city, houses, Indoor / Outdoor

Inside out: A linear Joburg home mixes 'tropical Modernism' with Mid-Century style

Elsa Young


Before Leigh and Richard Rein moved into this sleek, linear home in the Joburg suburb of Hyde Park, Leigh used to walk her dogs past the site almost daily while it was being built. She watched with curiosity as the building went up, falling in love with it as it took shape. 'I loved the modern lines and the fact that it was single-storey,' says Leigh. 'And I love the flat structure.'

By the time it was complete, she was under its spell. 'There's a large lucky bean tree at the entrance,' Leigh says. 'They have always been lucky for me, so I knew I was going to live there one day.' Sure enough, some years later, when its original owners left Joburg, Leigh and Richard managed to fulfil destiny's plan and snagged the property for themselves.

Exterior modernist house

The house was designed by architect Enrico Daffonchio along the principles of what he calls 'tropical modernism', which is inspired by the minimalism of Mid-Century Modernism, but without the associated starkness. Along with the purity of the design, there's a sense of luxury, ease and warmth better suited to our South African lifestyle and climate.

With an almost impossibly long, low roof, this home embraces the garden with its established trees and complete privacy. The wetland planting around the seamlessly integrated eco-pool adds a lushness and sense of abundance that plays off against the restrained architecture. 'If the doors are open, it feels like you are in a garden pavilion,' says Leigh. The living room interior seems instantly immersed in the park-like garden.

living room modernist house

Lunetta Bartz of Maker worked closely with Enrico and is responsible for many of the interior fittings and finishes. The walnut cabinets and panelling in the entrance hall and on either side of the living area bring softness to the minimalist interiors, and the irregular geometric form of the kitchen island offsets the regularity of the architecture, bringing a certain dynamism to the space. Leigh has combined some inherited items – her parents were in the antique business – plus other antiques collected over the years, with contemporary pieces. The furnishings tend to have the neutral colours of their natural materials, accommodated elegantly in the versatile, expansive spaces of the home.

It seems appropriate that the house should occasionally double up as a gallery because it has art built into its DNA. The front entrance features a massive pivot door designed by artist Marcus Neustetter, which is an artwork in itself. Made from layers of laser-cut steel and walnut with glass at its centre to allow light to stream through, the pattern is based on an aerial Google Earth image of Joburg. If ever there were an invitation to live inspirationally, this is it.

kitchen modernist house

This home was featured in House and Leisure's Jan/Feb 2017 issue.

Save