The design-conscious owners of this home in Eldoraigne, Pretoria, made a smart decision before they started building – they called on interior designers Megan Hesse and Andrea Kleinloog of Joburg-based interior design firm HK Studio. Although Grant Bullard of GWA Architects designed this house as well as an adjacent property with a shared garden for the owners’ parents, Bullard has since relocated to Cape Town, and it became clear to the owners as they consulted with Hesse and Kleinloog on the interiors that, rather than bring in a project manager to oversee the upgrade, the studio should handle the entire project.
The result is that the architecture and interior design dovetail to the point that it’s hard to distinguish where one ends and the other begins. Hesse says the design took three years in total, but there were many advantages to this lengthy time span. ‘We had the chance to make changes and design as we went along,’ she says. Not only did the process allow them the time to order and wait for certain imported materials – so that there were few compromises on those kinds of design details – but it also offered opportunities for problem-solving that meant, as Hesse puts it, ‘things evolved naturally and became better versions of themselves’.
As the property is home to a family with four children, the owner points out that space was a priority. ‘I wanted our home to be comfortable – especially with kids,’ she says. The height and size of the rooms and the clever arrangement of interconnected areas means that despite its magnitude, the house never seems rambling or disconnected. You notice the airy volumes the minute you walk in, particularly in the entrance hall and the stairwell, but you don’t feel dwarfed by them. This effect is down to a number of ingenious moves by HK Studio.
In the entrance hall, for instance, Hesse didn’t include typical chandeliers as you might expect in a dramatic stairwell. Instead, the staircase has been transformed into a unique feature that gives the hall identity and presence, and breaks up the space. Inspired by classic Moroccan design, Hesse and Kleinloog created a faceted geometric installation of perforated gold anodised-aluminium plates, which articulate the stairwell. ‘It’s actually quite a traditional inspiration reshaped into a contemporary result,’ says Hesse. ‘We wanted to turn a practical area into a work of art.’
But there’s another way that the big rooms retain their sense of intimacy. The furniture, particularly the pieces by Anatomy Design (the retail and furniture branch of Hesse and Kleinloog’s operation), is somewhat oversized. Apart from the sofas, the Southern Guild chairs in the second sitting room – on which Anatomy Design collaborated with fine artist and textile designer Nicole Levenberg of Aureum Design – and the loveseats in the main lounge are, as Hesse says, ‘bespoke, larger versions of themselves’. They’ve been custom-designed to fit their surrounds. The human scale of the rooms is preserved, too, through devices such as the screen between the kitchen and seating areas, which reprises the geometric pattern on the stairs.
The fact that the house is designed with generous connecting zones – the entrance hall, pyjama lounge and a bridge across the bedroom wings – necessitated the use of neutral hues. Timber floors and other natural materials run through the interior design like a golden thread. The overall sensory dimension of the house is brought through in the predominance of natural oak and marble in the kitchen and the Zimbabwean flamed granite counter tops in the living room and entertainment area.‘The neutrality of the connecting areas allows other spaces to express themselves,’ says Hesse. In each room, the gentle palette is brightened with details. ‘Lovely fabrics, cushions and objets d’art bring in colour,’ she says.
Hesse also points out that the individuality of the spaces is carried though in other customised design details, such as the handles on the cabinetry. Hesse calls them ‘touch experiences’. While wooden cabinets and cupboards are present in all of the children’s bedrooms, for example, every set of handles is designed according to each of their preferences: half-moons in the daughter’s room, blue strips for the younger boys’ shared room, and longer black bars for the eldest son.
International refinement is evident in pieces such as Moooi pendants and sheet-metal sidetables from Konstantin Grcic’s Diana series in the lounge area, and copper Gubi pendants in the main bedroom, while local character is expressed in the way the house showcases South African design by the likes of Tonic, James Mudge, LIM and Dokter and Misses.
It’s the integration of the furnishings and the architecture, however, that brings a level of perfect proportion and refinement, which elevates the crafted precision of the design. ‘When there is no clutter, you see the details,’ says Hesse, ‘and the details make it magical.’ At the same time, as the owner points out, ‘You don’t feel like you’re trying too hard.’