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.

Home (South Africa) - - READER HOME - By Beatrice Moore-Nöth­nagel • Pho­tographs Fran­cois Ober­hol­ster Styling Mar­ian van Wyk

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.

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