Pretoria Family Home

PHOTOS Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes WORDS Amanda Killick

Nurturing a young family in a custom-built space that’s safe, beautiful and mindful of its environmental impact is a dream for many. For Arno and Carla Botha, architect Friedrich Strey made their dream come true.

Bright, sunny days in Southdowns, an exclusive suburb east of Pretoria, are magical. Dappled light plays through leafy silver birch trees, the wind rustles through lavish green urban mielie fields and, if you listen closely, you can hear cows mooing under a gin-clear blue sky. This is life as it should be. Quiet. Peaceful. Serene. And the inspiration behind space creator Friedrich Strey’s light-living home, which he designed and built in 2011/2 for Carla and Arno Botha and their two little boys.

From the road, the Bothas’ cement-washed brick house strikes you as super-chic yet totally unassuming, and it’s been designed that way. Says Friedrich: “Our brief was to build a home filled with a feeling of openness that promoted easy living for a growing young family. At the same time the Bothas wanted their home to be utterly private yet exquisitely multifunctional, and for it to have as little impact on the environment as possible.”

The house sits confidently on its stand with grand double-volume living spaces. It is U-shaped, with a south wing that comprises the lounge and open-plan kitchen and dining area, and a north wing that comprises the bedrooms and bathrooms. The wings are integrated via a link that currently houses a comfortable seating area, overlooking a central courtyard pool and grassy garden where a giant stinkwood tree provides a climbing area for the boys. The courtyard-facing walls of the south wing and link slide and fold away to create an extended inside/outside living space. The link not only joins the two wings but also blocks the late-afternoon sun and ensures privacy and security from the street.

Friedrich, who has a passion for yachting, has implemented many sustainable principles used on yachts in buildings he has designed over the past 17 years. He drew on his experience to ensure the space was functional and the materials used were the best possible choices for the environment.

“The Bothas love the feel that natural and recycled materials give to the house,” says Friedrich. “We used natural stone, wood and upcycled parquet flooring, and left concrete details like the fireplaces in their raw state. There’s no substitute for natural light, so we’ve played on that quite a bit, from illumination to the role it plays in heating and cooling the house. There’s double glazing and LED lighting throughout, and a 1000 solar-heated water tank provides for the family’s needs.

“The house is built on a raft foundation, as the area is subject to sinkholes. The Modulo system we used for this type of foundation allowed for the entire floor to be insulated.”

Carla’s interior design touch is evident throughout. The decor is minimalist, with a leaning towards accent pieces that are hand-made in materials left raw – including well-loved wooden furniture, copper and brass touches, bright art pieces, nguni-hide rugs and soft suede couches.

There’s absolutely no clutter. It’s hard to imagine that two small boys live here until you see a little red bicycle propped up against a wall, a frayed and knotted climbing rope hanging from a tree, or three primary-coloured plastic balls nestled in the grass. To the untrained eye, they look like artfully placed props. But to those of us who know, these things are the stuff of life. And that’s the most important thing.