Historic space, genteel living
BUILT for Ernest Acutt of Robert Acutt & Sons in 1895 in the suburb of Essenwood on Durban’s Berea, this home originally stood on 10 acres of land and was known as Waverton. Ernest was a wellknown local businessman who served as a town councillor. He was mayor of Durban during the visit of the then Duke and Duchess of York, who became King George V and Queen Mary. The home was designed by William Roberts, cofounder of the Natal Institute of Architects, for the Acutt family.
This property the later served as the British Consulate, and it is said that Queen Elizabeth visited for tea in 1947 when she was still a princess. The mansion was also known as Kinnord, then Charleston, but is historically best known as Balquhidder — a name that it carried while it was the consulate.
Kathy Legemaate of Seeff Properties, who is marketing this home, says that not only is it referred to as an outstanding example of a Victorian building in D Picton-Seymour’s book, Victorian Buildings in South Africa, but it has graced many glossies over the years with its contemporary feel and conservation awards.
The property was thoroughly renovated 15 years ago according to the original plans, and was refurbished again seven years ago to allow for family living, while keeping the grand formal rooms for large scale entertaining.
Design features include lofty 5m pressed ceilings, large reception rooms and deep verandas, all of which make this ideal for a large family home. There is an eat-in kitchen with a gas hob, five bedrooms mostly en-suite, as well as an extra office/lounge, double ensuite staff accommodation, garaging for two cars and a further two undercover parking spaces.
The flat, child-friendly garden with a large swimming pool com- pletes the picture.
The property also has excellent security including 24-hour guards on the two bordering roads and an electric fence and beams.
Other features include a wine cellar, laundry, three working gas fireplaces — one in each lounge and one in the main bedroom — air-conditioning in all five bedrooms, plus an enclosed viewing deck, a so-called Widow’s Walk, at the top of the house.
The popular explanation for the name in coastal communities is because it gives a bird’s-eye view of comings and goings in the harbour, and so women of the house could watch ships — and often their husbands — coming and going from the deck, but often mariners did not return home.
Legemaate says that the current owners, who bought the gracious triple-storey home for their growing family, fell for the home’s unique sense of history and its central, sociable position.
The owners say that they love the sense of community that the Berea offers as they know their neighbours and most of the local shopkeepers too.
The porch is referred to as having a “somewhat oriental manner” and features a stained glass fanlight over the front door inlet, a cut glass shaded iron pendant lamp and decorative cast-iron air vent. Breezy verandas with tiles in shades of ochre, blue and black run the length of the house on both sides, making it ideal for indoor-outdoor living in Durban’s subtropical climate.
Legemaate explains that even though one of the current owners is a homeware buyer, they made use of in interior designers Mario Rodrigues and Andrew Irving of Interdeco to help them achieve the look they were after.
“They wanted to embrace the grandeur of the home but at the same time play it down. The house has generous proportions, and the interiors had to live up to the home’s magnificent architecture,” says Legemaate.
Durban’s Berea has become more cosmopolitan over the years, and appeals to a wide selection of buyers due to its convenient location close to great schools, shopping centres and Durban’s CBD.
Figures from Lightstone, a property statistics and data provider, indicate that more than 70% of property in Essenwood is made up of sectional title units, which is possibly why younger buyers are expressing the most interest in the area.
Close on 43% of property purchases in the area between September last year and August this year were from buyers between 18 and 35 years old.
The data reflects that 280 properties were sold in this time frame, around 42% of which were in the R400,000–R800,000 price bracket. Just 3.9% of properties sold during this time frame were priced above R3m. The average price of a freestanding home in this suburb for this year is approximately R2,6m. Price: R9.8m Contact: Seeff Properties Kathy Legemaate 083 6571171