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At play at House Olivier

House Olivier decor 1

ABOVE: Comic book wallpaper by Once upon a Time. Camera case sourced from Grand Hotel Antiques. Film reels, projector and large letter ‘e’ acquired from various antique and collectibles shops.


At Play

For one Pretoria couple, theirs is a home with height that makes for vibrant,  fun-loving living.

Words natalie boruvka  Photos gunther gräter

From a geographical perspective, New York loft style couldn’t be further removed from the pristine green plains of a skyscraper-bereft Pretoria golf estate. Stylistically, though, you’ll notice that the house that Johan and Sacha Olivier built pays bold tribute to the characteristic elements of this architectural identity: varying ceiling heights, expanses of brick wall and towering planes of window. What sets the house apart like a golf ball on the rough is its puzzle play effect of colourful negative and positive spaces. ‘First and foremost we wanted something unique,’ says Sacha, ‘so we chose an architect, young and full of dreams, unpolluted by the mainstream.’

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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: The open plan living concept of this loft-style-inspired house functions on both an interior and exterior level. The refurbished or ‘up-cycled’ daybed is by Once upon a Time, painted in Plascon’s ‘Comfortable Lime’. Fabrics from Hertex, laminate flooring Balterio ‘Carbon Black’, Flooring Boyz and wire dog sourced from a street vendor.

The exterior was shaped by the fact that the narrow site was given additional space by cantilevering the rooms giving rise to varying levels, textures and colours. Seen here, Plascon’s ‘Fool’s Paradise’.  Garden designed by Corinne and Barrett Joubert.

The living room features a gathering of hanging light bulbs – a ‘modern take on the chandelier’ – conceptualised and installed (nerve-wreckingly!) by Sacha and Johan. The portrait shots of Sacha are by photographer Kevin Mark Pass and were a 1st anniversary gift from Sacha to Johan. Tripod lamp and old trunk side-table by Once upon a Time.


Challenged by a narrow site, Riaan Visser achieved the much-needed additional space by cantilevering the rooms which, in turn, provided for the creation of clever spatial relationships. The broad cantilever of the main bedroom – below which the entertainment area is housed – engages with the living area opposite in an artful union of indoor-outdoor open-plan living. Extensive research into the artistic notions of 1950s America incited Riaan’s courageous Pop Art assembly of colours. ‘The playfulness was also driven by clients loaded with ideas who made very clear what they liked and disliked,’ says Riaan. Sacha spent five years in London and so perhaps a lingering Vitamin D deficiency motivated the request for ‘bedrooms bathed in sunlight’. Using a reflective white surface inside the window shaft, the allowance of natural light was optimised. ‘Riaan got the design virtually spot on from the start which,’ says Johan, ‘testifies to our belief that you should leave an architect alone to get on with what he has been trained years to do.’

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FROM LEFT TO RIGHT: The steel frame staircase with aluminium pop-riveted treads was custom-designed by Johan and Sacha

The bright red Smeg fridge was the first item the Oliviers bought as a couple. The glass and metal pendant fittings once hung in a fashion boutique.

Tin Tin prints from Play Stuff, retro rocket gumball machine was a birthday gift from Johan to Sacha, Mickey Mouse trivet was brought back from Disney Land after a trip to Paris and salt and pepper shakers from @home. The iron and Technistone kitchen island was custom-designed by Barrett Joubert.


That said, aside from the continuous stream of ideas, the couple had a formidable hand in the house’s manifestation. Johan, a civil engineering graduate from the University of Stellenbosch, built it. Sacha – owner of a wedding and events styling company – in turn designed the interior as well as many of the quirky refurbished items which she sells and markets as ‘up-cycled’ furniture under her label Once Upon a Time. Below the staircase the doors of a Hospice-bought console aptly titled ‘Serving Time’ are embellished with a Roman numeral dial inspired by two clockface door knobs acquired while holidaying in Franschhoek. For the love of its feminine form, ‘Diva’ was secured from a relocating Melville-based acquaintance and transformed into a sassy silver number with a coat of damask wallpaper and a glass-clad interior.

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The guest bedrooms have all been given a very individual creative expression.
LEFT: Red wall in Dulux ‘Ruby Fountain 1’. An old door serves as a headboard, Once Upon a Time.

RIGHT: The headboard was constructed from metal sheets found at a dump site. Walls in Dulux ‘Night Jewels 2’. Old linen box side-table found at an antique store, table lamp, Woolworths and rug from Carpetex.


Self-confessed ‘new boutique hotel stalkers’, it is the couple’s love for the unexplored that peppers their home with whimsical encounters, and just how determined they are to return with treasured gains is revealed in the story of the old coin-operated parking meter that greets outside the home in bright taxi-cab yellow. Discovered in a collectables shop in Kalk Bay, it was too heavy to place in cargo. Justifiably perplexed, the security officer monitoring the x-ray scan pulled a frown before asking the couple what he was looking at. ‘It was clearly a first for him to witness a parking meter transported as hand luggage,’ laughs Sacha.

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Ultimately, colour is the hero of house Olivier. Its eclectic engagement with surfaces simultaneously identifies and coheres. The ‘his and her’ en-suite bathroom is an especially jocund gathering of circus stripe brights, while guest bedrooms scale value and contrast in arresting red and accents of electric-yellow against charcoal. It is a fearless approach that gives platform to the adventurous spirit of its owners.  


+27 Architects 012-362-4975


BELOW: As with many of the interesting items in the Olivier’s home, the mannequin head was sourced on one of their journeys, this one to Cape Town. The old pharmaceutical bottles are from Sacha’s gran and the chandelier from Urban Outfitters in London. Honeycomb floor tiles, Ferreiras and metro wall tiles, basins and bath, K Carrims. Armoires by Once Upon a Time. Dark wall stripe in Dulux ‘Sea Urchin 1’ and light, Dulux ‘Sea Urchin 2’.

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