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New York Loft Meets Golf Estate

Top Billing features house olivier
Photographs by Gunther Grater

New York Loft Meets Golf Estate
Extract taken from June 2011 issue of Top Billing Magazine

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

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.’

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.’

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.

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.

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. 


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