It’s clear that the kitchen is the heart of the home at the Kai residence and it’s the first thing you notice as you enter the light-filled first level of the house. When architect Jeanette Schachler was set the task of renovating the home, it was key that the kitchen centrally linked all the other living areas on the same floor – resulting in the library and study, lounge and dining area, and the children’s playroom all stemming from it. Kevin Kai, a digital media and tech entrepreneur, and his wife Nandi, a hair and make-up artist, both love to cook and spend time together in the kitchen. ‘It was important for us that the living areas and kitchen all be open-plan to create a seamless flow from one space to the next,’ explains Kevin.
The Kai family really made the most of the ground level by transforming it from a closed off and dark space to a light-filled open-plan living area that incorporates the kitchen, dining area, living room and library-cum-study.
The original house was bought in 2012 with renovation in mind. ‘We had been searching for a place on the Atlantic Seaboard for quite some time but we felt that everything we saw was overpriced for what it was. We then decided to look for a renovation project, something that would be a little more affordable and that we could mould exactly how we liked, but we never expected a project as large as this one,’ Kevin says. The views definitely helped seal the deal. Located in a quiet cul-de-sac off Green Point’s popular Ocean View Drive, the house is built on a slope, giving it the most spectacular, uninterrupted vistas of the surrounding area. ‘The structure itself was nothing to write home about, but it sat on a large plot and offered a good base to work from – plus, the view couldn’t be ignored,’ says Kevin.
After living in the house for about a year, the couple began to renovate. ‘We chose Jeanette to oversee the project as we liked the fact that she was an independent architect; she had a great portfolio and we knew that we weren’t “just another client”, which is the feeling we get from some of the bigger companies,’ says Kevin. ‘She presented us with a number of designs and then there was a bit of back and forth before we settled on final plans.’
The elevated pool area offers an incredible uninterrupted view, which is one of the main reasons that the Kais bought the property.
Everything progressed smoothly until they discovered a title deed limitation from 1914 that restricted the Kais from building directly above ground floor. This delayed the process and while they could have applied to change the title deed, they decided to work around the restriction. As building had not yet begun, it was easier to change the initial design – instead of going up a level, they chose to move the first floor backwards and used the slope of the land to their benefit, defining the areas according to the title deed as ground floor and upper ground floor. ‘It was a lengthy process but it worked out for the better,’ says Kevin. ‘The space where the first floor initially would have been built is now an elevated pool area with exceptional views.’ You’ll find all of the bedrooms on the upper ground floor, including two main en suite bedrooms and two children’s rooms, occupied by the couple’s three-and-a-half-year-old son Maxwell and seven-month-old daughter Misha, with a shared bathroom. There is also a self-contained flatlet on the property, which is great when the family has guests come to stay.
‘I loved seeing the building transform over time – we built a home to live in, not to sell on, and we couldn’t be happier with the outcome,’ says Kevin. ‘The living area has to be our favourite space – it’s where we spend most of our time. The whole point of creating this communal area was so that we can each do our own thing – cook, watch TV, read on the balcony – but still feel connected.'
This home originally appeared in House and Leisure’s Before & After issue