WORDS Amelia Brown IMAGES Alet Verster (before); Nadine de Beer (after)
For the renovation of a neglected yet well-preserved 1930s property in Joburg’s vibrant suburb of Parkhurst, owner and architect Alet Verster not only updated its flow, but masterfully combined a sense of old and new to imbue the home with personality and contemporary glamour.
For inspiration, Alet, who is the owner of interior and architectural studio Patsy and French, looked to how architects internationally – in places such as Melbourne and Paris – contrast modern extensions with existing historical dwellings. She looked to Parkhurst itself, drawing on its vibey, hip character that suggested a more sociable open-plan space and integrated inside-outside living.
The property had had little prior intervention, so the process of modernising it gave Alet the opportunity to combine her and her husband’s differing styles: his being a preference for yesteryear’s dark, dramatic spaces filled with antiques, and hers favouring lightness, minimalism and bright accent colours.
While retaining the unspoiled heritage details, like the pressed ceilings, wooden floors and picture rails, Alet removed some internal walls and rearranged the layout so that the living spaces now face north and are connected to the garden with glass doors that open onto a deck. “We tried to make the most of the tiny outside space by turning the backyard into two outdoor ‘rooms’ – the entertainment deck and the recessed lawn with integrated seating for watching the dogs and kids playing or watching movies projected on the cottage wall,” she explains.
The orientation may be new, but Alet wanted to preserve the sense of arrival of the old layout. “We kept the progression of space from the vestibule to the entrance hall to the living spaces.” The renovation, which took four months, also included the addition of a bathroom and scullery, and the extension of the master bedroom.
Period features have been given a bold colour treatment that purposefully contrast the renovation’s more neutral palette and contemporary materials. Steel I-beams unapologetically mark the transition with oak floor abutting exposed polished concrete. The lighting, too, was consciously chosen to delineate old and new: understated downlights are recessed in the new shadow-line ceilings, sleek black spotlights are mounted on the pressed ceilings, and statement pendants reinforce a mid-century-meets-art-decor thread that runs through it all.
It’s an example of the intentional and thoughtful merging of eras and styles. In addition to the choice of finishes and an astute use of colour, Alet has employed art and vintage furniture to pull it all together. “I believe we’re living in a period that’s developing its own interesting style, one that fuses heritage and contemporary sleekness, touches of art deco glamour and refined minimalism,” she says.