houses

Converted Honeydew Farm


Text Roberta Coci Styling Leana Schoeman Photographs Thys Dullaart There’s no denying that I was a wild child,’ says Tracy Roering as she surveys her 12-hectare property in Honeydew, Johannesburg. Her father bought the land, an active pig farm at the time, when Tracy was just five years old, and the free-spirited girl used to set off every day to explore her huge new home. ‘I would pack a sandwich and go off riding my horse, Frisky, for hours on end, usually bareback,’ she says. ‘The staff used to call me mushaman, meaning “little boy” in Sesotho.’ Four decades later, Tracy still lives on the farm, but these days the scene is somewhat more tranquil. She and her husband, Glen, have built their lives here over the past 20 years, and live on the smallholding with their two children, 18-year-old Savanna and 15-year-old Grivin. Seven years ago, Tracy, who works at home as a yoga instructor, and Glen, who is in advertising, decided that it was time to renovate. ‘My father used to say the original house was built by drunk builders on a weekend,’ she says. ‘It was a real hodgepodge; the floor was on all levels and was made of every kind of material you can think of, roughly pieced together.’ The Roerings kept the shell of the house, but knocked out pretty much everything else. ‘Before the renovations, this was all wall, and we couldn’t even see the dam from inside,’ she explains, pointing to the living room’s wall-to-wall glass door and the spectacular views beyond. For Tracy, whose way of life is ‘holistic and wholesome’, making the house as green as possible was a priority. ‘Unfortunately we couldn’t build the whole house using sustainable architecture, as we weren’t building from scratch, but we tried to be as environmentally aware as possible with the existing shell.’ To this end, the couple tried to keep a balance between the practical and the environmentally sound. ‘For example, we have solar heating for the geyser, but electricity and gas for everything else,’ Tracy says. They also have an extensive veggie patch that caters to the health-conscious family’s culinary needs. ‘I love cooking with fresh ingredients from the garden,’ she says. Sitting on the deck (which is a new addition) and overlooking the dam, it’s easy to forget you’re in Johannesburg. ‘Back when we first moved here, 45 years ago, this property really was in the middle of nowhere,’ says Tracy. ‘When you looked out, there would not be a single light on the ridge.’ The city and the house may have changed dramatically since then, but the leisurely feel of the property remains. ‘That was completely intentional,’ she says. ‘Glen and I used to spend so much money travelling to beautiful lodges, and then we realised we had the potential to build our own private lodge at home. We decided to design our home as our own special place, where we would always feel like we were on holiday.’ The result is magnificent, with the massive courtyard overlooking the dam, outdoor showers, a stargazing nook on the roof and other quirks that give it a distinct holiday feel. ‘We stole lots of ideas from lodges and favourite holiday spots we’d been to,’ admits Tracy. ‘We wanted to create a home that had an interesting space around every corner and up each little step.’ The Roerings have had decades to think about how they would change Tracy’s childhood home. ‘The building of our house was a very fluid, organic process, and was created with an open mind and heart.’ They made sure they only used contractors that they connected with, and at the end of every other month they organised a braai for everyone involved. ‘It was a slow process, but a happy one, and I believe we’ve managed to create our dream home.’ This article was originally featured in the July 2012 issue of House and Leisure.