PHOTOS Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes WORDS Mila Crewe-Brown
In an estate known for its variety of farmhouse-style dwellings, one house consciously holds back, subtracting instead of adding and, in so doing, stands apart.
Simplicity – especially in design – has become a coveted quality, often accompanied by clean lines and a measure of restraint. The no-frills aesthetic has powerful effects on the psyche, where the lack of visual chaos brings calm. In Pretoria, the home of Lloyd and Annemarie Christie steers clear of residential estate uniformity and stands out, striking in its simplicity.
Navigating my way through tree-lined streets to the Christies’ house, I immediately spot it from the street corner. Its understated facade is unmissable, speaking louder than any bells-and-whistles abode ever could. The entire gable end, from the ground to the roofline, is clad in horizontal timber slats, so neither the garage nor the windows above are detectable until they’re opened. The timber announces the home’s architectural language from the outset. “If you were to remove it, you’d see the random placement of the windows, which at night throw their light through the slats,” says architect Carl Jacobsz of C76 Architecture.
Seeking a wholesome environment that would allow their two daughters, Chloë-Ann (7) and Milla (4), freedom to play, the Christies bought the vacant plot of land and entrusted their architect friend Carl with the task of designing their home. “We were adamant about clean lines, but left it to Carl to plan the building envelope within the constraints presented by the stand,” says Lloyd, referring to the plot’s challenging diamond-like shape.
The house is a double barn, splaying out in a V-shape with a grassed courtyard garden in the middle. Taking their cue from the stand, the two barns hug its western and eastern boundaries, maximising on live able square metreage and affording the family a garden with multiple connections to the house. Carl describes it as “living into the courtyard”, an aspect that brings with it privacy from outside eyes.
The footprint also opens up the barns to the northerly view of the estate’s agricultural corridor, currently a crop of corn that begins just beyond the low garden fence. Come winter time, the corn field will be superseded by lucerne and grazing cows.
In the double-storey western barn, reserved for private living areas, Carl has created a loft above each of the girls’ bedrooms. In the eastern barn, Lloyd, an attorney, has the study of his dreams with wall-to-wall bookshelves, as well as a gym and an underground cellar that peers into the swimming pool through a window.
Rough brickwork makes up the bulk of the barns, with corrugated sheeting, concrete floors and timber slats completing the inventory. It is the timber, however, that takes centre stage; 3,3 km of sustainably sourced modified rhinowood is used as shading in movable screens, as security in large lockable shutters, and as cladding to add an element of lightness to the structure.
“Grounded architecture is what appeals to me; the simpler the better,” says Carl, referencing his childhood on an Eastern Free State farm where purpose built farm buildings made an indelible impression.
As someone who declares an aversion to slick architecture, Carl has brought warmth to the Christies’ home through conscious design choices. “What sets apart good architecture from that which is not is atmosphere, and you achieve that with materials and with time,” he says. “That’s my unicorn; I chase it project by project.”