I’LL SEE YOU THERE ON CLOUD 9. The line made famous by the genius of George Harrison, is, however slightly modified, surely repeated in the streets of Ghent in Belgium. Here, Veva van Sloun has turned an old school chapel into a hotspot - merging a one-room bed and breakfast, concept store, and café under the brand CLOUDS 9000.
They were nine couples who bought the chapel of a former school, centred around a large, lush garden. Veva lives on the first floor of her flourishing business in an apartment with high ceilings, together with her husband and business partner Jan Wauters, their four children, the youngest of whom is a set of twins aged 5, and a cute-as-can-be dog. With a flair for making people feel comfortable, she is the mastermind behind the interior design both in the family home, the B&B, and the café Clouds in my Coffee.
Like a soukh
The family home is to a large extent shaped by the rather unusual, but ravishing surroundings. Until a decade ago, the grounds were inhabited by a run-down school, and as a result of safety issues, it closed down, and the property sold. Deploying her talent of spotting unlikely potentials, she checked out the buildings with her architect friend - both of them immediately falling in love with the old buildings and concrete playground promising of a green haven in the middle of the city. Nine couples joined in on the investment, and today, each of them has their own place. Veva has her entire life in these buildings; from the café with the street entrance in front, to the studio hotel in the back and her private home on ground floor.
Nearly ten years and an investment more significant than initially calculated later, Veva she can now focus on her home. “I don’t think we knew what we were getting into,” she admits. The buildings are on a busy street yet off the street, so you hardly notice that you are in the middle of the city. “It is a bit like a soukh,” Veva describes, as the atmosphere changes entirely upon entering the café and after moving through the buildings to reach the back.
The renovation process follows that line of change in atmosphere, and Veva started her work at the front and has now finally reached the less visible parts. The ends in their home are finally coming together.
“The project was so big, and the twins were born during the first renovations, so in the beginning, we focused on the public spaces, the B&B and the café, but now I have more time to really see the space we have in our home. I needed that peace of mind to know what I want,” Veva says.
White walls characterise the home, underlined by bold choices in textiles and accessories – such decisions for which Veva and CLOUDS9000 is known – the living room still feels colourful. Now that the youngest children are five years old, the time has also come for a new sofa and a display of her favourite art books on the coffee table.
“Oh my god, how have I ever combined all of that?” Veva says.
Business and Balance
Tracing back the steps of Veva’s life, one wouldn’t necessarily have guessed that a concept store, mini bed and breakfast, and café was in the cards for her. With a degree in law, her career began in a notary office. But six years in, she felt the need to explore her creativity and do something entirely different. She went on to work at Jan’s office, whom she had known since she was 19. And when she moved on to opening her web shop “It all just came together,” she recalls. Jan and Veva have been working side by side since then; he takes care of the administration while the creative part, the curation, and decoration are her realms.
Although being the business duo, they don’t spend every hour of every day together. Jan has his own office, where he goes every morning and from which he comes back home in the afternoon. But the couple definitely enjoys the flexibilities that the proximity of personal and professional life offers, especially when it comes to creating a family-life in balance.
"People always say that it’s my talent to spot new trends,” Veva tells.
Although Veva still feels that her work takes up a lot of her time, thinking back she wonders how she ever got through it with two small children and an all-consuming home and business renovation:
“I think I underestimated what it would be like having twins, especially with everything starting up here. It’s a strange thing because I don’t think I realised it until afterwards, and now I can’t help but think “Oh my god, how have I ever combined all of that?” Veva says.
Although everything is nearly finished with the business and the home, the family still looks at a busy schedule every week:
“The thing is, that between the café and the B&B, we don’t have weekends. So, when I need a break, I travel somewhere. I really need to just step out of the system with my kids sometimes to come back with new ideas and inspirations,” she says.
The Silver Lining
The success of CLOUDS9000 and the inspiring aesthetic of her living room proves her right when exchanging law texts for linen. “People always say that it’s my talent to spot new trends,” Veva tells which explains why her business has become synonymous with her famous taste. Besides curating the selection in the shop, decorating, and re-decorating the studio apartment, she also consults on indoor lighting and colours.
With her sense for colours, trends, and beauty, the webshop I Object became one of the first of its kind and was the early beginning of CLOUDS9000. At first, she stocked everything herself together with her former Vanessa Massant, but even though she mostly had smaller objects and gifts, the success of the shop faced her with a choice: “I either had to make it bigger and work with a warehouse or keep it at a small scale and stick to more exclusive objects,” she says. Wanting to keep it personal, she chose the latter, changed the name and build the business, which today is collected under the name CLOUDS9000.
“With her sense for colours, trends, and beauty, the webshop I Object became one of the first of its kind and was the early beginning of CLOUDS9000.”
“The cloud is a symbol of what we do because it doesn’t have a defined lining. It’s like a transfer zone,” Veva tells. Every cloud has a silver lining, and to Veva it is interior design, which “comes back in everything we do,” she says.