REN­O­VA­TION #6

House and Leisure Before and After - - RENOVATION #5 - TEXT CA­TRI­ONA ROSS STYLING JEANNE BOTES PHO­TO­GRAPHS MICKY HOYLE

ONCE AN ABAN­DONED RU­RAL WRECK, THIS STAN­FORD HOUSE HAS BEEN SEN­SI­TIVELY

RE­STORED BY ITS OWN­ERS IN TRA­DI­TIONAL CAPE OVER­BERG STYLE

OP­PO­SITE Natalie and Kevin Husk trans­formed a crum­bling farm­house in the Over­berg into a com­fort­able, ram­bling home. The kitchen’s rus­tic look was achieved with wooden

shelves made from scaf­fold­ing planks, which they stained. The wooden doors be­low Kevin’s self-built kitchen counter, made from re­claimed shut­ters, were pur­chased from

Over & Over Sec­ond-hand Build­ing Ma­te­rial in Her­manus (028-312-3307). THIS PAGE The en­trance hall makes a cosy nook for read­ing. The leather footstool is one of Kevin’s fam­ily heir­looms. The an­tique cab­i­net filled with books, still with its orig­i­nal glass, was

given to Natalie by her el­der son and fel­low fur­ni­ture-auc­tion en­thu­si­ast.

When Natalie Husk, a prop­erty agent in Stan­ford, and her hus­band Kevin bought the three hectares of forested land be­tween two large farms in 2004, there wasn’t a hab­it­able struc­ture on it – just sandy-floored derelict build­ings with­out doors or win­dows, which were oc­cu­pied at night by don­keys and sheep.

Three years ago, the cou­ple built a cot­tage in the nearby for­est glade on the site of Mod­der­riv­ier Farm’s first build­ings, where only a cou­ple of crumbly mud-brick walls re­mained. The pro­ject served as a ‘learn­ing curve’ for Kevin, who had turned to build­ing pro­ject man­age­ment in Stan­ford af­ter he and Natalie had opted out of Cape Town’s print and advertising in­dus­try. The re­sult was The Lit­tle Farm­house, a self-cater­ing cot­tage they let to week­enders.

Af­ter ac­quir­ing ad­di­tional land to ex­tend their prop­erty to 10 hectares in 2009, and hav­ing gained ex­pe­ri­ence in ren­o­vat­ing its out­build­ings, Kevin de­cided to re­store the unloved 200-year-old farm­house. It had been home to an­ces­tors of the neigh­bour­ing De Vil­liers farm­ers, who have owned the orig­i­nal farm Mod­der­riv­ier since 1801.

The cou­ple grad­u­ally de­vel­oped the prop­erty, in­stalling elec­tric­ity and wa­ter and clear­ing alien bush. Be­fore Kevin be­gan build­ing with his team of six work­ers from the vil­lage, he con­sulted an engi­neer who ad­vised which parts of the house could be re­tained and which were un­safe. ‘I’d been hop­ing to keep the gable end – it was such a beau­ti­ful, thick old wall – but it was badly cracked and weath­ered and had to go,’ says Kevin. He de­mol­ished and re­built it ex­actly, in­cor­po­rat­ing some of the orig­i­nal lo­cal sand­stone.

With the help of Stan­ford ar­chi­tect Mau­reen Wolters, Kevin and Natalie de­cided to en­large the tra­di­tional T-shaped house by adding a bed­room and bath­room to ei­ther end. The wall be­tween the two small, orig­i­nal bed­rooms would be re­moved to make a spa­cious liv­ing room with a fire­place, and a large, cov­ered stoep cre­ated on the site of the orig­i­nal stoep. Plans were sub­mit­ted and ap­proved by Her­itage Western Cape, and work be­gan to re­store the house ‘to what it would once have been, only a bit big­ger,’ says Natalie.

Dark-stained mer­anti doors and win­dow frames were cus­tom­made to fit the var­i­ous-sized aper­tures by Leon van Rooyen of Murle Join­ery in Cale­don. The cou­ple or­dered hand­made clay

A friend of the cou­ple, Priscilla Schoonbee, painted the Irma Stern-inspired paint­ing in the en­trance hall (theart­con­nec­tion.co.za). It hangs above an an­tique fruit­wood Over­berg-style bench from the Stan­ford Trad­ing Store (028-341-0449). Sec­ond­hand rugs through­out the house were sourced from lo­cal deal­ers, in­clud­ing Sir Robert Stan­ford’s Home of Crafts and An­tiques (028-341-0048).

quarry tiles for the floors from Leo Tiles in Worces­ter, and the orig­i­nal yel­low­wood ceil­ing beams were sal­vaged wher­ever pos­si­ble and braced in weaker ar­eas.

The first room they re­stored was the 50m2 kitchen with its gi­gan­tic stone hearth. The orig­i­nal plas­ter was kept for its beau­ti­ful green patina, the re­sult of the ar­senic-laced paint used by pre­vi­ous in­hab­i­tants to de­ter flies.

Natalie took care of in­te­rior dec­o­rat­ing, fur­nish­ing the house with ‘lay­ers’ of items sourced at auc­tions and sec­ond-hand shops. With its 10-seater ta­ble, sofa and arm­chairs, the kitchen is the home’s hub, es­pe­cially in win­ter when there’s a fire in the hearth, a pot of soup sim­mer­ing, and Betty the house­keeper bakes bread. ‘Owls of­ten come into the kitchen at night through the chim­ney, and the don­keys were of­ten at the back door be­fore we fenced the gar­den,’ Natalie laughs.

Af­ter six months of in­ten­sive work, the cou­ple moved into Klein Mod­der­riv­ier in De­cem­ber 2013, ex­hausted but thrilled by the spa­cious pro­por­tions and each win­dow’s vista to gar­den, for­est or moun­tains.

While Kevin runs his ren­o­va­tions and re­dec­o­rat­ing busi­ness from Klein Mod­der­riv­ier, he and Natalie have be­come bakkie-driv­ing small-scale farm­ers, with a veg­etable gar­den, bee­hives, 10 hens, and a flock of 80 sheep that are shorn for wool and sup­ply a few restau­rants with free-range meat. From the small vine­yard they planted be­side the house, there’s a bar­rel of their maiden Shi­raz vintage await­ing bot­tling in the kitchen. ‘When we lived in the city, we would dream of this life,’ re­calls Natalie. ‘I never imag­ined it would work as well as it does.’ Find the spe­cial­ists’ de­tails in the HL Black Book (page 94)

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