We all know walls can’t talk, but there’s a growing awareness that they – and every other architectural or design feature in our homes with which we’re in daily contact – definitely do feel… They can be hard, cold and unwelcoming to touch, or luxuriant to caress. They can subtly elevate our mood through the sensory pleasures they bring, or wear us down.
This physical feel is something Regardt and Marili Scharrighuisen prioritised when creating their dream home at Paarl’s exclusive Pearl Valley golfing estate, where they live with their four- year-old son, Sebastian, and newborn daughter, Mila.
The initial architectural footprint of the house was designed by Gauteng-based architect Gardiol Bergenthuin and when the time came to focus on the living space inside, interiors architects Mark Rielly and Jon Case of Antoni Associates (the interior design and decor division of Cape Town architectural firm SAOTA) was brought in, along with the firm’s interior designer, Ashleigh Gilmour. As ideas for the look of the house developed, so did the attention paid to its feel, but throughout the process, Regardt and Marili remained unaware that they were taking their place among a small and very exclusive club of natural trendsetters: those who believe the notion that the tactile aspects of our living space may deserve as much, if not more, considered attention as the visual.
With Mark, Jon and Ashleigh on board, the philosophy quickly developed and its physical translation was progressively stamped into the very bones of the building. The decision was made to avoid all gimmicky and artificial elements and instead to emphasise natural, organic materials such as stone, timber, linen and leather. The other important choice was to draw on the age-old elemental forces of water, fire, air and earth – witnessed most obviously in the waterfalls flanking the entrance, the two long fireplaces and outdoor boma bar with its fire pit, the airy internal courtyard, and stone features such as the large table on the veranda.
‘The move towards incorporating natural materials into contemporary design is definitely a trend that we’re going to be seeing a lot more of,’ says Mark. ‘Even just introducing one natural material, most effectively timber, can create a pleasingly tactile quality that adds dimension and enriches daily living. In fact, the new homeliness and warmth of recent contemporary architecture is largely due to its embracing the use of wood,’ he says. Marili and Regardt’s home showcases many different uses of timber, from limed oak flooring to Japanese-inspired vertical and horizontal slatted wooden cladding, and even two dramatic statement walls that are entirely clad in timber.
Both single out the roofed veranda’s timber-slatted ceiling as their favourite aspect. ‘It has a very Zen feeling about it, and it far exceeded our expectations,’ says Marili. ‘It also seems to fascinate little Mila – I think it’s her favourite part of the house, too – she can’t keep her eyes off it!’ (Sebastian’s favourite part of the house, incidentally, is where the pool furniture’s cushions are stored: he loves making his own house with the soft furnishings and never tires of the game.) Mark characterises this new trend as one of ‘barefoot luxury’, which sums it up nicely. If you don’t understand it, just watch Marili as she walks through the door after work, kicks off her shoes, wriggles her toes, and gives in to the delicious sensation of rubbing the soles of her feet along the silky smooth patina unique to an authentic and carefully crafted timber floor.
Antoni Associates, 021-468-4400, aainteriors.co.za
REGARDT & MARILI’S HOME TRUTHS
The best thing about living where we do is the relaxed country lifestyle – close to restaurants, good schools, and fruit and wine farms – and Cape Town is just 30 minutes away (Regardt); there is beautifully maintained landscaping and generous spaces between the houses… and lots to keep us busy: a spa, an equestrian area and trout fishing (Marili). The first thing I do when I get home is change into more comfortable clothes (Regardt); kick off my shoes (Marili). I’m inspired by my family and other people’s successes (Marili). My style is anything that’s well thought out and timeless (Regardt); colourfully bold but plain; I do not do busy or prints (Marili). The design advice I swear by is stick to a simple, repeated palette and apply it to different materials and textures (Regardt). Our most treasured decor items are the three Italian pots we bought before the house was even finished. Our summer entertaining happens around our bar-boma, swimming pool and Jacuzzi. My signature dinner-party dish is stuffed fillet cooked on the Weber (Regardt); a big, healthy salad with everything in it, topped with balsamic glaze and dukka (Marili). I predict that 2012’s biggest trend will be ‘Earth’ food – the restaurants where we’ve eaten most recently are at wine farms: Knorhoek’s Towerbosch, Fyndraai at Solms-Delta and Babel at Babylonstoren, and this is the style of food they emphasise (Regardt).
This article was originally featured in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of House and Leisure.