Even af­ter they’d bought the house in Cape Town’s south­ern sub­urbs, Tracey Burke had her doubts – there was just so much to do to it. But there were pos­i­tives: the house was large and had charm, was close to their sons’ school, and came with a beau­ti­ful gar­den with plenty of space for their four dogs and six cats. ‘When Stephen and I went for the fi­nal view­ing, the doors were open, the sun was shin­ing across the gar­den and we thought… this could be some­thing,’ she says.

It was the in­te­rior that was dis­heart­en­ing; a labyrinth of gloomy, pokey rooms with dark wood fin­ishes. ‘Ev­ery­where you turned there was another door,’ ex­plains Tracey. Up­stairs was a maze of bed­rooms and some star­tlingly retro bath­rooms. ‘The kind of home my great aunt would have loved,’ jokes Stephen.

For the Burkes, who en­joy open-plan liv­ing (their pre­vi­ous home was barn-like and mod­ern), a dra­matic change was re­quired. The brief was straight­for­ward: to open up the down­stairs area, bring in the light and ‘keep things sim­ple’ says Tracey. The chal­lenge was to do this in a way that re­spected the orig­i­nal char­ac­ter and her­itage value of the house while breath­ing a mod­ern, fresh spirit into it. And so walls were knocked down, liv­ing ar­eas max­imised, and the kitchen was brought out from hid­ing at the back of the house. ‘It was im­por­tant that there was a re­la­tion­ship be­tween the down­stairs ar­eas, so we could all be in the same space even if we were do­ing dif­fer­ent things,’ says Stephen.

The most spec­tac­u­lar part of the ren­o­va­tion is the flat-roofed, glass ex­ten­sion that trans­forms the ex­pe­ri­ence of the liv­ing ar­eas. The fold­ing glass doors open the en­tire back of the house onto a deck with the gar­den be­yond. ‘We knew that we wanted open plan but we didn’t even think of this!’ says Tracey.

The mod­ern style makes it very clearly an ad­di­tion – but the con­trast works well. ‘It is con­fi­dently new,’ says Vic­to­ria Perry, who along­side part­ner Stu­art An­der­son, helped bring the Burke’s vi­sion to re­al­ity. ‘It was about get­ting the bal­ance right.’ Coun­cil rules meant that the tra­di­tional lead-lined win­dows had to stay, but they could be moved and were used on other fa­cades of the house.

For Stephen, the de­sign suc­cess lies in the con­trast. ‘From the out­side it looks like a clas­sic house. When you walk in it’s com­pletely dif­fer­ent to your ex­pec­ta­tions,’ he re­marks.

Coura­geous in their de­sign choices, the Burkes also braved the ren­o­va­tions and lived on site while they were be­ing done. For six months, Tracey and Stephen, their two sons Daniel, 17, and Gabriel, 15, and the pets (in­clud­ing a new puppy) lived up­stairs, ac­cess­ing their liv­ing quar­ters from a back stair­case, while the down­stairs was re­mod­elled. Three years later they tack­led the up­stairs. ‘We’ve stayed in ev­ery room in the house; the dogs loved it when we slept on the floor,’ laughs Stephen.

Their de­ter­mi­na­tion paid off. The up­stairs, pre­vi­ously another hig­gledy-pig­gledy setup, now boasts four bed­rooms (two rooms be­came the spa­cious main bed­room with open-plan bath­room and gor­geous gar­den views), a fam­ily bath­room, den and Stephen’s of­fice.

The fact that both Tracey and Stephen are cre­ative and come from an advertising back­ground is vis­i­ble in their min­i­mal­ist and quirky decor style, and this also helped the col­lab­o­ra­tion process. ‘It was a fan­tas­tic pro­ject; they were so open to ideas and turn­ing things on their head,’ says Vic­to­ria. ‘In­stead of fo­cus­ing on re-sale value, they fo­cused on lifestyle. For ex­am­ple, not ev­ery bed­room had to be en suite; it was about what worked best.’

