FREE TO DREAM
THIS TRANQUIL HOME HAS A RELAXED FAMILY FEEL, YET ALSO SERVES AS AN EXHIBITION SPACE FOR STRIKING ARTWORKS
Property hunting with a list of must-haves is only sensible. However, there are times when the home-buying rule book gets thrown out the window, as it did five years ago when Kate and Michael were scouting for a new home in Cape Town. They were reluctantly dragged to view a place that was clearly not right for them. Despite the drawcard of the property housing one of the oldest buildings in the area – an early 19th-century labourer’s cottage – the main home was way too small for their family, which includes a daughter studying at university and three young boys. “There was nothing that attracted us to the main house itself,” recalls Kate. But once they saw the property, they were smitten. The cottage was adorable, and the block includes a stream that Kate felt gave a sense of ‘wild’ in a suburban space, with these features enough to entice them to overlook the drawbacks of the main structure. “Despite being so close to the city, it has a cloistered peace,” she says. To address the noted flaws of their new purchase, the couple engaged architect Karen Newman, who transformed the dated main building into a family home with heart. “I love architecture with history, but there’s a part of me that is also interested in creating new buildings,” says Karen. “This was the perfect project. It combined caring for a very old and beautiful cottage with reinventing a block-like, double-storey house built in the 1970s or ’80s. The house was positioned in the right place with a wonderful aspect, but it was very tired and dark with no north-facing rooms, and the footprint was too small for the family.” While the cottage was preserved as a separate guesthouse, the main building was transformed with the addition of an extra storey. “The first time I went to the site, we said we’d lift the roof, go up to three storeys and treat the family home like an apartment or contemporary townhouse,” says Karen. The bottom floor was devoted to communal living, the middle to the children, and the top level to the adults. The main hurdle was that the engineers couldn’t track down the home’s original structural drawings, so the top floor had to be very lightweight. Karen designed a steel-framed structure with loads of windows that synced brilliantly with Kate and Michael’s request for a light and airy ‘top box’ space. From a solid foundation, the home gradually rises from its brick-and-mortar base with low ceilings to a lofty, modernist glass-and-steel space with treehouse aspirations. Inside, the home has been opened up to let in natural light. The streamlined, contemporary spaces provide a down-to-earth, easy-care home for the couple’s boisterous boys, while also serving as an aweinspiring gallery for their rich, challenging and lively art, beautifully handcrafted artefacts and African furniture. It’s a home for everyone to enjoy – children and adults alike – where art and culture are celebrated, and the conversation and family fun flow freely.