Benoni House

WORDS Lynette Botha PHOTOS Adam Letch

Sculptural on the outside and voluminous within, this Benoni contemporary farmhouse is not your average family home.

Compact and low-maintenance were two keywords in the brief to architect Andrew Payne before design began on this project. The owners – a South African couple of Greek origin with two young children – were looking to downscale from the expansive home they’d been living in. “The owners were tired of being slaves to their home; it required a lot of upkeep, and they realised that they mostly only spent time in a third of it,” says Andrew, founder and managing director of Drew Architects. “They wanted something more suited to their needs as a family and, most importantly, a place they would not need to spend much time and money maintaining.”

Having found an acre of land in Greenfields, which they then sub-divided, the couple initially contacted Miguel Simoes of Vestim Construction, the contractor on their previous home, and asked him to be part of the project. Miguel’s only condition was that he got to handpick the architects, which is when he got in touch with Drew Architects.

Contemporary Benoni Farmhouse by Drew Architects – contrasting materials and thoughtful landscaping soften the building’s stark facade.
Contrasting materials and thoughtful landscaping soften the building’s stark facade.

“After initial consultations, we contacted the clients and said we’d deliver on their farmhouse brief, and ensure that we ticked the boxes of non-negotiables, but that we’d like to push the envelope slightly,” says Andrew. “They told us to go for it. They trusted us implicitly. We had no reference imagery or anything to go by; we just knew they wanted a face-brick facade, a sheeted roof and something that was easy to look after.”

Andrew chose to work with Corobrik’s modern satin face-bricks in black. “They formed the basis of everything that followed. We were aiming for the unconventional. We kinked the roof geometry to appear as a mono-pitch, but then instead of bringing the sides of the steel frame ‘skeleton’ down vertically, we maintained the 90-degree angle to the roof pitch, creating an unusual but powerful light steel architectural form.”

The roof provides protection for the glazing on one side of the home, covering the sliding doors, which enables you to still open them on a windy or rainy day. On the other side, the pitch of the roof allows the beautiful, soft south light to filter in, naturally lighting the spaces without them becoming overheated. The home’s steel frame and steel sheet cladding with slats act as a protective layer. The three main materials used in the build – face-brick, steel and off-shutter concrete – all require minimal maintenance and gain a beautiful patina over time, and the owners were completely seduced by the result. “They said it was unlike anything they’d ever seen before, which made them love it even more,” says Andrew

The warmth that the blonde oak flooring and ceilings bring to an otherwise stark build was a considered design element. Together with the home’s immense volume, it makes the family spaces inviting. Although there’s an industrial feel about it, the hard edges and sharp lines are expertly juxtaposed against the wood and tactile finishes, and softened by plush furniture and decor items. Interior designer Deanne McBride of Cocoa Bean Interiors was entrusted with adding this layering and delicate touches. “It was challenging to maintain a balance; we had to create a warm, homely feel that would complement the surroundings while not being too minimalistic or too bold,” she says. “Almost all the furniture and art in the home were locally sourced and manufactured. We pride ourselves on supporting local designers and artists; it’s a non-negotiable for us.”

And so the home is filled with custom pieces, including a dining table and chairs by Louw Roets. For the lounge, Deanne chose a Gary Stephens drawing, because his use of colour and pattern, as well as the size of the artwork, work well with the atmosphere of the home. A Lionel Smit painting on the wall next to the whisky cellar adds sophistication, as do the hands in the entrance hall, with the deconstructed guns in the TV room being Deanne’s favourite piece.

“We were doing backflips when the concept came together – and we’re thrilled with the result,” says Andrew. “Open briefs don’t come along every day, so this was a dream project for us”.

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