Revamp House #2 - New Life

Linking seamlessly with its botanical surrounds, a Westcliff Heritage House has evolved into a bright and eclectically modern family home.

Judd van Rensburg
Allan Hayward

New Life | House and Leisure

For architect Alexia Cocolas of Johannesburg’s Studio of Architecture (STOA), reconceiving this family abode in Westcliff was a dream project. 

Having bought the property years before, owners Deon and Jackie Wilken had always intended to renovate it into their ideal home, and had engaged with architect Karen Wygers on the house for a few years before her passing. When they were ready to move forward at the end of 2014, they approached STOA (Studio of Architecture), whose brief was essentially to get the project off the ground.

‘We started by refining and reformulating the design work that had already been completed, and then workshopped it further with physical and 3D models,’ says Cocolas.

It was the eclectic aesthetic and the charm of the original house that really struck her when she initially took on the project: ‘I was captivated by the space – from the exquisite garden, its trees and the pool to the delightfully decorated pool room. What also stood out was the scale of the original house. It’s one of the last of its type in the area, and quite small in relation to many of the neighbouring Westcliff homes.’


The overall theme for the redesign was establishing a seamless flow between the inside and outside. ‘We wanted the internal spaces to relate intrinsically to the external spaces so that the result would not simply be a relationship to the outside, but also the creation of outdoor rooms and courtyards as an extension of the interior rooms. Deon and Jackie did not want the typical Johannesburg veranda scenario, which really pushed the courtyards to become outdoor rooms in their own right,’ she explains.

New Life | House and Leisurehouse

‘It was a creative and engaging process – and an unexpected treat to work with a client who had knowledge of landscaping as well as a natural flair for interior design. The result was a project that could be intimately detailed and completed in quite a holistic way. Our motto for the duration of the renovation became “when in doubt, paint it black!”,’ Cocolas laughs. This refreshing and fun approach gave rise to sophistication with an edge, as is visible throughout the eclectically modern home. But no renovation is without its challenges.

‘One of the biggest issues we faced was the decision to relocate the driveway and, in fact, reinstate it to its original position,’ says Cocolas. ‘It was moved so that it curved around the main house during the alterations and additions to the house in the 1980s, which really disconnected the house from the garden. In moving it back, we had to deal with the resultant level changes, demolitions and spatial implications that went with it – but it was the right decision.’

New Life | House and Leisure

Apart from the exterior shell, the entire house was changed dramatically. ‘My favourite spaces are the kitchen and the study, for different reasons,’ says Cocolas. ‘The study (one of the few compartmentalised sections left in the original house) is reminiscent of the essential nature and spatial charm that once existed in the space. It’s richly layered, visually, yet it’s a quiet and cosy space in which to retreat.

New Life | House and Leisure

The kitchen is in the original position but has been opened up, so it is bright and spacious, and forms a central node in the house. With views through to the gardens, the lounge, the original entrance hall, the new dining room, the atelier and the bedroom wing, it forms and functions comfortably as the core of the home.’

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