Renovation… With Serious Green Credentials

When the current owners first bought the house it was a Spanish-style dwelling, probably built in the early 50s and slightly dated, of brick under a red tiled roof. The roof was a bit of a jumble of different heights and awkward angles and worst of all it leaked! The exterior was not especially attractive – the main entrance was through a solid wooden door hidden under a fairly dark portico, most of the windows were quite small and there was curved wall to the right of the entrance with a row of little windows looking into an enclosed courtyard. The interior layout was not ideal, in particular a low concrete beam blocked views of the pool and the garden at the back of the house. The owners knew that the house wasn’t working well for them so they approached Bruce Rowlands from the well-known local architectural firm Architexture Spatial Design. The owners had worked successfully with Rowlands on other renovation projects and liked his particular style and aesthetic.

Rowlands’ signature style includes Chromadek roofs with glass gable ends, high ceilings with exposed roof trusses, verandahs that open up the interior of the structure, lots of natural light from generous windows and doors and a simple, functional, open plan layout. Although the footprint of the house has remained mostly the same the layout of the rooms has been changed to make it more open plan and the old domestic quarters and the garage have been incorporated into the main interior space. New domestic quarters and additional covered parking have been built on another part of the property. What was originally the garage is now a large, modern, bright kitchen and the domestic quarters have been transformed in to a utility room and gym, with an adjacent self-contained cottage overlooking the pool.

The old kitchen has now become the new family lounge integrated into the foyer. This makes up the first phase of the renovations while the bedroom wing will be renovated in the second phase in the future. The existing roof was removed and a completely new roof fitted to allow for higher ceilings inside, and the previously disjointed sections of roofing were rationalised. Joining up the roofs of the different sections of the new structure, and ensuring a sense of continuity for the ceiling heights, was quite a complex process. The roof section that runs through the main structure from the entrance portico to the back verandah is at right angles to roof over the lounge and the kitchen and in addition the roof required two slightly lower hip joints at each end of the central section to link up the different parts.

The main entrance has been shifted to the centre of the front façade with generous windows either side. The entrance is now through wide glass and aluminium doors under a glass gable end and the low concrete beam has been demolished so that there’s an uninterrupted view right through the house to the pool and the lush garden at the back. The A-frame trusses seen at the front gable are repeated through the entrance foyer and continue out to the new verandah at the back. The new structure required a series of pillars to support the new roof, the new ring beam and the new raised lintel. There are four internal pillars (two on either side of the entrance foyer) which are continued out to the back verandah up to the edge of the pool. The pillars made it possible to create a high ceiling in the foyer with Rowlands’ signature exposed trusses, creating a more contemporary feel of modernity, light and space – something which was missing in the old building.


To the left of the foyer is a relaxed family lounge while the dining room and kitchen are off to the right creating a single open plan space. As opposed to the foyer where the ceiling follows the A-shaped roof, the lounge as well as the dining room and kitchen have high, flat, tongue and groove ceilings which help to demarcate the spaces from the foyer. New solid teak floors (supplied by Pride of Africa) link the lounge, foyer and dining room, giving the space a luxurious feel, while the kitchen has a white ceramic tiled floor. The dark floors also help to anchor the spaces which are so light and bright. Folding glass and aluminium doors lead out from the foyer and the lounge to the verandah, so when they’re fully open it becomes one big indoor/outdoor space.

All the old windows on both the front and back of the house have been replaced with bigger aluminium framed windows or doors allowing much more light into the heart of the home. The lounge has a huge fixed pane window at the front which frames views of the garden – it’s the biggest single pane size available locally! Because of the open plan layout the kitchen is now an integral part of the living space, rather than being tucked away in a separate room. Particular attention has been paid to make sure the kitchen is both functional and also looks great. It was designed and installed by Kim Amira from Amira Designs, with white Caesarstone counter tops and dark grey cabinets. Pops of red in the stools and accessories tie in with the orange and red throws and scatter cushions in the lounge.

There’s a big squarish centre island that doubles as an informal dining space, with four industrial lights suspended above. Aluminium and glass doors and windows open the kitchen out to the verandah and the garden and provide convenient access for outdoor entertaining. Beyond the kitchen is a generous space for a scullery, laundry and utility room in what was once part of the old domestic quarters.

Next to the kitchen is a well-equipped home gym which was also originally part of the domestic quarters. Beyond the gym, overlooking the pool, is a small self-contained suite of bedroom and en suite bathroom, which is currently used by the owners’ son. Beyond the open plan lounge is a second more intimate family lounge with a fireplace. It’s much more cosy and great for watching TV on chilly winter nights. It leads onto a small foyer which creates a second entrance to the home along a little brick paved pathway. The foyer was originally a small office but a new door, in what was previously a solid wall, created another access point. The roof above the lounge and the small foyer was also raised to allow for the high ceiling to follow the A-frame shape

The extensive demolitions and renovations took just three months. The owners moved out on 18th September last year and were back in their home on 19th December in time for their son’s birthday party. The main contractor for the project was Geoff van der Ruit from Skilfish Enterprises. The owner, being a very much hands-on kind of guy, was also very involved in the construction process from start to finish, assisting with his own crew for lighting and painting. Between van der Ruit and the owner they also installed a huge water harvesting system. Rain water from the gutters and the driveway runs into a sump which feeds into two underground tanks and is then pumped in a series of massive steel reservoirs which can hold around 1 million litres of water. Zimdam provided the lining for the huge galvanised steel reservoirs. In conjunction with their borehole there’s more than enough water for the garden, the house and the various outbuildings. The owners have also installed a massive 20Kva solar system which is more than enough for their needs. The solar system was installed by Nick Hundermark, so the home now has their own independent water and electricity supplies making it both modern and seriously green. The overall success of the renovation is a tribute to the vision of both the owners and to Rowlands and his team, including Martyn Roberts as the main technical detailer.


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