It was as if this home designed by Jo Noero from Noero Architects in an oak-studded corner of Johannesburg’s Forest Town was commissioned specifically to meet the needs of Lucia and Piet Boer. The Boers wanted a home that merged with its exterior, offering an extended living environment in which to enjoy the plentiful sunny highveld days with their five-year-old son, Richard, and Babette, their basset hound, but just as important to them was an interior space that would function as a backdrop for their growing collection of modern and contemporary art. ‘It struck us immediately that the simplicity of the house’s L-shaped layout and all the natural light that entered would bring the art to the fore,’ says Piet, an architect with Boogertman + Partners.
The engaging collection is an ongoing by-product of what was meant to be an interim job for Lucia with art consultant and dealer Warren Siebrits when the couple moved to Johannesburg from Pretoria in 2004. ‘At the time Piet was working with Warren’s wife, interior designer Lunetta Bartz, and they asked me if I would be willing to help out in the gallery for a month or two,’ explains the attorney-turned-art consultant who was looking for legal advising work at the time. Within a week Lucia was hooked and ended up spending nine years with the gallery.
Their first piece, an etching by Eric Mbatha entitled ‘Mother and Young Ones’, keeps venerable company today: Cecil Skotnes, Cecily Sash and Hannes Harrs, as well as contemporary pieces by Stefanus Rademeyer, Gerhard Marx, Jo Ractliffe and Mandy Johnston. ‘I really admire print making as an art form and the works by Wopko Jensma are among my favourites but fortunately Piet and I have similar taste and we both love sculpture,’ says Lucia who, by way of explanation, motions to a recently
acquired work by Stephan Erasmus that hovers over the dining-room table.
As it stands the house belies the work involved in establishing the airy, light-filled interior that envelopes the garden. Ceilings were replaced, aluminium doors and windows were installed and the original terracotta floors were restored. ‘Throughout the process we kept our focus on the spatial quality inherent in he original compact design,’ says Piet who explains that while their previous home offered vast expanses of wall space to accommodate their collection it didn’t offer the intimacy they felt was essential to family life. ‘The house showcases both the art inside and the garden beyond, and as we envisioned,’ says Piet. ‘It allows us to make the most of both environments.’
The garden’s seasonal change inspires Lucia and Piet to rotate the collection, putting certain pieces in storage for a period of time and moving others around. Existing works also make way for new pieces. A praying woman by Zoë Frank who gazed through a small window in the main bedroom now welcomes you at the front door. Outside, a cluster of neon-orange traffic cones by Gordon Froud has been shifted to make it more visible from the living area. ‘As an art lover it’s a profound privilege to live in a space where you are provoked by a work or compelled to admire it no matter where you find yourself,’ says Lucia.
On a wall in the dining area a small landscape dwarfed by a dramatic charcoal portrait by Marieke Kruger brings a surprising but happy disparity to the Boers’ installation.
Estimated to be around 120 years old, the restored painting inherited by Piet from his Dutch grandparents bravely holds its own beside a Cecil Skotnes landscape. ‘Unfortunately we’ve not been able to establish the artist or provenance but it must have been very special for Piet’s grandparents to bring it to South Africa and it’s therefore a treasured piece in our collection,’ says Lucia.
Originally published HL September 2015