The apartment building was located in one of the grittier but trendier parts of town, with vagabonds wandering the streets by day, and rowdy youth frequenting the surrounding clubs and bars by night. The streets and buildings in the Sainte Catherine area in the centre of Brussels are slightly on the shabby side, and parts of the neighbourhood are considered hot spots for petty crime. On a small street off the Place Sainte Catherine it was hard not to miss the repurposed 1970’s office building – surrounded by 18th century maisons de maître, the building was a bit of an eye sore. As I made my way past the plastic plants in the building foyer and up the lift to the dark corridor of the third floor, I began to question the merits of this rental inspection.
But as the door opened to the corner apartment, my initial doubts were washed away by the sunlight beaming through the huge windows offering a magnificent view of the Eglise Sainte Catherine across the street. The apartment had been recently renovated with care in every detail, to create a clean and stylish living space worthy of a Scandinavian interior design magazine. I was especially impressed to learn that the glass coffee table had come straight from the movie set of The Fifth Estate (the landlord is a film set designer, and several pieces in the apartment have also been re-homed here after having been used as film props). There were nice touches to be found in the most unexpected places. A few of my favourites:
- the all-metal commercial manual hand press juicer
- textured wallpaper to add interest to the all-white walls
- custom timber venetians to match the kitchen benchtops
- the steel legs added to modernise the antique timber buffet
- the pull-string light in the bedroom – no more stubbing the toe on the way to bed!
The place was oozing with an understated cool that I could almost instantly feel being transposed to my mode de vie. I could really see myself living here – and loving it. I was home.
After navigating my way through a pack of tourists at the airport I was quickly ushered into the back of a black taxi, a Mercedes Benz with leather seats and a friendly driver who knew where he was going. I could get used to this type of luxury!
Driving through the middle of Brussels reminded me a lot of Paris. I loved it instantly. There were no buildings taller than a large cathedral. Big cities with their large buildings don’t feel welcoming at all. This city was saying hello and giving me a high five at the same time.
Our apartment overlooks the Saint Catherine cathedral which is at the centre of this small neighbourhood. The front of the old church is beautiful. The square immediately in front is surrounded by restaurants and shops, high-end chocolate shops and a few bars. The streets just south of the square are lined with Asian restaurants whose windows tease passers-by with hanging ducks and crispy pork belly. There’s also the KY Supermarket, the biggest Asian grocery in Brussels. The locals don’t really call the area chinatown, and there aren’t any golden lion figurines at the front but it certainly feels like a chinatown! A wander through the surrounding streets reveals there’s no shortage of food stores, from butchers to grocers and bakeries serving delicious breads and pastries. There are also a number of tiny convenience stores that all stock a large variety of Belgian beer.
My home for the next little while, the Sainte Catherine neighbourhood has a lot to offer. It’s only a two minute walk from Grand Place, has great restaurants and bars, and it isn’t packed with tourists ruining your selfies!