Room to breathe
As homeowners go, you get the collectors (or 'sentimentalists') and the minimalists – those whose method of home making registers on the lighter end of the scale. It’s with the latter, filtered approach that owners of advertising agency Promise and partners James Moffatt and Marc Watson find their beat. Their house in Parktown North, and the style it dictates, serves first and foremost to celebrate its good bones. Given the right attitude (one of restraint) it’s a space underpinned by a sense of calm.
'We viewed the property and then left it for four months thinking we couldn’t have found our home straight away,' reflects Marc. Their search criteria? A bigger garden to accommodate their three adored dogs Spencer, Chloe and Luke, wall space of gallery-like proportions for their enviable art collection and a house that could adapt to their love of entertaining.
Rising up above street level via a private courtyard and broad staircase and arriving to a light-flooded, central gallery, you get a sense of departing the day's chaos – an important characteristic, given that running their agency calls for long hours and high pressure. It’s here that staggered skylights draw in the sun as it changes with the passing day and season. 'Often I'll just call James to come and see how the light has changed,' Marc enthuses.
It's a home that finds its expression through form, with little else to distract from it; and the furniture that the owners have selected goes a long way in embracing that notion. 'We took inspiration from the design of the house and rolled that through with a contemporary Scandi feel,' explains James of their select group of streamlined pieces by prominent Johannesburg designers, such as Tonic Design and Mezzanine.
Conceived by architect Kate Otten for the previous homeowners, it's only now that the property has been given a chance to show off its lean structure and finer architectural details like the subtle shadow lines that define confluences between walls and floors, windows and doors. 'It's a solution to the problem of junctions between materials and also gives a more crisp, floating effect,' Kate explains. Furthermore, warm Oregon-pine doors and windows are a counterpoint to the home’s pared-back interior. ‘The smell of wood in winter is beautiful,’ adds Marc.
Essentially it's a live-in light box, with sweeping glass frontage to the north (some of the sliding doors measure three by three metres), skylights that puncture
the entrance hall roof and clerestory windows in the living room. A growing collection of artworks adorns the walls in every room with a noteworthy cast of names including Deborah Bell, William Kentridge and MJ Lourens.
'There are no curtains in this house,' James points out, contented. Doing away with the previous owners' voile window coverings, they’ve opted instead for electric sheer weave blinds and only where needed, being careful not to obscure the home’s structure. Large openings connect the living rooms with generous hung barn doors that recede alongside and into the walls, providing the couple with a variable space within which to live.
On summer evenings James and Marc open the home up to the night sky, while in winter, volume's negative effect on warmth is no issue thanks to their Paloma gas heaters, which can be connected to any of the neat adapter points throughout the house with bayonets. It’s important to note that 80 per cent of their requirements, such as water heating and cooking, run off gas too.
So what's left when the home’s not filled and the walls and floors are allowed to breathe? Unadulterated architecture and a stillness that the two of them relish in. It’s a true reflection of their love of modern architecture and their respect for space.
'I love the way this house makes me feel. It's an unencumbered living style,' remarks James.
Kate Otten, kateottenarchitects.com
Originally published in HL June 2015