REN­O­VA­TION #1

USE AN UP­STAND­ING BEAM

House and Leisure Before and After - - HOMES - TEXT GRAHAM WOOD STYLING LEANA SCHOE­MAN PHO­TO­GRAPHS ELSA YOUNG

ON WATERK­LOOF RIDGE IN PRE­TO­RIA, AR­CHI­TECT BRYAN DUN­STAN HELPED HIS CLIENTS DE­CON­STRUCT A SWISS COT­TAGE AND TURN IT INTO A CON­TEM­PO­RARY DREAM HOME

Leon Roper and An­dria Grob­ler bought the house be­cause of its spec­tac­u­lar views from Waterk­loof Ridge north over Pre­to­ria, and its huge 6 000m2 stand, which of­fers plenty of space for their two chil­dren, Christo­pher, six, and El­iz­a­beth, four, to play. But the house it­self was far from what they had in mind.

‘I wanted a sleek mod­ern block with a flat roof,’ ex­plains Leon. The steep-pitched roof, step-fronted fa­cade with awnings and ter­ra­cotta-tiled pa­tio couldn’t have been fur­ther from that. ‘But I could see that the house had a block in it some­where,’ he says.

The Rop­ers en­listed the help of ar­chi­tect Bryan Dun­stan of BD Stu­dio to un­lock the mod­ern block that Leon had in mind. The view and ori­en­ta­tion of the house were both to the north, so the house was al­ready well po­si­tioned. It had enough space to suit the Rop­ers, too, so there was no need to add rooms.

‘Noth­ing was added or taken away from the foot­print,’ says Bryan. But the fa­cade was ‘busy’, and Bryan strives for ‘quiet’. ‘We wanted to clean it up and make it look more con­gru­ous,’ he says.

They im­me­di­ately lifted off the of­fend­ing roof, which freed space and views up­stairs, and re­placed it with a flat roof.

They straight­ened out the stepped fa­cade with a bal­cony, in­tro­duc­ing the sim­plic­ity and vis­ual calm Bryan strives for. One of his trade­marks is what he calls the ‘rig­or­ous spa­tial and geo­met­ric or­der­ing’ that struc­tures his work. In this case, it was a mat­ter of find­ing or un­lock­ing the ge­om­e­try of the house and ex­press­ing it in the fa­cade.

Where a sep­a­rate cot­tage had been added, slightly dif­fer­ent in style from the rest of the house, Leon ex­plains, ‘We had to build out and in­te­grate it with the rest of the build­ing.’ What he calls the ‘ques­tion mark’, a zigzag el­e­ment on the fa­cade, in­te­grates the build­ings while also adding a sub­tle dy­namism.

Per­haps the most struc­turally rad­i­cal trans­for­ma­tion was the de­ci­sion to lift the beam be­tween the ground and first floor, mak­ing it pos­si­ble to raise the slid­ing doors all the way to the ceil­ing. The beam pre­vi­ously came down to the height of a stan­dard door, cut­ting off a sub­stan­tial part of the view. Re­plac­ing it with a ‘stand­ing beam’ had a sig­nif­i­cant ef­fect on the qual­ity of the down­stairs liv­ing area (see Big Idea #3).

Apart from that and a few other mi­nor changes, the in­te­rior spa­ces re­main largely un­al­tered. Down­stairs, a cou­ple of walls

While down­stairs there were large glass slid­ing doors, it still wasn’t pos­si­ble to have floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows be­cause a con­crete beam sup­port­ing the ex­ter­nal fa­cade of the top floor of the house, which was set back from the fa­cade on the ground floor, pro­truded down to con­ven­tional door height, chop­ping off the top of the view. ‘The pre­vi­ous struc­tural ar­range­ment of down­stand beams and brick sup­ports was heavy and im­pos­ing and di­vided the main liv­ing space into three smaller spa­ces,’ ex­plains Bryan. In the end they took it out and re­placed it with an up­stand beam. ‘Re­lo­cat­ing part of the struc­tural depth of the beam into the floor above en­abled us to re­place the brick­work sup­ports with a slen­der steel col­umn,’ he says. ‘The new up­stand beam is lo­cated in the mid­dle of the main liv­ing/gallery vol­ume (about three me­tres be­hind the line of the glaz­ing).’ And now the glass doors can go all the way to the ceil­ing, lib­er­at­ing the view.

were knocked out to in­te­grate the kitchen, liv­ing and din­ing ar­eas. Up­stairs a bath­room was added for El­iz­a­beth. The pas­sage was re­moved as far as pos­si­ble, in­te­grated into a dress­ing room in one area and made into a py­jama lounge in another, and the main bed­room’s bath­room was joined to the main room so it, too, could en­joy the views. But for the most part, the walls stayed in­tact. Nev­er­the­less, the trans­for­ma­tion looks rad­i­cal, an ef­fect achieved by chang­ing the fin­ishes.

While Leon and An­drea wanted a mod­ern in­te­rior, they didn’t want it to feel in­dus­trial. They chose sim­ple, fa­mil­iar ma­te­ri­als, and de­cided largely on wood fin­ishes. ‘The wood is con­tem­po­rary but nat­u­ral,’ says Leon. He wanted the down­stairs liv­ing space to dou­ble as a gallery for their re­mark­able col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary lo­cal art, so the walls are white.

Look­ing at the house now, it’s hard to re­mem­ber its pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion, so com­plete is its trans­for­ma­tion. The change is at once rad­i­cal and sub­tle, with close ties to the orig­i­nal de­sign, show­ing how much can be done with an ex­ist­ing struc­ture. Find the spe­cial­ists’ de­tails in the HL Black Book (page 94)

The main liv­ing area was opened up sub­stan­tially and in­te­grated with the kitchen, and the walls were painted in a white Cash­mere paint by Plas­con (plas­con.co.za) to form a pris­tine back­drop for the Rop­ers’ col­lec­tion of con­tem­po­rary South African art....

A well-placed open­ing pro­vides a glimpse of the spec­tac­u­lar view as you come down the drive­way. LEFT Leon had the idea to in­tro­duce a porte-cochère above the front door. Not only does it in­tro­duce some ‘mod­u­la­tion to break up the mass’, as Bryan puts...

The trans­for­ma­tion of Leon Roper and An­dria Grob­ler’s house on Waterk­loof Ridge in Pre­to­ria ap­pears rad­i­cal although this be­lies its close ties to the orig­i­nal de­sign. ‘The fa­cade was all bitty,’ says ar­chi­tect Bryan Dun­stan. ‘I tried to re­duce it to...

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