An homage to the heritage of the charming town of Greyton
Passionate about local architecture, a retired couple pays homage to the charming country town of Greyton.
A cement finish and cast-concrete mantelpiece were added to the fireplace (left). Zorya enjoys the underfloor heating beneath the cement. “The old chairs and Persian rug are without any pretence,” says Leoné. “It makes guests feel at home.”
It was ‘the universe’ that brought Leoné and Michel Rouillard to Greyton in 2005.
“I was on a road trip with a friend and we decided to visit the iconic mission village of Genadendal,” Leoné remembers. “While there, we decided to stop in at Greyton as it’s only 5km away. I fell in love with it and bought a house in this amazing village that very same day!”
Some years later, Michel also traded the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg for the “quietude, people, nature, fresh air, lifestyle and no traffic” on offer in this small town, which is less than two hours from Cape Town by car.
Although retired, it wasn’t long before the couple became involved in village life. Since 2006, Leoné has been busy promoting tourism in Greyton and she is also involved in organising the annual Classics for All Festival. Mauritian-born Michel, who has a passion for the design and construction of houses and works ceaselessly to protect Greyton’s fragile vernacular architecture, serves on the Greyton Conservation Society and the Greyton Heritage Overlay Advisory Committee.
Renovating a brand-new house
Although the house was newly-built, the original design concept by Andrew Swain (chairman of the Aesthetics Committee) had been adapted to suit a weekend retreat, and the deviations didn’t add value to the original plan. “The building had very good bones with sensitive proportions and thoughtful, carefully-crafted symmetries and axes but some of the detail let it down,” says Michel.
For starters, there was no veranda, which is almost unheard of in the Overberg region. “And although the house had a lovely vaulted ceiling with exposed rafters, in the main bedroom they omitted the clerestory skylight windows that provide through-draughts on hot days. There was just a big blank gable wall with nothing where the windows should be,” explains Michel.
The high ceilings, although ‘volume-and-a-half’ as opposed to double-volume in order to comply with Greyton’s vernacular heritage restrictions, allow for a walkway in the living area where Michel keeps his collection of several thousand architecture and landscaping books or his “university” as he jokingly refers to it. “I’d always dreamt of having a library – just the thing a true gentleman needs,” he says with a laugh.
Originally, the walkway was a botched job with a rickety handrail tacked on with thin flooring planks. “Recycled timber joists were fixed to steel sleeves cast into the wall,” explains Michel. “But this wasn’t stable enough, so it was suspended from the rafters by means of cable straps. We still need to install a simple steel handrail. The walkway connects the two rooms in the attic, a bedroom and my study.”
The house also had to be adapted to “permanent living” by incorporating more built-in cupboards. >>
Michel and Leoné with Golden Retriever Dégâts and Collie mix Zorya.