The flat-roofed, glass ex­ten­sion opens up the

liv­ing ar­eas and con­nects the home with the gar­den. ‘Rather than try­ing to make it fit with the house and adding on a “fake” ex­ten­sion we de­cided on some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. It works with the house be­cause it’s not try­ing to copy it,’ says Tracey. A sim­i­lar, smaller ex­ten­sion

was also added over the front en­trance.


The down­stairs area has been opened up, while still re­tain­ing some pri­vacy be­tween the kitchen and liv­ing room. They are par­tially di­vided by a wall with open shelv­ing be­tween the two spa­ces. Ini­tially in­tended for just a small sec­tion of the wall, the Burkes de­cided to ex­pand the shelv­ing. ‘It was an in­vest­ment be­cause of the struc­tural im­pli­ca­tions, but one that we don’t re­gret,’ says Stephen. Vic­to­ria’s ad­vice is never to scrimp on the bud­get for join­ery as it will ‘al­ways come back to bite you’.

The fam­ily are thrilled with the re­sults es­pe­cially the down­stairs hub. ‘It’s such an in­cred­i­ble feel­ing to have this space,’ says Tracey. First thing in the morn­ing, when the weather’s good, all the doors are folded open. ‘Our week­ends at home are so spe­cial. We love to braai and spend time with fam­ily and friends,’ says Stephen. ‘And this is where it all hap­pens.’

The re­sult is a suc­cess­ful ren­o­va­tion where old and new ex­ist in har­mony. ‘Look­ing back, I don’t think they re­alised the po­ten­tial in the be­gin­ning,’ says Vic­to­ria. ‘It was slowly re­vealed along the way. That you could re­tain the spirit of the old house and still have a mod­ern home – that was the most re­ward­ing part of all.’ Find the spe­cial­ists’ de­tails in the HL Black Book (page 94)

BE­FORE Tracey and Stephen Burke with sons Daniel and Gabriel take time out on the deck. The most dra­matic part of the ren­o­va­tion was the steel and glass ad­di­tion, which opens up onto the deck and gar­den – the ul­ti­mate liv­ing space.

The liv­ing room, kitchen and din­ing room all open out to the deck thanks to the glass fold­ing doors that stretch the full width of the house. Its her­itage sta­tus meant that the lead­lined win­dows had to stay, but off­set by the Burke’s retro fur­ni­ture and decor touches, they make a stylish state­ment. Cas­sius re­laxes on a leather sofa next to an Art Deco-style arm­chair, both from Kloof­tique (kloof­

ABOVE LEFT Porky He­fer’s Lite wooden sus­pen­sion lamps hang in front of the stair­well on which Tracey sits. ABOVE RIGHT Dar­win in the kitchen. OP­PO­SITE In the din­ing room, a He­len Vaughn ce­ramic graces the ta­ble, while a plant holder from Skinny laminx (skin­ny­lam­ stands on top of a Coca-cola fridge, with a Con­rad Botes/ Bit­terkomix print(082-593-7963) on the wall be­hind it.


OP­PO­SITE AND ABOVE Both Stephen and Tracey have advertising back­grounds and an eye for quirky, mod­ern decor. In the kitchen and din­ing area, the pieces above the bub­ble-gum ma­chine are by artist Brett Mur­ray. At the other end of the kitchen, on a wall, the skull by Calav­era is from Kalk Bay Gallery (021-788-1674).

The orig­i­nal en­trance to the house was pokey and re­stricted. ‘They had a stor­age unit un­der the stairs and you could hardly open the front door,’ says Tracey. The stair­case was opened up, the stor­age space re­moved and a floor-to-ceil­ing win­dow in­stalled to form a wel­com­ing space. ‘Bored Girl’ by Frank van Ree­nen hangs on the wall.


ABOVE LEFT Two rooms be­came one to cre­ate the main bed­room with an open-plan bath­room.The scat­ters were pur­chased from Zana (zanaprod­ and the crisp white du­vet cover from Wool­worths (wool­ ‘It’s oneof my favourite spa­ces,’ says Stephen. ‘There’s so much light and space, with a beau­ti­ful view over the gar­den.’ ABOVE RIGHT A lot of thought went into the shower – it had to be spa­cious so you could turn it onwith­out get­ting wet.

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