‘Building doesn’t faze us,’ admits Keri Venter who, together with her husband Greg, an insurance company owner, designed and built this sleek family home in the heart of Bryanston, Johannesburg. The couple sub-divided an acre-sized property and after months of planning presented their architect with a tome of requirements. ‘We’ve built and renovated several houses so we were very clear on what we wanted,’ she explains. ‘While it may have seemed a bit prescriptive, I knew from experience that this ground work would circumvent much of the to-ing and fro-ing. We ended up having just a few creative reverts, albeit reducing the plan from three storeys to two, and removing the lift!’
A former advertising executive, Keri has a natural drive and energy that’s perfectly suited to the rigours of building. ‘I’m definitely an A-type personality, and wandered about with a spirit level throughout the construction phase,’ she laughs. ‘While we wanted the building to be meticulous it helps to accept that budgets and deadlines are seldom truly met. Thankfully, my brother-in-law stepped in as the engineer and project manager and bore the brunt of much of that frustration. Having family involved was a big trust factor and took quite a bit of the pressure off.’
When it came to the look and feel of the house the couple wanted to balance the clean-lined contemporary space with an easy-going elegance. ‘We’re not steel-and-chrome modernists, but at the same time we’re not keen on having masses of things on display,’ explains Keri. The result is a light-filled structure that connects seamlessly to the garden and covered patio via folding glass doors. Exposed brickwork, off-shutter concrete accents and high-gloss concrete floors give an industrial edge, softened by luxurious fabrics and classical elements.
‘We paired the shell with un-modern things like crystal chandeliers, a painted armoire and re-upholstered pieces from different times in our lives,’ adds Keri. ‘In the main bedroom and children’s playroom we installed reclaimed parquet floors, which give a beautiful warmth and patina. One thing I underestimated, though, was just how vast the double-volume spaces would look. The solution was to paint some of the walls a deep charcoal shade, which helped to contain the space.’
Four bedrooms and two bathrooms fill the top storey, with the living areas, study, kitchen-dining space and guest suite on the ground floor. Two-and-a-half-year-old twins Nina and Blake (born in the midst of the building process) and seven-year-old Tyler dash between the living room and covered patio – a stylish retreat that’s perfect for gatherings with family and friends. ‘This is a space that just begs for parties,’ says Keri. ‘It’s spectacular at night, and there’s such an easy connection between the kitchen, patio and pool.’
The seamless flow continues throughout the home – an aspect of the design that the couple finds particularly satisfying. ‘It hangs together so well and we really got the connection between the different rooms right,’ says Keri. ‘There’s no defunct space and the consistency of style and finishes makes it quite restful.’ She says that they intentionally chose a neutral palette for the big-ticket items such as the kitchen and sofas. ‘You can always introduce changes later in wallpaper or beautiful scatters. What we love about it is that it’s both elegant and informal, and the lack of clutter allows the interior to speak for itself.’
Now that their dream home is complete, Keri has begun work on another project – a renovate-to-sell nearby. ‘I’m passionate about interiors and tend to approach everything at full-tilt,’ she says. ‘I’m the one carrying the tool box around – always at the ready with my drills, hammer and nails.’
KERI AND GREG’S HOME TRUTHS
The best thing about living where we do is the beautiful jacaranda-lined road and the way our house flows and holds together for both entertaining and family life (Keri). Luxuries I couldn’t do without are a great single malt whisky and my PVR (Greg); my seven-seater car – enough space for kids and their friends and all their stuff (Keri). My best find for this house was the gorgeous chandelier from La Basse-cour. It makes me happy seeing it twinkling in the entrance (Keri). My favourite space in our home is the garden. It’s my sanctuary and you can see it from every room in the house (Keri). My bar, of course (Greg). My secret talent is cooking, or so says Greg, but I think it’s some serious multitasking. Greg’s is definitely being the perfect host (Keri). Our entertaining style is relaxed. There’s always plenty of great food and wine, and usually more children than adults so it’s chaotic too (both). Our interior design motto is all about the art of waiting. It takes years for things to come together and it’s as much about patience as anything else (both). On my bedside table is a pile of books. Right now I’m reading Steve Jobs: A Biography by Walter Isaacson (Greg). Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream and my cellphone alarm set for 6am (Keri). Our all-time favourite luxury getaway is Mauritius. There’s something utterly relaxing about having someone else take care of your every whim. And not having to get into the car to go anywhere. Not once! (Both)
This article was originally featured in the August 2012 issue of House and Leisure.