects
Schedule: Construction completed in February 2020; finishes and furniture completed in January 2022
Lot size: 89 sqm
Ground floor area: 73 sqm
Upper floor area: 62 sqm
Materials: Façade – white bricks; Windows – black aluminium; ground level flooring – ceramic tiles; upper-level flooring and staircase - wood
Contractor: KLOBO

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