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Three friends have turned a basic farm cottage in the West Coast wheat lands into a novel and inspired holiday house that’s ideal for weekend entertaining.
Any village set among rolling fields of wheat against a mountain would be hard-pressed to find a name that is more apt than Koringberg. A lush emerald green in winter, the countryside turns golden in summer and 18 months ago it was shimmering in heat when Michelle Kruger, her friend Martina Klopper, and Martina's partner Ian Goodes first saw the property that would become their weekend bolt hole.
The big plot, a block or so away from the village centre (a post office, liquor store and two spaza shops), had two simple flat-roofed buildings. The pool house consisted of three walls and a broken floor, while the reddish cottage next to it had two enormous bedrooms with open-plan bathrooms. Connecting them was a comfortable space that acted as kitchen, dining and living room during the three winter months it took them to convert the pool house into an engaging glass-fronted living and entertaining area.
How they did it is a story and a half says Michelle. It started off with major discussions over food and wine next to the fire.
'We cooked amazing meals, drew lots of pictures and spent time on Pinterest. We called it the "dreaming and scheming" time.' – Michelle Kruger
They first designed the steel-framed glass doors, which would turn out to be a feat of engineering. Not only was nothing about the pool house’s original construction straight but they were set on having doors that opened all the way to create an indoor–outdoor scenario and casual-entertaining space next to the pool.
Then came the challenge of finding reliable contractors in Koringberg, more than an hour away from Cape Town. In the end the eight concertina doors were made by a Cape Town welder but, as it turned out, their problem was not yet solved. 'Apart from the many times he didn’t pitch to install them because yet another water pipe had burst on yet another site,' says Martina, 'he also comes from the school of "measuring with the eye".'
After the welder's first day on site Ian came along with his spirit level and took over. Everything that had been installed had to be removed and they started all over again. 'Ian was an absolute hero,' says Michelle. 'What he pulled off! He ended up managing most of the project.'
'We often sit outside and marvel at the fact that it belongs to us! It’s our space to relax, be creative, catch up and entertain' – Michelle
Contractors from the village did the ceiling and the screeded concrete floor, painting it all white like the walls. The rest the three friends did themselves. Ian built the three-metre kitchen counter using copper piping for the legs and Oregon pine from an old Newlands station building for the top. He put in a French basin Michelle found in a vintage store in Durbanville. The industrial taps were a Pinterest idea and a friend of Michelle's son Christopher did the plumbing. Martina, a smart organiser, kept everyone on track.
The budget was tight and most of the furniture was bought at second-hand stores and revamped. To keep the large communal room warm in winter they put in a compact wood-burning stove and, in keeping with its loosely industrial ambience, globes in metal cages were hung above the metal-legged table whose top was made by Ian from old balau deck planks.
For seating they found perforated metal stools with wooden seats and a high-backed dining chair that's all sleek steel.
Nor is their deck furniture your ordinary garden loungers. Instead they are classics such as the Western world’s first wooden recliner, the Morris chair, with its adjustable back brought into the 21st century with huge hessian cushions that you can comfortably lie back on with your towel after a dip in the pool.
The two spacious bedrooms are eclectic in style with large stuffed sofas that make them feel more like welcoming living rooms. 'Martina and I both love Scandinavian simplicity but somehow more elements crept in along the way,' says Michelle. 'We're also guilty of bringing things from our homes in Cape Town.' They're both lovers of art too and on the walls are works by Walter Battiss, Marjorie Wallace, Diek Grobler, Christopher Slack and Gert Naudé.
Ian Goodes, spiritedlevel.co.za
Originally published in December 2015