Brussels

Inside Art nouveau

The former Cohn-Donnay house

Rue Royale 316, 1210 Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium

Façade (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Façade (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Entrance hall (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Entrance hall (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Entrance hall and stairwell (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Entrance hall and stairwell (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Former garden (photo 2013) ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Former garden (photo 2013) ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Façade (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Façade (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Entrance hall (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Entrance hall (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Entrance hall and stairwell (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Entrance hall and stairwell (photo ca 1990), photo Bastin-Evrard ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Former garden (photo 2013) ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

Former garden (photo 2013) ©urban.brussels. All rights reserved.

The former Cohn-Donnay house

In 1904, the owners of this huge mansion, originally built in 1841 in the neoclassical style, commissioned the architect Paul Hamesse to convert it and bring it up to date.

EXTERIOR

Despite being green (it was not this colour in 1904), the façade has remained resolutely neoclassical, except for the imposing bow window that Hamesse added to it. Moreover, what with the balcony and its wrought iron railing made up of diagonally-arranged openwork rectangles, its decoration of gilded discs and lines and its vividly-coloured stained glass windows, there is no question that the master architect has clearly left his mark.

When you approach the front door you can see Hamesse’s famous detail: the combined door handle and letter box in the form of an enigmatic owl.

INTERIORS

While Hamesse took a modest approach with the façade, the architect completely changed the interior and created a total work of art, ranging from the furniture to the stained glass windows and wall paintings.

There is no doubt that the interiors are among the most remarkable in Brussels; their details include the billiard room’s stained glass windows with yellow tones, the glazed roof light with geometric patterns and the staircase with Japanese-inspired woodwork. Most of the furniture is still present.

The ground floor was completely redesigned: it consists of a concierge’s room, stalls for horses and storerooms. The architect made the most of the sloping site by designing a ramp suitable for carriages leading to the basement and to carriage storage areas underneath the mansion’s back garden.

In 1980, the building was converted into a brasserie-restaurant, the interior of which was restored and adapted in keeping with the style. At that time the garden was covered in order to house the brasserie, but you can still see there, on the left, the long rock wall that was once covered by rare plants.

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