Higgovale Architect's Home

Text Ann Ellis Brown Styling Retha Erichsen Photographs Adriaan Louw When Simmy and Vanessa Peerutin returned to South Africa 20 years ago they fell in love with the Cape Town suburb of Higgovale. Set on the slopes of Table Mountain, the quiet, forested neighbourhood is minutes from the city centre and beaches, and yet worlds apart. Vanessa walked the upper streets knocking on doors and waiting for the right opportunity. When an estate agent phoned asking if the couple might be interested in a corner plot about to go on the market, they signed their offer before even setting foot on the property. At the time it held what had been a labourer’s cottage and an unfortunate 1950s addition with few architectural pretensions. But with Simmy being one half of Peerutin Architects (in partnership with his brother, David), this was never going to be an issue. What is not surprising is that a fresh wave of renovations has accompanied each new addition to their family. What is surprising, however, is the style of the now completed home. Most of the designs for which the firm is renowned lean towards a minimalist aesthetic: they are clean lined, even modular. This home’s exterior – its ‘final renovation’ completed in just three months – is located somewhere in the Cape vernacular. A family home first and foremost, the dwelling has something of a farmhouse feel, but that perception is perhaps due more to the generosity of its proportions. ‘Rustic’ it most definitely is not. The large sash windows have stainless-steel fittings where you might expect brass, and there’s a sleek Scandinavian-style fireplace where there might have been an embellished Victorian variety. There are shutters, Doric pillars, and a rietdak veranda, but all chosen for practical purposes or personal preference rather than any slavish adherence to Colonial backward-glances. Simmy picked sash windows quite simply because they’re the best design: you can open the top or bottom, partially or completely. Shutters provide security when the occupants are away, but also allow the family to sleep in filtered air and work in filtered light. The pillars mark an apron veranda that ends in a large entertainment area leading off the sitting room – the wall on which the pillars are mounted is expressly designed to serve as extra seating. And the rietdak is a touch that roots this home firmly to the land on which it is set, as well as being a nod to the family’s green consciousness. Another eco-friendly and consummately practical addition is the ‘lawn’, or, rather, a stretch of almost lifelike Astroturf that has even the Labradors fooled. Set partly in the shade of the ridge behind, and played on daily by three football-mad children, no grass had ever taken here. Simmy had the area extended, building a retaining wall up to the edge of the veranda from the lower terrace, where bands of children splash in the pool on summer days. When Simmy describes the house, it’s as if he tailored it perfectly to fit his family – and it does. And while he did design his ‘dream’ home, it wasn’t this one. This last renovation was to make the house they’d lived in for 15 years saleable. Not surprisingly, when complete, the couple found they couldn’t leave and it’s the new house – the dream one – that’s up for sale. Whatever the weather, this is a place that overflows with happy children, dogs, friends and family. So is this really the last change? The labourer’s cottage is now a welcoming living area with a TV room and study added on; the retro extension has been cleverly integrated and is now the bedroom wing, complete with a housekeeper’s suite. What else would Simmy like to do here? He looks up to the leafy backdrop: he’d like a floating glass pavilion set into the mountainside, but this has yet to garner Vanessa’s approval. You can, however, almost imagine it…  Peerutin Architects,

Vanessa and Simmy’s Home Truths

The best thing about living where we do is having Table Mountain at the bottom of our garden, as if it belongs to us (Vanessa); being five minutes away from work and the beachfront (Simmy). What I love most about summer is living on our stoep (Vanessa); an early morning cycle ride around the peninsula (Simmy). My favourite room is the boys’ bedroom at sunset for its magical view of the mountain. I’m also a bit embarrassed, but simultaneously delighted, by our new Astroturf lawn (Vanessa); my study. It contains the things I love doing: my board games and my bicycles (Simmy). I’m not at all stylish. People have always said they like our house because it feels like a much-loved, happy, family home. That’s the greatest compliment anyone could give me (Vanessa). I’m inspired by art, reading, nature – I’m a freak for fynbos (Vanessa); people demonstrating excellence in anything. It makes me want to be better (Simmy). The first thing I do when I get home is throw my handbag and laptop case on the server in the hall, praying I don’t break my Astrid Dahl vases! (Vanessa); have 20 minutes to myself to unwind (Simmy). My favourite piece of design advice is if you can’t put your feet up and read a book on it, and if your children can’t do art projects on it, don’t buy it (Vanessa); it’s not all about style. It must have substance and authenticity (Simmy). When it comes to entertaining, I am always prepared, should anyone desire second or third helpings (Vanessa); I leave that to my wife. I just show up (Simmy). The soundtrack to my perfect weekend is kids playing in the garden and adults chatting on the stoep (Simmy). This article was originally featured in the October 2011 issue of House and Leisure.