Bent Van Looy




Photographed by Charlie de Keersmaeker



Tell us about your house in the woods



Ever since spending my childhood in a small garden house in the woods north of Antwerp, I have felt a strong attraction to the scent of pines, birches and purple heath. I couldn’t believe my luck when, about a year ago, we stumbled upon this artist’s bungalow, about a stone's throw from the garden house of my youth. We knew immediately, that this would be our dream house. It has a Bohemian charm and is a mix of a 1930s cottage and a 1970s bungalow. The English garden is spectacular, at any time of year, there’s always something in bloom. Right now, the outburst of autumnal colors in stunning to behold.




What are your favorite spots to have a walk around ?



Quite obviously, the Kalmthoutse Heide national park, a sandy steppe-like dreamscape where ancient pines grow twisted among the purple heath. 
Our village was built by Jewish people from Antwerp, who used it as a vacation spot in the early 20th century. We still pass an old, weathered synagogue in the woods on our way to school.
The place has always had an urban, intellectual and artistic streak, quite in contrast with agricultural communities who surround it. We are also very lucky to have the Arboretum in our village, a fantastic collection of rare trees and plants, an oasis of natural splendor!


Any routines you like to follow ?


As the father of two young girls, I jump on my bike for the early morning school run, through the misty forest and dewy meadows, quite spectacular. When I’m not in my painting studio in town, I love to stay at home and spend the rest of the day working on watercolors, new music and preparations for my weekly radio show.


How would you define your relationship to nature ? Has it evolved over time ?


I was lucky to spend some crucial years of my childhood in these woods. Even though our living quarters were very Spartan, to say the least, my brother and I considered the forest our playground. We would often disappear until well after dark, playing with two brothers who lived deeper in the woods. Hard to imagine these days, this freedom. I hope to pass some of it on to our children.


What is it like to bring up your children in the countryside ?


At 9 and 5, the girls are enjoying the amazing woods and heath that surround us. I love that they are so aware of the changing of seasons. Two months ago, we were joined by two rabbits. Mia is a little skittish and prefers to chill out on her own, but Alex Van Looy, as it says on his veterinary passport, is very cuddly.




Does your relationship to nature's seasons influence the way you dress ?


Much more than I used to when I lived in Paris or Antwerp, I have to adapt to the elements when I get on my bicycle in the morning. Layering is crucial, as you never know what the next 20 minutes will bring. Big, cosy woolen coats are my favorite this season, and I rarely leave the house without a hat of some sort.


What about the way you paint ?


Though I haven’t really embraced full on plein airisme, the changes of the seasons definitely affect my color palette. I take a lot of pictures of weird crooked trees. I’m sure they’ll pop up in my paintings at some point.