Under Glass: Tour a Serene Industrial-chic Stellenbosch Home
Connecting high-traffic public zones to insulated private spaces, this Stellenbosch home celebrates the best of both worlds.
For most of us, opportunities to take the road less travelled are few and far between. More so in the world of domestic architecture, where factors such as cost, functionality of space, plot size and resale value can make or break the creative process. Imagine, then, a homeowner whose sole brief called for a ‘wonderland’ of a home. Add an architectural studio whose design mantra is simply ‘for the joy it brings’ and an interior designer with the talent to bring the two together, and you have alchemy of the highest order.
Such was the case with Elsa Hertzog’s Stellenbosch home. Set on a leafy street in one of the town’s oldest suburbs, the house is a new build that is decidedly nonpareil. A mix of embellished European brickwork – with a slanted, asymmetrical pitched roof here and a high-ceilinged barn-like garage there – has been overlaid with forged metalwork at the front, and a serene industrial conservatory at the back. The result is an irreverent and unpretentious architectural style, best described as imperfectly perfect.
‘People often ask us to define our architectural language, but we don’t really follow any one style,’ says architect Wynand Wilsenach. ‘We tend towards a traditional language led by lifestyle that creates modern spaces with a strong connection to the outdoors.’
Working closely with interior designer Joan Viljoen, Wilsenach’s design encompasses a space that while very much a home, is also a legacy project, as this is where Elsa wants to grow old – surrounded by her family, friends and beloved Italian greyhound Luci. To this end, although the house is new, it has an old-soul feel to it. ‘We wanted to create a layered space that felt “lived in” but that was also regal, comfortable and interesting,’ says Viljoen, ‘but always with an emphasis on quality materials that will stand the test of time.’
Elsa’s brief for a design compliant with Stellenbosch bylaws and national building regulations meant that Arend de Waal from Wynand Wilsenach had to work within the allowances of the 1 462m² property and design a home that could cleverly accommodate multiple functions and activities. As such, the spaces in which Elsa spends the majority of her day are interlinked, while the noisier, high-traffic areas can be insulated and closed off. ‘Elsa wanted to create a sequence of areas throughout the house where privacy could be easily achieved, and then other areas that are more accessible and sociable,’ says Viljoen.
‘Another important consideration was Elsa’s love of plants,’ adds Viljoen. To this end, high-volume doors in the living areas connect the front courtyard and the back garden to the living spaces. The kitchen that runs the length of the living areas is separated from them via glass doors and a picture window that runs horizontally across an entire wall, to offer a remove from the bustle of the kitchen and scullery areas. The conservatory that leads off the kitchen into the garden is smart in that it transforms the kitchen area into another living space that’s connected to the garden.
Laid out on two levels, the living areas, two en suite bedrooms, a study, Elsa’s studio and a cellar are all located on the lower level, with two guest suites and a pyjama lounge situated upstairs. Working closely with Elsa, Viljoen created a visual look and feel for the interior and exterior that was used as a reference throughout every design stage, and ensured a seamless building and interior process. ‘I find this first step critical, especially on a project of this scale, as everyone involved can be kept on the same page and it stops us from derailing one another,’ explains Viljoen. ‘It’s easy to get lost in all the choices that need to be made along the way, but I’ve learnt that a degree of flexibility and allowing a project to develop organically can allow for wonderful, serendipitous moments, too.’
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Viljoen’s determination to employ a stylistic thread throughout the house has been achieved with aplomb. ‘In the spaces where Elsa spends the majority of her time, there is a softer, more feminine touch to the interiors, with magnificent light and comfortable areas in which she can escape,’ says Viljoen. ‘I was given creative freedom to a large extent, as Elsa was open to acquiring new and contemporary pieces for the space.’
In response to Elsa’s need for calm and her preference for muted pinks and greens, Viljoen formulated a varying palette of these colours throughout the house with punchy strokes of dark tones to balance areas with many architectural elements. ‘The fact that Elsa has such refined taste coupled with a love for the unusual made my role as influencer that much easier,’ says Viljoen. ‘Similarly, working closely with Arend de Waal on the design and construction process undoubtedly led to a more coherent design process from the outside in, in that we were able to refine and finesse the design as a whole.’
It’s a collaboration that Viljoen values highly and one that has proved beneficial to Elsa, too. Says the latter: ‘This home is a work of artistry created by a team with a creative vision that has afforded me the ultimate privilege – to inhabit a unique and beautiful space that I also call home.’