WORDS Celeste Jacobs PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes PHOTOS Paris Brummer
This private sanctuary in Cape Town’s suburbs, by architect Jo Noero, is geared to cultivate and nurture family life, with particular consideration for simplicity, natural light, functional design and mountain views.
In 1984, just starting his practice as an architect, Jo Noero designed his first large house in Johannesburg for a client by the name of Val. Some 35 years later, he received a phone call from Val’s son Ryan – whom Jo remembers as a little child playing at the building site – asking him to look at transforming a house that he and his wife Samantha had bought. “This was a project I had to take up,” says Jo, “and it turned out to be a real pleasure, working for a very nice family.
Perhaps if I live long enough, I might be fortunate to be able to create a house for Ryan and Samantha’s daughter or son – who knows?”
From the outside, it isn’t clear how vast and well-thought-out the home is. It’s intentional, of course; the exterior maintains a sense of privacy, creating a sanctuary where family life can thrive.
But, as is the case with all of Jo’s work, there’s depth in the design beyond just functionality. “The central ideas that governed the design were discussed and agreed upon right from the beginning, before we put pen to paper,” says Jo. “Most importantly, a distinction between luxury and necessity was drawn, and it was agreed that this distinction should shape all our decisions.”
Built on the footprint of the previous house that had its focus around a central living area, Ryan and Samantha’s new home is a double-volume space. Jo’s design reinforces this centrality by placing the bedrooms on the first floor; the access to these rooms happens along a circulation space adjacent to the double-volume and overlooking this space. The volume is illuminated from the top by a large roof light.
The home may have an understated and clearly modernist look, but it has a warm heart that clinically clean minimalism often lacks. What makes the space so special is the fact that it is fundamentally designed to be a home, away from the public gaze. Once you leave the street and enter the front door, the large double-volume living area that extends to a backyard with Table Mountain as the backdrop is revealed. As you get closer to the heart of the home, you begin to understand it more: the various layers express the age-old need for a sense of community and connection with those we love. This is a home created to build bonds and nurture the very nature of family life – the comfort of closeness and our attachment to it.
You can’t look at this home without picturing Samantha, who loves cooking, running the kitchen as it sits in the command centre of the house. From there, she’s got a feel of where everyone is – and there’s a sense of certainty that, in return, everyone knows what’s cooking too.
Ryan is a bit of a techy geek, who admittedly had to have a smart home. You can imagine the joy he took in automating everything he could think of, with understated subtlety meeting the perks of convenience. “We wanted something that was beautiful in a timeless way,” says the couple, “something that fits our lifestyle.” They’ve done exactly that by creating a home that serves as an ode to a closely-knit family unit and the bonds that keep them together – regardless of distance and time.