This farmstyle house is situated in Cornwall Hill Estate in Irene, Pretoria. The design celebrates the simple beauty of traditional farm architecture, expressed in a minimalist, modern contemporary way.
Photos by Elsa Young (For House and Leisure) and Thomas Gouws
Text by Graham Wood for House & Leisure October 2015 Issue:
Two years ago when DC and Celeste Bezuidenhout decided it was time to update their Irene home they called on architect Thomas Gouws, who had designed it for them 13 years prior. At the time their son Gerard, now 15, was a toddler, and Celeste was still pregnant with 14-year-old Anika. ‘This was my second project after I established my own practice,’ Thomas recalls. While the couple were looking for an architect DC’s mother spotted a building in Mooikloof, Pretoria, and suggested they look at it. ‘That house in Mooikloof was my first,’ says Thomas. The Bezuidenhouts’ home is an early example of Thomas’ work but it has all the hallmarks of his approach: the transparency, the simple, clean lines, the openness, the site sensitive design, the strong connection to the landscape and the unadorned, neutral finishes that belie a rich combination of textures and materials. The rules of the estate specified farm style architecture so Thomas built within the restrictions, developing steeply pitched corrugated iron roofs and voluminous interior spaces – but he worked in some modernist elements, too. ‘The idea was a minimalist interpretation of a barn style house,’ says Thomas. There were more important considerations than style, however. He also needed to ensure the home worked in concert with its environment. ‘A lot of the design was directed by the views and the steep slope,’ he explains. The house overlooks a rocky ridge that holds a now defunct quarry – which DC remembers swimming in as a child – with natural highveld landscape between and beyond. Thomas designed the house as much to draw in the landscape as to facilitate an effortless indoor–outdoor lifestyle. The entrance, which is essentially a glass box, barely disguises its modernist character. ‘It’s designed to focus on the view as you come in,’ says Thomas. Inside you immediately find yourself looking out over a pool that draws your eye along its length, while the uncertain water’s edge created by the rim flow blurs the distinction between landscape and building. A curious inversion has occurred: you’re inside but your eyes and mind are back outside. Blurring boundaries in a different way, the stoep and pool deck form near-seamless extensions of the indoor spaces. It’s barely possible to detect the transition between the indoor areas, the covered outdoor zones and the spaces open to the sky. ‘We’re almost permanently outside,’ says Celeste. ‘The outdoor table was custom-made for our family so it seats 14 people.’ The alterations in many ways emphasised aspects of the home’s character rather than changing it. One tweak involved replacing the old stacking patio doors with sliding doors that disappear into the wall cavities, making the transition from indoor to outdoor space even less noticeable. They also added a second storey to one of the downstairs rooms to create a formal lounge above with sweeping views of the quarry and direct access to the pool deck. Most of the labour is hidden, however, as it went into lightening the carbon footprint of the house – replacing windows with double glazing and adding solar geysers and energy-efficient heating and lighting systems. ‘I wanted to do my bit for greener living,’ says the nature loving DC. Updates within the home were carried out by interior architect Sureen Gouws, Thomas’ wife and business partner. Sureen selected furnishings to complement the home’s modern.