PHOTOS David Ross PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes WORDS Mila Crewe-Brown
An ode to modern design, this Pretoria home rests lightly on the land and blurs the lines between inside and outside living.
“It all started with the site,” says the owner of the remarkable floating concrete box in Pretoria’s Silver Lakes Golf Estate. Tucked away in a quiet street in one of the country’s premium residential estates, the house of glass and concrete looms above a steep bank of feathery grasses. Featuring the most elemental forms and honest materials, it’s a house that, despite its rarity, is too elegant to beg for attention, instead speaking to style through subtlety.
Architect Luke Chandler, whose work at Aevitas Group typically involves much larger property developments, describes the house as having an intimate connection to the koppie against which it resides.
“The site fundamentally informed the orientation, layout, level and aesthetic of the house and it was critically important to capitalise on its unique features,” he says. A 28 m-wide floating concrete box runs west to east, flanked by two stone-clad bookends. On the northern side, the building tucks into the estate’s game reserve, and on the southern side it gapes open to a panoramic view of the golf course, observed from a lofty position 4 m above its initial ground level.
It is the structural engineering that makes this house – built by Archecon Construction – truly exceptional. The span of concrete above the veranda, 12 m long and 4 m deep, is unsupported. And just three sliding doors cover its entire length. When the doors are fully opened on the northern and southern sides, they disappear into cavity walls, making the concrete box seem as if it’s hovering.
The homeowner, who has worked closely with Luke in the past, has an astute sense of design, one that led him to approach Julia Day of interior design company Generation.
“The design consciousness in South Africa is starting to shift,” says Julia “and my client is part of the vanguard in terms of the way he perceives what he builds. An art aficionado and collector, he wanted a space that was custom-made to display his collection, which includes works by the likes of André van Vuuren, Paul Blomkamp and Gail Catlin. How to arrive at an interior that’s synergetic with the architecture and site was a challenge that Julia met with an innate appreciation for the home’s spirit.
Her involvement was broad, including the interior finishing, kitchen and bathroom design, and furniture selection. “In 50 years this house will be iconic, so we chose timeless design,” she says. By timeless she means authentic, hand-made classics by design icons such as Kensaku Oshiro and Vico Magistretti. These global heavy weights were chosen for their love of distilled form and quality over quantity, traits that run deep in this dwelling. With respect given to pieces like a Pilotis armchair by Philippe Nigro and an LL04 lounge chair by Maarten van Severen, the rooms have been allowed to breathe. The homeowner, architect and designer all mention the feeling that the house evokes more often than they refer to the look of its individual components, signifying that the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.
“When you walk into a room that makes you feel something, you just know you’ve got it right,” the homeowner says.