PHOTOS Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes WORDS Nia Magoulianiti-McGregor
A dark, damp-filled 1920s house in suburban Joburg was transformed into a simple contemporary home that ticks all the heritage boxes while welcoming kids, dogs, art and wine with equal enthusiasm.
A wild, overgrown garden obscured the 1923 Parkview heritage house when Delani and Richard Roothman first came across it. And it wasn’t much better on closer inspection. “The house was on a slope and looked like it was sliding down the hill towards Zoo Lake,” Richard describes.
Nevertheless, it stood on a 2 800 square-metre property, and in their suburb of choice. “We’ve always loved Parkview for its villagey feeling,” Delani explains. They had been living on a smaller stand in the suburb until they decided their three “boisterous” children – Rynhard, Wian and Linè – needed more room to grow.
“The grown-ups in the family weren’t averse to some private space either,” laughs Richard.
Still, crossing the threshold into the new house was an exercise in faith over reality. “The floors comprised rotten timber, and the interior spaces were dark and pokey with lots of passages,” says Delani. It was clear that an intervention was urgently needed.
Enter their brother-in-law, and namesake of Ludwig Hansen Architects and Urban Designers: “I wanted to help them create a backdrop to their lives, not a showroom.” Planning took six months – and had to be approved by the local heritage association as the house was older than 60 years – with an underlying understanding to retain as much of the heritage structures and trees as possible.
Poorly added additions were removed, as well as interior walls, to improve flow while simplifying the living spaces. Two skylights were added to bring in light because, as Ludwig points out, “often the central part of a deep house is dark”. Bay windows were modernised with steel. Five original red-brick fireplaces were retained and two new ones added.
An extension was built for the family sleeping area that “clips onto the existing house in two places to form a U-shape, creating a quiet, private courtyard,” Ludwig clarifies. “We used the simplicity of the existing house as inspiration – the additions did not extend beyond the building line of the original house.”
The generous entrance foyer is the link between the old and new part of the house. The 70s-feel rough floor was custom-cast for the Roothmans and is a consistent element throughout. “It’s basically cement sprinkled with pebbles,” Delani says. “We just played with the intensity and colour.” In fact, the floors informed the grey colour palette throughout the house.
In the sleeping area of the house, expansive sliding doors open up to the jacarandas in the garden. The main bedroom encapsulates the modernist “less is more” ethos, with no unnecessary bric-a-brac and a simple duvet by Amanda du Plessis of Evolution. “I don’t like clutter,” Delani emphasises. “I prefer not to complicate things.”
The boys’ black-and-green coloured bedrooms are linked by a bathroom and echo each other, while Linè went for “pretty in pink” for her bedroom and bathroom. They all have access to the pyjama lounge – brightened by two David Kuijers paintings on glass.
Another consistent thread is the bold artwork throughout. “We have different tastes,” admits Delani, “but somehow it all works together.” So Nelson Makamo’s abstract piece lives happily with “Tribute to David Koloane” by Sam Nhlengethwa, Frieda van Zyl’s “Village Life” with Donna McKellar’s “Karoo” landscape.
Today, everything happens in the kitchen, the last corner of the old house, Delani goes on: “It’s where the kids do their homework, where we eat meals informally…” A courtyard bridges the kitchen and Richard’s study in the new section. He’s an attorney who often works on weekends and his workspace is a solid show of self-sufficient masculinity with his own TV, a fireplace and vintage Charles Eames chair they picked up at Die Ossewa Antiques, in Melville.
Richard’s favourite, however, is the formal dining room with its fireplace and exposed wine racks. “I especially enjoy a good Merlot. Nothing is for show. It’s a full time job replenishing the wine!”
The tennis court proved a challenge: Delani did not want the view of the house and its generous verandah obstructed when entering the property. So the court surface was sunk down into the ground, and softened by a green edge of bush. Delani, who insisted there be no fence, says: “It’s understated and simple, and connects easily to the social space.”
The idea was to hold the family, Ludwig explains, but also about holding back. “It’s contemporary without being cold. It’s not an art piece. It’s a house where you can put your feet up.”