It took six months of renovations to transform a storied building in Brussels into the modernized townhouse that Ronald Rozenbaum calls home. He debuted the finished product by inviting some visitors over for a first look at the fresh interiors – but a typical housewarming party wouldn’t do for this unique space. Instead, Rozenbaum, an established Belgian art collector, opened up his home to the public, welcoming friends and strangers alike to experience an inaugural exhibition assembled in the newly opened art gallery on the lower level.
Rozenbaum had fallen for the property upon first sight and immediately began dreaming up a way to capitalize on its over-10,000-square-foot footprint. “I knew right away it would be too much space for day-to-day life, which allowed us to start getting creative with other uses,” he says. The collector called up his old friend Julie Engels, the founder and owner of Brussels-based architecture firm Studio P Architects, enlisting her help in bringing his art-centric vision to life.
Marks of the past were littered throughout when Engels took on the project. The dilapidated house, built in 1910, was previously a hotel and then operated as a Lebanese embassy for 30 years before Rozenbaum snatched it up. He remembers the sad state of it when he first visited: “Communist-era offices with peeling, patterned wallpaper and busts of bygone leaders stashed in the attic.” Happily, with Engels’s sharp eye for design, the pair were able to identify several salvageable aspects amid the decay.
Slabs of restored “Michelangelo marble,” so nicknamed due to the artist’s affinity for it in his sculpting, line the floor and walls in the home’s grand entry hall. They were just one of many surprises uncovered during the renovations.