Modern Manor on the Highveld
Paying homage to an era of elegance in architecture, a family home stands resplendent in its breathtaking natural surrounds.
WORDS NATALIE BORUVKA, PRODUCTION COLIN O’MARA DAVIS, PHOTOGRAPHS GUNTHER GRATER
The beautiful rise and fall of the Highveld koppies is not quite unlike the undulating surrounds of the Little Karoo town of Prince Albert. Perhaps it was for this topographical quality that in 1840, having trekked more than 2 000 kilometres from the edge of the Swartberg Mountains with just two ox wagons in tow, Johan George Meyer chose to settle in an area that today forms part of the greater southern suburbs of Joburg. Meyersdal, once a part of the intrepid Voortrekker’s farm, officially became a suburb at the end of the 1970s and, despite a spillover of city dwellers, it has somehow managed to retain a certain old-Transvaal bucolic charm.
ABOVE: The main open-plan living area was planned to suit the family’s informal lifestyle. Kitchen units designed by Green Monkey Design. The mahogany dining table is from Classic Revivals and the dining chairs were made up by Petit Upholsterers. The white and chrome chairs are from Trading Spaces. A massive antique Chinese cupboard from Trade Roots, Tiffany-style stained-glass light-fitting imported by One on One and an artwork by Hannelie Kotze complete the eclectic space.
Property developer Rean Booysens and his wife Corlia have long since been captivated by the area. For many years they fostered a vision to develop a unique estate on this city threshold that would offer secure yet relaxed bushveld-lodge living. They say that all good things come to those who wait, and for Rean and Corlia it meant a very big all – the materialisation of the Meyersdal Eco Estate.
‘The plans for the development took a few years to finalise, requiring the necessary approval from Environmental Affairs and the standard procedures pertaining to town planning, but after many years of aspiring to our dream, we were prepared to exercise a little patience,’ informs Rean.
Sprawling and unspoiled, the 450-hectare estate is a sanctuary well worth the wait. Landscaped entirely with indigenous flora – across which 12 species of game roam freely – the development truly embodies its philosophy of man living in harmony with nature.
LEFT: Rean’s study is a masculine space clad entirely in wood. The rug is from Yossies and the ceramic buffalo head from objekt. MIDDLE: The Booysens’ daughters had free rein in decorating their own bedrooms. RIGHT: In the cellar, an antique wrought-iron chandelier sourced by one on one hangs above the yellowwood table. The zebra-skin campaign chairs are from Impi teak.
Though the estate ascribes to conservation principles and energy efficiency, Corlia was quite adamant that their home was to be no ‘eco bunnyhugging home’.
‘We wanted a modern manor house, with a lowslung elegance,’ Corlia declares. ‘A family home with friendly, forgiving spaces to entertain small and large crowds alike.’
Architect Johan Bergenthuin was called on to design a modern version of a traditional country house like those of the Arts and Crafts era, with the elegance of a Sir Herbert Baker design.
‘What a welcome relief,’ Johan recalls, ‘to design a modern house representing an old-world elegance, rather than one that just follows revival styles in architecture.’
LEFT: A refreshing break from pervasive architectural revival styles, the house designed by esteemed architect Johan Bergenthuin is a modern interpretation of the grand era of arts and crafts. The Sentinel, a sculpture by Anton Smit, makes a striking yet sensitive addition to the exterior landscape. RIGHT: The veranda proved a windtrap so it was later glassed in, providing a further informal living space. The antique yellowwood coffee table is from Die Ossewa, the dining table from g2 Design and the carriage lanterns from One on One.
Through deft application of certain key architectural elements, Johan achieved what he has termed ‘a building transformed into the abstract representation of its historical self’. The well-proportioned, simple solid forms echo those prevalent in homes of the Arts and Crafts era and the heavy stone chimneys reflect the period’s observation of a truth to materials.
Johan chose to use natural materials not only for their timeless appeal but also to blend with the exterior environment. ‘Copper was used on the steep roofs because it is a low-maintenance, natural material that will over time age to an attractive pale green patina.’
Lest we forget the nature of the structure, the chimneys have been crowned with handmade terracotta chimney pots as a celebration of the symbol for ‘house’.
Bearing in mind the Booysens’ three daughters – two at university and one still school-going – Johan wanted the house to reflect the uncomplicated, informal lifestyle of a South African family as well as provide a neutral canvas for an interior that
would see change over time. An asymmetrical plan allowed for the organisation of internal spaces that would a afford optimum space and privacy for all family members. The house is accessed through a double-volume courtyard into a reception area of cathedral-like proportions. The sense of expanse carries through the space to the focal point, floor-to-ceiling windows with views over the estate’s nature reserve. Large glass areas feature throughout the home, purposefully dissolving boundaries between house and nature.
Petit Upholsterers custom-made the upholstered headboard as well as the ottoman and chairs. The gilded Louis XVI silk taffeta love seat is from Classic Revivals, the handwoven silk rug from Yossies and the bed is bedecked in bespoke linen from Ginger Cat and a faux fur Pierre Frey throw from Mavromac.
The interior was the result of a ‘make-it-happen team’ that included Greg Marshall and Catherine Mill of Green Monkey Design, Corlia and fashion designer André Croucamp, with whom Corlia has been friends since their university days.
‘Corlia is practical but fun and unpredictable, so it followed that the interior would be an eclectic ensemble with some tongue-in-cheek moments, but,’ continues André, ‘this house is the kind you either fill up and make a home, or leave in empty splendour.’
Louis Louw Johan Bergenthuin Architects, 011-781-3663, lljb.co.za
Meyersdal Eco Estate, natureestate.co.za
Anton Smit, antonsmit.co.za
André Croucamp, andrecroucamp.co.za
Green Monkey Design, 011-465-8792