PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Cheri Morris
In renovating their 178-year-old home, Kevin Fellingham and Winnie Sze kept intact a sense of the passage of time.
Kevin Fellingham and Winnie Sze’s Bo-Kaap home dates to 1839, making it one of the oldest structures on their block. The building previously served as a farmhouse, an industrial workshop, a plumber’s playground and a variety of office set-ups until it found its current purpose as the humble kingdom of a Miniature Schnauzer (with a not-so-miniature personality), Missy, and her creative human companions, Winnie (a curator) and Kevin (an architect).
Their well-loved home, says Kevin, is not so much a renovation or restoration as an “Arts and Crafts idea of an honest repair”. The method with which he went about creating the artistic sense of comfortable wonder that the house exudes could be compared to the Japanese craft of kintsugi – repairing something broken using methods and materials that celebrate its history rather than disguise the damage, such as mending broken pottery with gold to reveal rather than conceal the fracture lines. In the spirit of this philosophy, all the changes that the house has undergone have been made visible in a charismatic, conversational sense of honesty.
The original timber beams, which held up the old tin roof that has been around since the building was erected, are subtly contrasted with new sealed poplar inserts in a way that presents old and new as the best of friends. Where a crumbling structure once gave way to an ugly hole, a seemingly oddly placed sky light illuminates a small section of face brick purposefully left unplastered – an arresting form of simple art created through thoughtful architecture.
Hardly a thing was wasted in the refurbishment. What was once a front door that “didn’t fit quite right” in the office space now serves as the rooftop balcony portal through which one moves to greet the city skyline against the picturesque backdrop of Table Mountain. An old courtyard now serves as a light-filled enclosed connection between the kitchen and the lounge, facilitating a moody play of light as the long fingers of the sun stretch in from the glassed tower space above it.
Other small details, like kitchen cupboard handles inspired by a dog-eared page in Kevin’s diary, express the artistic whimsy of the architect’s mind. Winnie and Kevin are both avid collectors, so naturally various spaces in the house are adorned with detailed assemblages of art and artefacts. In the dining area is a larger-than- life bookcase nicknamed the Museum of Anthropology, named after the actual Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, one of Kevin’s favourite places. Designed and made by him some years back in his London apartment over many Saturday mornings (much to the dismay of his neighbours), the shelving unit houses a myriad of impressive collectibles that, without due explanation, could be horribly mistaken for things of little value.
“Winnie collects art and I, well, among other things I collect chairs,” says Kevin. “I got this entire lounge set for half the price of what the couch alone normally costs. I used to go around checking out the antiques shops in London that were getting low on stock so I might be the first one there when a new batch came in. It’s all about getting your timing right.”