A fresh start in Parkhurst
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Shortly after proposing to his then-girlfriend three years ago, Paul Thatcher surprised her with another proposition – his family owned a home in Parkhurst, which his grandmother had bought 60 years before, and it was now theirs to renovate. ‘One trip to view it,’ says his wife, Roberta, ‘and we knew this was the perfect spot to start our life together.’
Despite three generations of the family having lived in the house over the decades, it had never been altered and was a typical 1950s facebrick box, offering the couple a blank canvas on which to create their dream home. ‘Parkhurst properties are notoriously small, and seeing as we wanted to do a complete overhaul, and maximise our limited space, we knew we needed a great creative team on our side,’ says Roberta. First step was to contact Joburg firm Gass Architecture Studios. ‘We’ve always been fans of Georg van Gass’ clean, minimalist style and his practical approach to design.’
The couple’s concerns about a lack of space were quickly eased by the architect, who has a pet hate for ‘large, sprawling houses where most of the property is never used’. With this in mind, Georg and his associate CJ Eisenstein, redesigned the entire property, rethinking the garden and outdoor areas to create a beautiful yet practical home where every square metre would become a desirable place to spend time.
The biggest change was to ditch the driveway that ran along the western side of the property, and convert it into a wooden deck and pergola, with a splash pool on one end and a boma on the other. This added 70m2 of entertainment area to the home – pretty impressive, considering the whole house was only 120m2 to begin with. The exterior walls of the living area were then bashed out and replaced with glass sliding doors that bring the outdoors in.
The interior walls of the communal area were next to go, creating one large, open-plan living space that extends the full length of the house. Rather than three boxy spaces, the living room, kitchen and dining room now form one breezy, light-flooded area.
The original house had only one bathroom, so the couple added an en suite to the main bedroom, stealing space by doing away with the hardly-used original entrance corridor. The result is a roomy bedroom suite, complete with a balcony that’s fast become a favourite spot to lounge around on weekends.
Furnishing the house was the next challenge. ‘Both of us had lived solo for years and become very set in our ways (and styles),’ says Roberta. ‘As the curator of a design fair [Sanlam Handmade Contemporary Fair] I’m obsessed with aesthetics, while for Paul it’s comfort above all.’ The couple found an easy middle ground, with neutral tones dominating amid the occasional pop of colour. ‘Any relics from our old lives not appreciated by the other were subtly banished to the guest bedroom or Paul’s newly appointed man cave.’
Having lived in the house for a year now, the Thatchers have found it interesting to see how Georg’s vision of making the entire space useable has come to life.
‘Our home thrives with people in it,’ says Paul. ‘In winter we light a fire in the boma, while summer parties tend to take place closer to the pool, until we clear away the coffee table and transform our little lounge into a dance floor.’
‘As a first home, we couldn’t have asked for more,’ adds Roberta. ‘A clever redesign has made it feel expansive and serene, despite its tight lot. While it’s small enough to manage stress-free, it’s now also large enough to constantly fill with friends and family.’
Originally published in HL's special 2015 Before & After issue
If you want to see your home renovation splashed across the pages of HL, be sure to enter our 2016/2017 Readers’ #HLRenoInnovation Awards by sending before and after pictures of your home or room makeover.