Sophisticated Joburg Home

Text Tess Paterson Production Sherri Chipps Photographs Elsa Young Built in the early 1990s in the secluded heart of Inanda in Joburg, this Carmel Back-designed home was destined to become a modern classic. ‘It has good bones,’ says interior designer Sandra Bowler, ‘and, as expected, has stood the test of time.’ Fifteen years on, however, the owners felt that they wanted a change. The couple – a well-known owner of fashion boutiques and her husband – had briefly considered the idea of a new build or cluster. But they knew that their home’s location and clean, uncluttered lines would be hard to beat. ‘It was always a much-loved house that suited our lifestyle,’ they explain, ‘so we opted to enhance the existing space and give it a lighter, more updated look.’ The solution lay in an extensive renovation, starting with the addition of an airy garden room and gym. ‘We tried to approach the design as we imagined Carmel Back would have done,’ says Sandra, who collaborated on the project with architect David Alsfine. ‘She was undoubtedly ahead of her time, and the goal was to juxtapose those clean lines with an interior that was sophisticated yet relaxed.’ Moving out to make way for the builders, the owners spent the best past of a year commuting between their second home in Cape Town and a nearby hotel. ‘What we wanted to achieve from the renovation was essentially modern,’ explains David, ‘but not in the sense of what’s in vogue right now. This is a timeless home with fantastic lines, and that gave us an excellent starting point.’ Using an abundance of picture windows, David designed the garden room to connect seamlessly with the outdoors. Rounding off the structural changes, the taupe scratch-plaster exterior was stripped down in favour of a suede plaster finish in a deep anthracite colour. To create a lighter, less intense interior canvas, the team gutted the entire house and replaced most of the surfaces. ‘My clients have an innate sense of style and truly understand design,’ says Sandra. ‘They were so open to suggestions, and willing to experiment with top-quality natural materials.’ The original dark granite flooring made way for boards of pale oak and, on the veranda, over-scaled blocks of sandstone create a seamless flow between indoors and out. When it came to the soft furnishings, Sandra chose a predominantly neutral palette of linens and silks, interspersed with fresh bursts of colour. Tonal accents range from dirty greens and muted purples, to a master bedroom layered with cool metallics and cream.‘Introducing colour was vital to the design as all-neutral interiors have a tendency to be unexciting, particularly in large spaces where they blur together.’ Not so here, where the subtle coloration and meticulous detailing give this home its sense of easy elegance. Throughout, custom-designed woollen rugs soften the timber floors, while ceiling-height linen curtains frame lush summer views. Design classics like Tom Dixon’s Mirror Ball pendant lights and black Eero Saarinen Tulip chairs add a sleek, modern twist. ‘It was important to create a balance between laid-back and luxurious,’ adds Sandra. ‘We included a number of hi-tech elements, such as the surround sound that runs throughout each room, yet it’s a home that’s relaxed enough for pets.’ ‘Sandra and I like the same things,’ says the owner. ‘She really tuned in to what we were after, and understood exactly how we live. I think of this home as “traditionally modern”, and while it’s spacious enough for visits from our children and grandchildren, it’s also a compact design that suits the two of us perfectly.’ This summer you’ll find the owners in the garden room – a versatile living space where they entertain with friends and family. ‘We use it all the time,’ they enthuse. ‘It seats plenty of people and we fold back the doors and listen to the birds.’ Given their close proximity to Sandton City, the sense of unrushed tranquillity is extraordinary. Sandra Bowler, 082-772-0573; Alsfine Angus Architects, 011-880-0125 This home was originally featured in the December 2009 issue of House and Leisure.