Photo by Bagus Tri Laksono
Belgian ambassador to Indonesia Patrick Herman met his wife, Siobhan, 23 years ago in Zimbabwe before their first posting together to China. The couple has an exquisite passion for art–and their 1930s colonial-style residence in Menteng, Central Jakarta, tells it all. “In Jakarta, when our family moved in, we changed everything for almost a month and we love the way it is now,” Herman says.
The ambassador and his wife have a son, Tom, 16, and a daughter, Ginny, 13. The couple have dedicated the house for work and for their children to study, all the while showcasing an artistic flair with sculptures, art books and his wife’s paintings.
Meanwhile, the family lives in an extended pavilion hidden in the rear, past a swimming pool and a garden.
From the foyer, two openings allow you to see the marbled-floor living rooms with a glimpse of their tropical garden behind French patio doors. The house has two wings at the front, where the ambassador and his wife usually work or dine with guests.
Siobhan Herman is an artist who has been exploring Indonesia. “Indonesian landscapes have taught me so much about life. On portrait paintings, I like to bring personalities on canvas and picturing emotions through eyes,” she says. Her studio is in the first room on the left wing, where four French windows with crisscross metal grilles face the front yard.
The ambassador’s study is located next to his wife’s studio, clad with books covering almost half of the wall. Siobhan Herman said that besides the ambassador, their children also use the quiet space to study. “We have a Labrador dog at the back, so the study room is great as a private space to work,” she says.
When it comes to diplomatic dinners, the 20-seat dining area is located across the study in the right wing. The room is enlivened by a stylized stone female figure without arms or a head, and a pair of 19th bronze “Grand Tour” vases, which denote the traditional trip undertaken by upper-class young Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries before the Napoleonic Wars.
In the first living room, you will pass a collection of the couple’s coffee table books, including the ambassador’s favourite, L’avenir de L’eau, or “The Future of Water”, by Erik Orsenna, as well as King’s favourite sculpture, “Dancers” by the Zimbabwean artist Colleen Madamombe.
The ambassador admits that they have different favourite places. “My wife fell in love with Africa for its colours, art and culture, while I admire China for its nature,” he says.
Siobhan Herman agreed, but says that her experience in Indonesia has inspired her the most. Once you enter the large living room, two Bromo-inspired paintings she completed between 2016 and 2017, “Nature of the Beast” and “On the Edge”, make for a vibrant transition.
Beneath the former painting is one of the couple’s remarkable finds: A hand-crafted dark-brown oak wood antique cabinet from the 16th century adorned with Flemish patterns that you would find in an old Belgium monastery.
At the centre of the high colonial ceiling with four open ventilations, a chandelier is anchored, delivering a suave segue to King’s 2014 series of paintings called “The Father, The Son, and The Free Spirit”.
Siobhan Herman said that the series commemorates the 1914 transition era, recognizing changes between the power of church, royalty, and feminists. “I made them in 2014, a century after that era and they are portraits of a priest, a prince, and a princess.”
When small numbers of guests come, the ambassador usually takes them to the smaller living room close to the patio, greeting them with morning coffee or afternoon tea. The area is divided into two, featuring two sets of petite-size golden armchairs and twin golden rolled armchairs, each facing an exquisite black marble topped. Siobhan Herman said that when Princess Astrid of Belgium visited Indonesia for a trade mission last year, the royal noticed that she had similar style of armchairs in Belgium. “When [Astrid] came, she was surprised and said that she has a similar style of armchairs in her home,” Siobhan Herman says.
The residence of Patrick and Siobhan Herman is full of art, creativity, and passion that has been given a distinct Belgian touch.