"It's the one with the graffiti on the gate". This was the last clue I received on my way to Studiomie, a one room hotel in a converted shipping container in Ghent. I was so lucky that the team at Walkie Talkie (Belgium's coolest PR agency) (Remember the Tourism Antwerp trip they invited me on?) recommended this little hotel to me.
As I entered Studiomie's door pin code a Euro-chic lady pulled up on her bicycle. This lady was INCREDIBLY cool. European, chic and cool. Dayum girl! Meet Mieke, the owner of Studiomie. Is there anything more awkward than being sprung by the owner as you let yourself into a strangers house. But Mieke pulled everything off effortlessly and warmly welcomed me. Those Euro-cool women. I can't even.
Mieke introduced herself and lead me up the winding outdoor stairs to the shipping container which would be my home for the night. Built with the idea partly of meeting new people, and also to hold up the structure of the front of Mieke's house, Studiomie is filled to the brim with joyful design surprises. A fluoro tie here, a pastel knob hanger there, a scattering of HAY trays in the kitchen...you get the picture.
"Did it have windows?" asked my friend. Studiomie is filled with so much light even in winter, it's incredible. Mieke says she thinks of the wall-to-wall window as her moving painting. From the ground floor you can look up through this large window where "you can't see any buildings from the window, just the sky", she says, explaining how she likes to spend afternoons sitting there watching the clouds pass. In fact, Mieke says that sometimes her and her husband have a mini holiday there. Although the one room hotel is just meters away from their actual house, they pack food and whatever they might need for the weekend and staycation there.
Inspired by Japanese 'pet architecture', Studiomie was built compact in true Tokyo style, with the most incredible attention to detail. Instead of rushing out early to explore Ghent, I spent a slow morning watching the light change and taking photos inside Studiomie.
For such a tiny space there were so many light switches. Mieke explained how she doesn't like staying at hotels where the only lighting options are the overhead room light, the bedside lights and perhaps a floor lamp. She finds importance in creating special lighting and wanted her guests to be able to experience this same joy. The bedroom wall lights, scattered like polkadots above the bed, blew my mind.
The butterfly mirror in the bathroom reflects a fluoro pink glow onto the white wall. Love!
Mieke doesn't offer food to her guests during the week but I would have loved to have seen what she prepared for a special weekend breakfast. On my way out to dinner the night I stayed I glanced over at her house which is across the yard from the container. In true Euro-cool form she had her windows completely open and was casually flicking through a recipe book and rolling meatballs. "She's making meatballs!" I squealed. I wasn't used to the way she was so comfortable with the curtains open. I loved this about Amsterdam, too. The way people would leave their windows open as they watched TV, sat by candlelight or cooked dinner.
Mieke invited me into her house, which, of course, was absolutely gorgeous. Books for days. Incredible winter light which fell onto her kitchen bench and turned the foilage-intact-mandarins into a still life worthy of painting.
Mieke was playing soft piano jazz through her MacbookPro as she worked from home on her dining table. A candle was burning, and tea was brewing. I wanted to move in.
Mieke was kind enough to show me around her office, loan me a design travel book, and even drove me to the train station to get my train to Antwerp. If you're in Belgium you really must stay at Studiomie. Like me, you'll leave full of inspiration and with the biggest smile.