JS: I have always been drawn to the authentic, ingenious and uncomplicated; any design that is honest, clever and simple. Our South African vernacular architecture is the inspiration for my buildings. I appreciate the honesty of the design, the sincerity of the materials, the resourceful and uncomplicated methods of construction, as well as the care with which the buildings were placed in the landscape.
“My favourite thing about this house is that we are always a stone’s throw from each other.”
So says Annaline van den Berg of the home that she and her family have been living in since November 2016.
Once inside the open-plan living area, you understand exactly what she means. Toddlers Karlien and Joshua’s cleverly designed playroom is located just off the large living area but still forms part of it. Gerrit can also be part of the action when he’s braaiing and it’s precisely this open-plan design that makes their home such a sociable space. “We can also keep an eye on the kids on the strip of lawn alongside the house, no matter where we are,” says Annaline.
No matter in which space you stand, there’s a distinct sense of connectedness permeating this Bishopscourt abode in Cape Town. Carefully engineered by Johann Slee and Yvonne Onderweegs of Stellenbosch-based architectural firm Slee+Co, every room offers glimpses of the surrounding landscape. Of course, this quiet suburb, known for its sylvan-like greenery, has no shortage of breathtaking natural views, so when the owners first alighted on the plot – with its abounding vistas of the Constantiaberg mountain – there was no question that whatever structure they created would need to be inexorably linked to its environment.
'n Plaasdorpshuis - Our brief was simple - create a home where you are constantly aware of the beautiful mountains surrounding us, the reason we gave up city life.
As architect and client I could explore my intense appreciation for our local honest farm structures, and use it as inspiration for our new home. The simplicity of the functional corrugated structures found on every farm in South Africa and the honest use of local raw materials.
Award-winning architect, Johann Slee, has extensive experience with the complexities of designing high-end residential projects. Principal partner and director at Slee & Co. Architects, he and his firm have specialised in this area for the past three decades, winning several awards, including for the firm’s heritage office building and his own residence, the Sinkhuis.
Slee believes that “good design should address your client’s brief, respond to the site with its topography and views, and honour its context, whether it is nature or the built environment. But most importantly, it should have soul.”
Combine serendipity and synchronicity, add a dash of impulsiveness, blend in plenty of creativity and you have a uniquely designed house that ticks all the holiday- requirement boxes. Twenty years ago Nicol and Vilhéta Retief, a Paarl-based couple, chanced upon a historic seaside house for sale at Stilbaai in the Western Cape. On an impulse, they decided it was for them.
Paramount to the Retiefs is family time; for them, togetherness and leisure pursuits go hand in hand. They and their grown-up children are all outdoor enthusiasts, not attracted by the ‘plastic of casino resorts’. Their holiday home therefore had to offer ease of access to beach and bush while providing low-maintenance accommodation for three generations, including two young grandchildren. To transform this property into what they had in mind, they needed an imaginative, solution-orientated design.
Situated between Standford and Gansbaai in the Cape Overberg, the small coastal hamlet of De Kelders is still something of a hidden gem. With just a few eateries and a relatively small concentration of homes, it offers real escapism for those wishing to drink in the endless ocean vistas and pristine fynbos surrounds.
The owners of this space, designed by architect Johann Slee (see Deco Architect on page XX), happened upon De Kelders four years ago while enjoying a drive in the area. On closer investigation and a chat with a local agent, they made an impromptu decision to purchase a plot. ‘We’re quite impulsive people and the papers were signed at the airport just before checking in to fly back to the UK,’ they laugh. With both having ties to South Africa (one grew up here and the other has family based here), they were determined to have a holiday home that clearly embraced its ‘South Africanness’ and that encompassed its natural environment.