Free State Cabin

PHOTOS David Ross WORDS Debbie Loots


A pert little holiday home is the newest addition to Rosendal’s mostly 50s architectural landscape, and it’s special. Not only because it won a regional architecture award, but also because it revives happy childhood memories for its owner.

Among flailing fields of grasslands, grazing sheep and the blue koppies of Rosendal, perches Ian Westmore’s new holiday home. Designed by a longtime friend of the family, architect Carmen Dickens, whose original and unconventional design approach he’d always admired,  the house recently won a regional award from the Free State Institute of Architecture.

There could be many reasons for the achievement, including Carmen’s eco-friendly design approach and her way of unifying the separate outside sections using decks, but it could also be because she likes to keep city-slick design far away from what she defines as truly South African country style – like thinking the main bedroom should be en-suite bathroom-free, because a bathroom out of the bedroom is just a little too suburban for her.

But let’s go back to the beginning, back to 2007, when Ian bought the property, and there was only a small and derelict landmark building to talk of, and lots of reminiscing. “I had pleasant memories of my childhood spent in these surrounds,” he says. “The association of a ‘happy place’ was natural, and the decision to build a weekend holiday home was almost immediate.”

It took five years of dreaming and frequent visits to Rosendal to get the project on the road, and when it got going, it was rural style − things took their good old time. That wasn’t all bad, because by then Ian knew what he wanted in a holiday home: simplicity, easy maintenance, and that worse-for-wear little building preserved and incorporated into the design – never mind views from the north to the south, without the house getting in the way of the lovely landscape. Oh, and budget – that was another little niggle.

Carmen got Philip Nel from Inizio Homes on board, who is known for his lightweight constructions and prototype home developments, and soon the show was on the road. The original little brick building got its roof lifted and became the main bedroom, but without the en-suite bathroom. Carmen explains: “I wanted the bedroom to be a quiet sanctuary, disassociated from most activities, and I made the entrance into the luxurious bath and dressing room from the glass passage. This also connects the bedroom with the large open-plan living space.”

In contrast to the original building, the bulk of the house consists of a steel structure and fibre cement and is partly covered with metal cladding. The glass doors let in the green outside and provide warmth and character, echoed by the mix of heirloom furniture and custom-made fittings in the living space.

The second bedroom (this one did get an en-suite bathroom!) sits separately from the house, complete with its own entrance, but cleverly integrated into the main house facade by a large slatted screen.

There could be many reasons this little house won that award, but maybe Ian will agree, the most important thing is that it’s the perfect place to make more memories. Isn’t that what life’s all about?

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