When you picture a country cottage in Mpumalanga, a quaint, stone homestead is likely to come to mind. While this house in Dullstroom’s Walkersons Private Estate development was designed with that functionality at its core, one look at its striking form will tell you it is no ordinary holiday home.
It was a shared yen for a place to simply ‘get away from it all’ that led 10 Joburg and Pretoria industry friends to buy into a holiday home together. With five architects, a developer and an interior designer on board, it was a no-brainer to look for an empty plot that would allow them to conceptualise their dream house together.
The idea to build in the Walkersons development came about in 2006, when Boogertman + Partners Architects (B+P) were approached by a client to become involved in the estate. Wessel van Dyk, co-owner of the home and a director at the firm, had a long-standing passion for the area, and he didn’t hesitate to take on the project. ‘Getting involved in the estate, I saw an opportunity to own a stand there, something I’d been dreaming of for years.’
Wessel’s brother-in-law, Bob van Bebber, also a director at B+P, was one of the first to jump on board. ‘Dullstroom really is the ideal getaway,’ he says. ‘It’s only a few hours’ drive from Joburg or Pretoria, yet you feel so isolated from the city, your alarm and your security fences.’ With this kind of convincing, it didn’t take long to lobby the 10 friends together, and soon enough they owned two adjoining stands.
As the home is part of a development, the team had to design within Walkersons’ architectural guidelines, but Wessel is quick to add that, ‘being architects, we always want to push boundaries.’ The main massing of the house therefore reflects the estate’s ‘traditional homestead’ style, but features such as exposed steelwork and concrete, large sliding doors, a ceiling made of old steel and timber beams, and a cottage clad entirely in corrugated iron, make this a contemporary take on your regular country getaway
Despite its strong architectural focus, functionality, comfort andrelaxation are key elements in the house. ‘There’s a fundamental difference in the way you use a holiday home and your regular home,’ says Bob, who cites lazing around the house or having a ‘schloff’ (nap) on the patio couch, as huge boons to being on holiday.
Being outdoors is another essential part of weekends at Walkersons. With its verdant surroundings, trout dams dotted throughout the estate, wild game and endless walkways and hills, it offers the perfect setting to slow down. As such, the owners wanted the house to ‘spill outside and connect with the surroundings’.
The south side boasts the best views, so they built a large, covered patio just in front of the oak trees, complete with a fire pit. ‘It is, however, also the coldest side, so we added a more sunny northern court where we have “sleepy couches”, a braai area and a pizza oven,’ says Bob. ‘When you look at it in its entirety, the architecture of this house is very set in its simplicity,’ he adds.
Co-owner Neo Neophytou, director of DSGN interior design consultancy, took charge of the interiors, using ‘old Transvaal farmhouses, reinterpreted and updated for today’s living’ as inspiration. He incorporated natural materials to ‘subconsciously connect us to the outdoors’, hence the abundance of timber, stone, raw metal, linens, jute and cottons. ‘Most of the furniture was custom made and designed specifically for the house,’ he says.
‘We took care to mix different types and colours of timber and to use materials that would age gracefully rather than show wear.’
All the owners use the house differently (weekends are allocated using a rotating schedule), with some preferring to go in big groups – the house sleeps 10 – and others using it for quiet downtime.
They, however, all agree that the style of this house works perfectly for where it is and how it’s used. ‘Building with nine other partners, all with different lifestyles, teaches you to compromise, but never on quality,’ says Bob.
This article originally featured in the December 2012 issue of House and Leisure.