Art, nature and travel are a common thread through the lives of Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten. In Lasne, Walloon Brabant, they can relax in their modern villa, hidden in the green.
At the end of a narrow, cul-de-sac is the domain of art collectors and philanthropists Guy and Myriam Ullens de Schooten. Just around the corner of the driveway, an impressive bronze giant stands guard. It is the work of Thomas Houseago, the British sculptor whose work could be admired at RMFAB last year. A little further on is the family’s villa, safely hidden in a park garden.
“The original villa dates from the 1960s and was in poor condition. So it wasn’t the house, but the garden and the environment that my husband and I fell in love with right away,” says Myriam Ullens. Ten years ago, the entrepreneur launched Maison Ullens, a luxury clothing collection. And the fact that Beijing today has a museum of contemporary Chinese art is partly thanks to her.
To fully adapt the house to their wishes, they called in Marc Corbiau. The Belgian architect has managed to surround himself with an art-loving audience since the beginning of his career. His houses always radiate something like a museum. “We had previously worked with him on other projects, and each time he managed to surprise us positively. A great talent of Marc Corbiau is his sense of light. He knows perfectly how to make it invade through the different seasons.” Part of the house remained untouched, another part has been thoroughly changed and expanded. Such as the salon, with the typical sixties sitting pit, which has been brought up to the level of the other rooms. And the dining area, where the ceiling was raised to match the tall Chinese cabinets. “In addition to art, we love nature a lot,” she continues. “That’s why we have collaborated with landscape architect Erik Dhont. In his designs, he takes the customer’s personality as a starting point. I hate rain gardens. Nature was really allowed to come to the fore. The rose beds, wisteria, boxwood formations and fruit trees are all new.”
Art as meditation
The first thing you notice upon entering is the bright blue mood-shaped artwork by Anish Kapoor. On the other wall is a rainbow version of the American flag, a work by Jonathan Horowitz. On screens on the wall we see digital art by Refik Anadol. The monumental wall in the void is suspiciously empty: until a few days ago it housed a work by Sterling Ruby, which is now on its way to an exhibition in Dubai.
In the living room, a triptych attracts attention: it is a digital work of art by Anna Ridler, depicting tulips alternately budding and withering. “This work feels like a kind of meditation, it creates calm in the house. My grandchildren love it, they can keep watching it. I notice that young people are attracted to digital art anyway.
My husband and I have been collecting digital art for years. We have works from 1962 to the present, including by Miguel Chevalier, who is a pioneer in this field. He creates giant interactive works of art that come into their own in large spaces.”
A little further on hangs a work by Arne Quinze, which casts a beautiful shadow on the wall. “This work is close to my heart: Arne had donated it for auction for the benefit of my Mimi Foundation.” For years, the foundation has been committed to people with breast cancer, a disease that once also affected Myriam. “I liked the work so much that I bought it myself and donated the proceeds to the foundation. It feels like a great happiness to be able to live among art. We collect for the love of art, not for possession. Sometimes we sell pieces that make room for others. Although we remain emotionally attached to the first pieces, we now collect other styles. The world develops, and so does art and the way it is perceived.”
The architecture may be gorgeous, but the interior looks warm and cozy because of the beautiful wooden floors and soft colors. They allow both modern art and antique objects to come into their own. On the large coffee table, there are centuries-old Chinese terracotta statues next to piles of art books and other objects. The dining area contains two 17th century Hong Kong cabinets. They match wonderfully with the large dining table by Ado Chale and the Pamplona chairs by Augusto Savini for Pozzi.
“The furniture of the house has grown slowly. The big lines filled in pretty quickly, but I was looking for the right dining table for years. I wanted a table that was big enough for our large family on one side, but also matched the china cabinets. I love the work of Belgian designer Ado Chale. We eventually found this seventies table in Los Angeles at a store that specializes in vintage design. Nothing in this interior is random, behind everything there is a story or a memory of a journey.” This also applies to Maison Ullens, it is inspired by travel and art and is a good example of slow fashion. Both houses are timeless and refined, the materials luxurious.
ID Myriam Ullens de Schooten (70)
– Born in Germany in 1952 as Myriam Lechien.
– Starts entrepreneurship at 24. She founded the company Sweetly, which specializes in cakes.
– Gets married to Guy Ullens de Schooten in 1999.
– Founded the Mimi Foundation in 2004, which offers psychological support and beauty care to cancer patients in hospitals.
– Founded in 2007 the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing, together with her husband, a museum of Chinese contemporary art.
– Started her own clothing collection MUS in 2010, which she renamed Maison Ullens in 2012. The collection stems from a personal search for stylish, comfortable outfits that come out of the suitcase impeccably.
– Opens Maison Ullens stores in Paris, New York and Aspen. The opening of a pop-up shop in Antwerp is planned for next summer.