city, houses

A minimalist-chic Glass home in greenside, Johannesburg

Elsa Young (portrait), Graeme Wyllie


Meet the family that lives in this striking Greenside, Johannesburg, residence: a brother and sister, and their cousin, all of whom lead independent lives but have found that communal living suits them down to the ground. What they also have in common is a rather disciplined devotion to neatness, a disdain for clutter and an aversion to kitsch, embodied amply in their streamlined, minimalist home.

The owners retained the lofty palm tree originally on the property, designing their outdoor area around it. The poolside decking is by RL Woodworks (rlwoodworks.co.za). The owners retained the lofty palm tree originally on the property, designing their outdoor area around it. The poolside decking is by RL Woodworks.

‘This used to be a standard, old three-bedroom house, built maybe 25 or 30 years ago,’ says Dhilesh Vallabh of the single-storey house he bought, renovated, and moved into a few months ago. The transformation is astounding: 1980s ‘blah’ has been replaced by an open and airy, contemporary space, whose sober colour palette of greys and earthy woods is offset by the endless panorama of greenery surrounding the house.

The extensive use of glass from floor to double-volume ceiling gives the house a sense of openness as well as grandeur. The dining table is from Weylandts (weylandts.co.za) and the white dining chairs from Studio Blue (studioblue.co.za). A Coricraft (coricraft.co.za) cushion with an image of the Taj Mahal adds a touch of nostalgia for India. The extensive use of glass from floor to double-volume ceiling gives the house a sense of openness as well as grandeur. The dining table is from Weylandts and the white dining chairs from Studio Blue . A Coricraft  cushion with an image of the Taj Mahal adds a touch of nostalgia for India.

‘I wanted a very big, double-volume space,’ he elaborates. ‘And an open living area that would take advantage of the view of the golf course and the trees that make Greenside what it is.’ Indeed, Dhilesh used floor-to-ceiling glass windows throughout the house to frame the verdant landscapes outside.

An importer of traditional Indian clothing by profession, Dhilesh thought he would try his hand at building a home, something he had always wanted to do. ‘I designed the house myself, and I was involved in managing the project with a team of builders. I’m not an architect, I just enjoy doing stuff like this,’ he says. His aesthetic is resolutely modern, and luckily his sister, Deepa, and cousin, Reshma, share the same passion for clean, contemporary design.

in the formal living room with its cosy sunken lounge, locally In the formal living room with its cosy sunken lounge.

As can be expected, there are elements that lend drama to the house’s uncompromising linear structure: the massive front door and the floating staircase that you see on entering the house, as well as the sunken living room and the open-plan kitchen. And, cleverly, Dhilesh used stucco applied to the walls to approximate the look and texture of stone. To take advantage of the generous sunshine that bathes the house all day, particularly in the summertime, Dhilesh fitted sliding glass panels on two sides of the sunken lounge, so that it opens up to the pool area outside. The expansive deck looks out towards a lovely garden – ‘one thing I kept from the old house, including the playhouse, as well as this beautiful tree in the middle,’ he adds.

The poolside deck is also ideal for braais, with friends andfamily gathered around to enjoy the glorious sunshine. ‘We all like to cook when we entertain,’ says Dhilesh. He’s also toying with the idea of adding a rooftop deck for dining under the stars on sultry summer nights.

Deepa’s room is a study in simplicity. The headboard and bed frame are from Studio Blue and the chair from Casarredo (casarredo.co.za). The throw is from Country Road (011-290-2500, 021-405-4300). Deepa’s room is a study in simplicity. The headboard and bed frame are from Studio Blue and the chair from Casarredo . The throw is from Country Road.

There’s no competition for head of the house here. Each resident has his or her own private master bedroom wing upstairs, with a family room just off the staircase where they like to unwind after a long day at work, watching TV or listening to music. ‘It’s the room we use the most, actually. We call it the pyjama lounge. It’s made for relaxing in total comfort, while downstairs is really more for entertaining.’

This is not the trio’s first attempt at communal living. Previously they shared a townhouse in Northcliff, which was also designed along uncluttered, modern lines. ‘Eventually we just needed a bigger space,’ explains Dhilesh, who’s quick to add that, ‘we all get along well with each other.’

It wouldn’t be overstating the truth to say that Dhilesh has been building all his life. There’s the clothing business he’s built up through the years and now, this house. At one point he wondered whether he was perhaps past trying his hand at design. But, judging by the home he’s just completed, it’s clear that Dhilesh isn’t past changing careers!

Originally published in HL December 2012