Sara Colley discovered this bungalow in 2006, tucked down a little panhandle off Musgrave Road on Durban’s Berea: ‘It just had a certain feel. I knew it was right,’ she says. She’d wanted a compact and manageable house, and for her, working in a fast-paced creative industry and having previously re-invented spaces, the challenge and opportunities presented by this renovation excited her.
Her immovable wish list included sufficient outdoor space for Denzel the cat, an untamed subtropical, indigenous garden, and a secluded, inviting space for outdoor entertaining. With homes on all four sides, it felt secure, important because she travels extensively and her office was a speedy ten minute drive away.
When she returned for a second visit to the house, Durban-based architect and friend, Lisa Rorich, accompanied her, and fully endorsed Sara’s belief that this ‘closed-in house’ could be opened up and filled with light: ‘Lisa’s concept went beyond mine of course, but I loved her vision,’ said Sara.
Rather than any major structural renovations, Lisa determined to retain the original envelope, remove interior walls, and redo doors and windows to create an improved flow to what became the pool and entertainment area. The alteration took a year. Interior designer Julie Gillmer collaborated with Sara on design and décor, and curated an uncluttered home of signature pieces, a near monochromatic palette, and – as Sara enjoys – a faintly masculine look and feel, with clean lines.
The front door, those on to the new back patio, and the doors leading out the second bedroom, were all altered and/or replaced to create a uniformity of style. Originally, stepping through the front door, the lounge was walled off from the traditional entrance hall and the kitchen – all living rooms were boxed off, and lacked light and air.
Walls came down, including the one between kitchen and entrance hall while the bay window was retained. Long shelving runs along the walls from the front door towards back, as a deliberate visual device to elongate and streamline the room; the long black and white carpet, too, accentuated the longitudinal space.
Providing a sense of continuity, the floors throughout were stained ebony, while accent walls were painted in State of Greys from Paint and Place. For furnishings, the palette is strong but stylishly limited. The black leather chair is from Okha in Cape Town, the teal couch designed by Julie Gillmer, while the marble occasional side table and all scatter cushions throughout are from Cecile & Boyd.
The copper Puzzle occasional table – and the tan sling chair – are by Egg Designs, and the central gold glass table is a Tom Dixon design. The anglepoise lamp – originally red – came from John Lewis in London, and was professionally sprayed copper. White linen curtains hang floor to ceiling. In the entrance space, a chandelier from Selfridges in London provides unexpected glam, and a bold Cliffy Brown painting sits loosely on the elongated shelving.
Originally part of the long entrance hall, this casual chill area was opened up to the patio and pool, with stack-back doors. This created a free flow from front door to back patio, light poured in, and there was easy access from all rooms – including the kitchen – to the outdoors. The grey couch and long copper table are from Stable, the Eames replica chair is from Esque in Durban, and the two oversized framed photographs above the floating shelf, are by Roger Horricks.
The architect’s intention in the kitchen was that it would feel closer to a piece of furniture than a traditional kitchen, hence the floor to ceiling sliding doors to conceal the ‘workings’. The long black shelves repeat the concept of lengthening the space, and mirrored splashback reflects light.
The black kitchen island has a glass top with bevelled edge, hob embedded into it, and painted to underside – more furniture than kitchen functional. The dining table was designed by Lisa Rorich – it’s one of a pair able to be pushed together to create an eight seater for al fresco entertaining.
This bedroom is at the front of the house, and has a spacious walk-in wardrobe and en suite bathroom. The copper standing lamp from Weylandts, originally white, was professionally spray-painted; the carpet and wooden side table were also from Weylandts. The copper table is from Cecile & Boyd, the framed picture is by Peter Engblom.
The two bedrooms are identical, this being the second bedroom. Where originally there was a blank wall, doors now lead on to the back patio/pool. Lisa Rorich designed the desk, complemented by Haldane Martin chairs. The wallpaper is from the Hertex collection Oxymore digital wall panels.
The second bedroom had no ensuite bathroom, only a separate little loo and small study area. That entire space was gutted, doors were installed, and an en suite created. The floor, bath, and basin surround are Carrera marble – a single finish to simplify the space. A curtain was used for the built-in cupboard as a space saver and soft contrast to a room full of hard surfaces.
The outdoor entertainment element of the house consisted of a large built-in red brick braai and Jacuzzi, splayed over different levels. There was a single door exiting the lounge/dining/kitchen space, so essentially, no enticing indoor-outdoor flow or lure.
The area was dated, so they rationalised the space by decking over the numerous levels to create a single one, then installed a long, thin pool to visually stretch the space. A large mirror -deep in greenery – on the far wall added great depth and length by reflecting the lush greenery and tricking the eye. The existing tiered garden was populated with graphic banana palms and indigenous plantings.