Structure and Design originally looked at the Chikanga complex homes in issue 13 where we featured the makeover for Tex and Nola Dollar’s house. In this issue we look at the home of Leigh and Calum Philp, in the same complex but with a very different style of renovations and extensions. Leigh and Calum are Nola and Tex’s daughter and son-in-law so it all adds to the friendly and relaxed village atmosphere of the housing estate. There are only eight units in the gated complex so it’s become a small community where neighbours look out for each other. The Chikanga complex in Rolf Valley was designed by Penny Stone (from The Stone/Beattie Studio) and built in 1989/90 as a development for renowned Zimbabwean medical practitioner the late Dr Mhere. It was named after Chieftainess Chikanga, a princess in the household of King Mutasa, paramount monarch of Manyika. She was born around 1865 and died in around 1920. She is famous for her resistance to the colonial occupation so her legend lives on today.
The central spine has a barrel vault ceiling with large double volume glazed ends, so it still has a very contemporary, modern feel. The huge windows fill the interior with light and create a very spacious ambiance for the adjoining living areas.At the time when the houses were designed City of Harare were stipulating that cluster homes or townhouses needed to be planned on a minimum of half an acre if they worked off a septic tank system, and some distance from neighbours was required for the purposes of ground water safety. Nowadays these stipulations have been relaxed as town house complexes are being developed across the City. The fortunate outcome of the City’s restrictions at that time is that the townhouses at Chikanga have generous gardens and outdoor space – quite a luxury in the current demand for higher density residential options.
The gardens at Chikanga are all quite generous but still easy to maintain. Part of the L-shaped stand which makes up the complex is flat while part is sloping fairly steeply, so Stone devised an adaptable design to cope with the restrictions. The units all have a high, arched, double volume spine running down the centre with the bedrooms off to one side and the living spaces on the other side. The spine allows for a small step down to bedroom spaces on one side for the sloping stands, while the units on the flat sites are all on one level. It’s a fairly simple, if elegant, design solution that’s highly adaptable and allows for development and extensions to be constructed as needed.
Leigh and Calum bought their unit and moved in around six years ago when it was still a three bedroom, two bathroom set up. Their family has since grown necessitating their decision to add an extra bedroom and bathroom. Bruce Rowlands from local company Architexture Spatial Design was commissioned to plan and conceptualise the changes. The home now has four bedrooms – of which two are en suite and there’s a third shared bathroom – as well as a large open plan kitchen, dining and lounge area, a kids’ playroom, a pantry and utility area and an extended verandah for outdoor living. And all of this has been achieved while maintaining and enhancing Stone’s original aesthetic and in keeping with the overall look of the other houses in the complex. Rowlands has even managed to preserve the double car garage and the single staff quarters without encroaching on the garden space.
In order to create the new fourth bedroom and en suite Rowlands has incorporated the parking space to the right of the entrance.
This entailed moving the huge glass gable end wall (and front door) several metres forward. The existing wooden frames for the wall had deteriorated and needed to be replaced with a new aluminium frame and door manufactured on site by Willie Barnard. Obviously the domed roof needed to be stretched to incorporate the new bedroom space and add a portico over the front door. (The domed roof was also extended on the opposite side facing the garden.) After some research the Philpses were able to source the pattern for the curved fibre cement roof sheets from Turnall in Bulawayo and they managed to order new, additional roof sheets to exactly match the existing ones.
The two smaller bedrooms which share a bathroom were mostly unchanged although the bathroom has been updated. The master bedroom and en suite has however been significantly refurbished. The bathroom has been enlarged and refitted, a separate loo was added as well as an outdoor shower, and a generous walk-in wardrobe has been created.
The walk-in frees up what was previously wardrobe space in the bedroom so it now seems more spacious. All the bedrooms have doors and windows opening out to the side garden – landscaped and designed by Leigh.
In the living area Rowlands’ design removed the original fireplace and existing surrounding walls which originally partly separated the dining room and lounge. The old fireplace has been replaced by a high efficiency wood burning stove set off to the side which warms the whole space very well and uses a minimum amount of fuel. Where the chimney for the old fireplace used to cut through the roof there’s now a translucent skylight. The new dining room space is fairly modest and used mainly for family suppers and when the weather is a little chilly while the extended verandah is used more often for larger groups.
The old kitchen, which was quite small and partially closed off from the living space, as was the design trend at the time, has now become the kids’ playroom, so all the toys and clutter can be contained in one area which is still visible to the parents. And the existing verandah has been repurposed to become the new kitchen – designed by Colleen Olsen from Design House Zim. The kitchen roof slopes upward from the interior space so it has a valley gutter for rainwater plus a row of high windows along the far end. Leigh and Calum have opted for a clean, minimalist look in the kitchen with dark charcoal grey cabinet doors – while the interiors of the cabinets are left in a natural timber colour. The cabinets also conceal an integrated fridge/freezer to maintain the clean lines. A generous kitchen island provides cooking and prep space, as well as additional storage, and modern matte black fittings complete the look.
When the houses were originally built there was very little foreign currency available for imported materials – hence the Turnall roofing sheets and the floors which were clad with local Gwaai tiles. Leigh has opted to use light oak flooring timber from Pride of Africa for the floors along the central passageway and for the living and dining areas. Here she has selected a matte varnish, oiled-look
finish for the wooden blocks, rather than a glossy varnished finish which tends to get scratched and damaged – and the oiled look is in keeping with the original terracotta tiles.
The extended verandah across the front of the house offers outdoor dining and entertainment space – which Leigh and Calum and the family use a lot of the time. The verandah steps down to an existing pool which has been refurbished from chipped tiles to a Cemcrete finish and enclosed with a steel and glass balustrade. The garden, designed by Leigh, extends beyond to a cycle track for the kids as well as a pretty garden space for the house.
The extensive renovations and extensions designed by Rowlands, with input from Leigh and Calum, has resulted in an elegant home tailor made to suit their needs. It’s rare to find a renovated home that perfectly accommodates, and exceeds, the owners’ every requirement, while still maintaining the original design aesthetics.
text by Michael Nott
photos by Structure and Design
plans by Architexture Spatial Design