WORDS Kay-Ann van Rooyen PHOTOS Ulrich Knoblauch PRODUCTION Sumien Brink
The interior of a renovated home on the guest farm Halfaampieskraal makes a strong visual impact but also evokes a feeling of calm.
A sense of serenity is your first impression as you step inside the living room of the restored farmhouse surrounded by barley and canola fields. The interior palette is white and black, which is slightly surprising only because you’ve just come from the main house on Halfaampieskraal, which is characterised by walls painted in dark colours like forest green, ceilings of dark wood, velvet curtains, tapestries, murals and riotous colour combinations.
The latter is the house in which Jan-Georg Solms grew up and lived for most of his life. And it still is the hub of activities on the farm, especially when people are staying over in the outbuilding that he and his partner Cobus Geldenhuys renovated and turned into guest suites in 2006.
By 2013, with everything on the sheep and grain farm running smoothly and guests returning again and again, a new project presented itself: Looking down the hill, there was an abandoned house in the middle of a rams’ paddock, empty for 50 years except for the sheep sheltering under its roof and bees’ nests and a family of dassies that had moved in. So they set about turning the ruin into a home for themselves.
Structurally, the house was sound, with thick walls and a corrugated iron roof. The main alterations they made were extending the front stoep to twice its previous depth, enclosing the back stoep to accommodate the kitchen, knocking out some brickwork to install stacking doors and building a low perimeter wall. A round concrete reservoir on the one side of the house became a pool, and a small rectangular reservoir abutting the house on the other side is now a small stoep with a set of French doors leading out to it.
Jan-Georg and Cobus have been holidaying in Greece for 17 years, 12 of those in the same bungalow on the island of Paros in the Aegean Sea. Naturally, the culture has influenced their style, so when it came to the interiors of the house they opted for the time-honoured Greek aesthetic of white, and, to provide contrast with the white, instead of Mediterranean blue they chose black for the doors and the door and window frames.
Even the timber ceilings are painted white, except in the kitchen, where the original corrugated iron stoep roof with its curved bull-nose profile was left exposed. Interesting vignettes of mementos from their travels adorn the living room, like a framed sailing map of the route between Athens and Paros, postcards from the New Acropolis Museum, and figurines in marble and bronze that give a hint of the Hellenic.
In the living room, the white-and-black colour scheme is softened with warm neutral hues in elements like rugs, the sofa, the dining chairs and a camel saddle stool – a Solms family heirloom. The stoep with its comfortable armchairs and footstools, tables and pot plants is a second living room. Off the stoep is a bedroom that features images of boats and ships and touches of blue, giving the room a nautical feel. It’s where Jan-Georg has his workspace for building intricate scale models. Then there’s the wonderfully austere all-white bedroom juxtaposed with an inky bathroom. Cobus is the one who prefers a spare, unadorned interior style, whereas Jan-Georg likes to add layers.
Together, they have managed to create harmony out of contrasts.