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A Victorian Hunting Lodge Receives a Refined Upgrade—Belgian Style

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A Victorian Hunting Lodge Receives a Refined Upgrade—Belgian Style

January 25, 2019

Queen Victoria made the pilgrimage to Gairnshiel Lodge in the Scottish Highlands. So did King George V, King George VI, the Duke of York, and the future Queen Mother. They came to hunt for grouse, take in the extraordinary hills and dales, and castle hop (Balmoral is just 10 minutes away). These days the attractions remain much the same—but an equal draw is the lodge itself.

In 2015, a very private Belgian family, who prefer to be known just by their first names—Eric and Hilde, and their sons, Maarten and Quinten—fell in love with the area and became the lodge’s new proprietors. Run in recent years as a traditional hotel (“done up in tartan carpets and pink walls, but not in a Wes Anderson way,” they tell us), it’s been restored and recast, this time in a refined Belgian guise. The family divide their time between Antwerp and the lodge, which they’ve just begun renting out in its high-style entirety (it accommodates groups of up to 16 with Eric and Hilde as hosts— they themselves even do the cooking). Join us for a look around; grouse hunters welcome.

Photography courtesy of Gairnshiel Lodge.

Gairnshiel Lodge was built in 1746 where the River Gairn and River Dee meet. Ballater in the Cairngorms National Park is the nearest village.
Above: Gairnshiel Lodge was built in 1746 where the River Gairn and River Dee meet. Ballater in the Cairngorms National Park is the nearest village.

“Since we’re new here and the climate is challenging,” Hilde and Eric note, “our garden is still a work in progress.” (Prior to their Highlands fling, Eric was in the plastic pipeline business and Hilde worked in education,)

The Gairnshiel Bridge was built over the River Gairn in the 18th century. There are 20,000 private acres surrounding the lodge and beyond that is parkland.
Above: The Gairnshiel Bridge was built over the River Gairn in the 18th century. There are 20,000 private acres surrounding the lodge and beyond that is parkland.
The overhaul is the work of interior architect Nathalie Van Reeth, who is based in Belgium, and was supported by local architect Gerry Robb.
Above: The overhaul is the work of interior architect Nathalie Van Reeth, who is based in Belgium, and was supported by local architect Gerry Robb.

The entry provides the first hint that this is not a typical Scottish restoration. The idea was to “create a place where the old meets the new: where the traditional stands in dialogue with the modern,” explains the website. The Stackable Stools are by Belgian designer Bram Venderbeke, a member of the Brut Collective.

Antique Chinese doors found in an antiques shop in Antwerp were sent to Scotland to become a coat closet.
Above: Antique Chinese doors found in an antiques shop in Antwerp were sent to Scotland to become a coat closet.
An ensemble of 20th century design classics in the stair hall: Charlotte Perriand’s 1950s Cansado Bench, the 1975 Daphine Terra LED Floor Lamp, Pierre Chapo’s 1960s Stool S31, and a 1970s travertine table found on 1st Dibs.
Above: An ensemble of 20th century design classics in the stair hall: Charlotte Perriand’s 1950s Cansado Bench, the 1975 Daphine Terra LED Floor Lamp, Pierre Chapo’s 1960s Stool S31, and a 1970s travertine table found on 1st Dibs.
In the lounge, a Belgian linen-covered sofa is surrounded by vintage designs, including Kristian Vedel’s black leather and rosewood Modus chair. The walls here and throughout are finished with Crustal, a chalk-based “mineral coating” by Stoopen & Meeûs that comes in a range of colors.
Above: In the lounge, a Belgian linen-covered sofa is surrounded by vintage designs, including Kristian Vedel’s black leather and rosewood Modus chair. The walls here and throughout are finished with Crustal, a chalk-based “mineral coating” by Stoopen & Meeûs that comes in a range of colors.
In addition to newly installed central heating, the lodge has many fireplaces. The coffee table came out of Eric and Hilde’s house in Antwerp. Their son, Maarten, 22, spent two years studying interior architecture and worked for Axel Vervoordt.
Above: In addition to newly installed central heating, the lodge has many fireplaces. The coffee table came out of Eric and Hilde’s house in Antwerp. Their son, Maarten, 22, spent two years studying interior architecture and worked for Axel Vervoordt.
The dining room’s 13-foot table was designed by Van Reeth and custom made by Heerenhuis of Antwerp. It’s surrounded by vintage chairs and Pierre Chapo stools. The stone walls are all original.
Above: The dining room’s 13-foot table was designed by Van Reeth and custom made by Heerenhuis of Antwerp. It’s surrounded by vintage chairs and Pierre Chapo stools. The stone walls are all original.
The lodge bar, a Nathalie Van Reeth design, is finished with hand-woven raffia. The vintage wicker stools are by Dirk van Sliedrecht.
Above: The lodge bar, a Nathalie Van Reeth design, is finished with hand-woven raffia. The vintage wicker stools are by Dirk van Sliedrecht.
The lodge has nine guest rooms. “We tried to create warm but pure spaces,” say the owners. “We get great inspiration from the Japanese wabi sabi way of living.”
Above: The lodge has nine guest rooms. “We tried to create warm but pure spaces,” say the owners. “We get great inspiration from the Japanese wabi sabi way of living.”
Hand-forged nails serve as knobs on the bedroom wardrobes made by Belgian designer/reclamation dealer Joris Van Apers.
Above: Hand-forged nails serve as knobs on the bedroom wardrobes made by Belgian designer/reclamation dealer Joris Van Apers.
The beds have custom leather headboards and bedside Flo LED Wall Lights by Foster & Partners. On the side tables: reading materials as well as naturally scented candles and “comfort mists” by UK company Honest.
Above: The beds have custom leather headboards and bedside Flo LED Wall Lights by Foster & Partners. On the side tables: reading materials as well as naturally scented candles and “comfort mists” by UK company Honest.
The bathroom surfaces—walls, floors, counters, bathtub surrounds—are finished with Stuc, a stucco-like water-resistant material from Stoppen & Meeûs. There are nine guest baths, each in a different color.
Above: The bathroom surfaces—walls, floors, counters, bathtub surrounds—are finished with Stuc, a stucco-like water-resistant material from Stoppen & Meeûs. There are nine guest baths, each in a different color.

“The spaces at Gairnshiel are dark,” says Maarten. “It lends a really nice vibe in real life, but is difficult to capture.”

The showers are also finished with Stuc. The matte black fixtures are from Phoenix of Australia’s Vivid Slimline collection.
Above: The showers are also finished with Stuc. The matte black fixtures are from Phoenix of Australia’s Vivid Slimline collection.
A sculptural ceramic basin from Joris Van Apers paired with a wall-mounted matte-black faucet from Phoenix.
Above: A sculptural ceramic basin from Joris Van Apers paired with a wall-mounted matte-black faucet from Phoenix.
The entrance to the Gairnshiel sauna with a door, bench, and hooks of reclaimed wood. The stone floor is original.
Above: The entrance to the Gairnshiel sauna with a door, bench, and hooks of reclaimed wood. The stone floor is original.
The lodge has all new oak-framed windows.
Above: The lodge has all new oak-framed windows.
The River Gairn. For more information and to inquire about reservations (groups only, up to three nights minimum), go to Gairnshiel.
Above: The River Gairn. For more information and to inquire about reservations (groups only, up to three nights minimum), go to Gairnshiel.

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