Pretoria Home Lockdown Renovation

WORDS Amelia Brown IMAGES Anita Janeke

Six years on from completing her award-winning Lynnwood Ridge home, architect Nadine Engelbrecht had some renovations planned when lockdown happened. She didn’t let the lack of contractors hold her back, however, turning the makeover into a family DIY project. 

“I believe a house should adapt with you to constantly meet your needs,” says Nadine. “My husband’s grandfather was also an architect. He used to say that you have to spend 5 % of your home’s worth every year on maintenance. Since moving in, we haven’t done much maintenance – a painted wall here or there, but it was time to invest in our home again. My family and how we live has changed, too.”

For the renovation, as with the original design – which won the PIA (Pretoria Institute of Architects) Award for Residential Architecture in 2015 – the site played a major role. A compact double storey house is artfully moulded around a large rock that dominates the small 400 m2 site and rises 3m above street level. The goal with the design was to integrate the building into the landscape, with Faerie Glen Nature Reserve forming one of its borders, in addition to maximising the views over Pretoria and maintaining privacy.

Despite the constraints of the plot, the house has an easy, open flow. The ground floor features an open-plan living and kitchen with scullery and store room, and two bedrooms (one which was designed to be divided for future adaptation), two bathrooms and a walk-in closet upstairs on the first floor.

Plants and greenery envelope the structure, with large glass doors blurring the boundary between living inside and outside, and rocks found on the site were used for the façade. This reuse of found materials also tied in with Nadine’s approach to construction: Sustainable, low maintenance and cost effective in the form of rusted steel, reclaimed bricks (recovered from a dump site) and pine, textured concrete walls, exposed polished concrete floors and natural stone.

Rainwater harvesting, solar water heating, natural daylight and ventilation, passive heating and cooling and energy-efficient appliances and lights were also all considered in the original design. “From the beginning of the project, it was important to me to use materials honestly – to expose materials and show the construction and also to re-use where possible,” Nadine explains.

“The majority of the interior elements are custom designs by me and many have also been built by us. The large dining table, for example, was made of reclaimed floor beams which came from my husband’s family’s old farm house. His cousin made it up specifically for our house,” she adds.

With this industrious, salvaging spirit, Nadine’s hands-on approach to the renovation is no surprise. “When lockdown began, we were ready to go and all the materials were bought. Since we had some extra time at home and no way to get builders in, we did all the work ourselves. We tiled, painted and built shelves and cupboards. The renovation took a couple of weeks.”

She continues, “The renovation was made exciting by the lockdown and the lack of labour and materials. We got creative. We borrowed paint from neighbours, used leftover steel to build shelves and cupboards, tiled ourselves (and not 100 % straight)! I love everything about my house. It has also been exciting to experiment with materials (and to make a few mistakes and learn from them).”

For more projects visit Nadine’s website and stay up to date with news on Instagram (@engelbrechtnadine). Check out two other striking homes designed by Nadine here