Text Alexandra Dodd Production Sherri Chipps Photographs Dook
The best possible antidote to a rigorously intellectual life is to indulge your senses from time to time. It’s not simply a luxury; it’s crucial to maintaining a sense of balance in life. So, when Thero Setiloane and Fayeeza Kathree-Setiloane decided to build a weekend home at a riverside estate just outside of Parys, it was to be a vital retreat from the charged urbanism of their Jo’burg lives. As executive vice president of business sustainability at AngloGold Ashanti, Thero ‘spends about 80 per cent of his time on planes,’ says Fayeeza, who, far from being a stay-at-home partner, is an advocate and director at law firm Werksmans.
‘We enjoy the best of city life at our penthouse in Hyde Park, but wanted somewhere to escape to – somewhere where we could relax completely and enjoy our own space together,’ she says. Thero’s family originates from Kroonstad but left South Africa when he was just two years old. When he returned here in the early 1990s, he really wanted to buy a piece of land in the Free State.
‘We never agree about anything,’ laughs Fayeeza, ‘but when we first drove up to the river and saw this piece of land we both said that we wanted it.’
Then, after driving through the winelands on a trip to the Western Cape, they decided that they wanted their Parys retreat to have a ‘contemporary farmhouse’ feel – to be gentle and discreet enough to blend into the environment. On their first visit to Parys with architect Karen Mailer and interior designer Sarah Watermeyer, they saw a farm that was to become the inspiration behind the project – a modern interpretation of farm architecture. The authentic simplicity and rawness of farm buildings came to inform both the interior and the exterior of the house. ‘We wanted to avoid creating a single monolithic structure in the landscape,’ says Karen.
‘The idea was to design a group of buildings that seem to have evolved and grown over time, as they would have on a farm. So the buildings are reminiscent of the elements of farm vernacular, with the storeroom and viewing deck based on an old grain silo, the main double-volume living area evoking a barn and the garages with the feel of an old tractor shed.’
With their raw and varied wall textures, elements of earthy timber and stone, soft geometries and pale colouring, the buildings evoke a deep sense of serenity. Sarah was responsible for integrating the farmhouse-type architecture into the textures of the house, from the wooden and terracotta-tiled floors, wooden blinds and staircase railings to the simple white mosaics used in the bathrooms for unity of effect.
‘Karen and I worked together from the outset to create well-resolved, neutral spaces, so that anything could fit here,’ says Sarah. And Thero and Fayeeza are delighted that the house provides the perfect backdrop for their furniture and art collection, built up over the years on their travels through Africa and India, and beyond. The airy open-plan living area opens onto a courtyard, flanked by a discrete guest wing to the left, and the main en-suite bedroom and reading room to the right.
Both wings open onto the pool in the central courtyard with covered walkways leading to the raised pavilion, a gorgeous lightweight structure that perches in the landscape, overlooking a private dam (ingeniously created by landscape architect Sonja Swanepoel) with only the Vaal River and the wilderness beyond. ‘Just the other morning there were about 20 buck at our dam,’ says Fayeeza, blissed-out after a long weekend in the veld. ‘It’s so serene here in the mornings, all we hear are the birds and the animals chomping about outside.’
Karen Mailer, 083-407-4147; Sarah Watermeyer Design, 011-838-9211; Sonja Swanepoel, 083-235-9089.
FAYEEZA AND THERO’S HOME TRUTHS
A building I admire for its design is New York’s Guggenheim Museum (Fayeeza). Brenthurst Library (Thero). The best thing about Parys is being in the country, but only an hour away from Jo’burg (Thero). Falling asleep and waking to the sounds of nature (Fayeeza). My signature dish is grilled prawns with a hint of chilli and ginger (Fayeeza). Lamb chops (Thero). My desert island luxury would be cheesecake from Moemas on 7th Avenue, Parktown North (Fayeeza). The soundtrack to my perfect weekend is Miles Davis’ rendition of ‘Time After Time’ (Thero). ‘Time To Say Goodbye’, sung by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman (Fayeeza). My dream dinner-party guest is Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu (Thero). Barack Obama (Fayeeza). My favourite shop is Orpheo Twins at Hyde Park (Fayeeza). Hugo Boss (Thero). This home was originally published in the November 2009 issue of House and Leisure.