Raw Appeal

PHOTOS Micky Hoyle PRODUCTION Etienne Hanekom WORDS Alma Viviers

Architect Chris Wood of Studio C boldly reinterprets the Cape vernacular farmhouse into a contemporary family home in the Winelands. VISI spoke to him about the design.

What was the brief from the owners?
The initial brief was to design a farmhouse. But I always like to push the boundaries, so the brief I gave myself was to play with the forms found in the Cape Winelands and the surrounding agricultural landscape.

What is the basic plan of this house?
What you see here is really a long barn that is intercepted by three other barns running perpendicular to it. This resulted in the creation of two courtyards. It is an extremely simple and historically referenced plan.

Why did you decide on this palette of materials?
The house was originally going to be painted white but when it was built in a very basic stock brick, the pink-browns blended well into the mountainous landscape. Part of the material approach became the idea of “raw”, so we used raw timber, concrete and stone. There are also no tiles or applied surfaces inside. The walls are treated with white cement plaster and white Cobra wax, the ceilings are concrete and the floors oak. This honest relationship with the materials works well in the farm setting.

Tell us about the interior
The owners have been collecting the furnishings for many years. This is not one of those houses where everything is brand-new. The interior really embodies who the family is and, because their style is quite eclectic, the architecture couldn’t be overly detailed and decorative. It is simple and minimal as a result.

Early in the project the clients coined the term “industrial deli”, which became the idea for the interior. The industrial details can be seen in the steel I-beams and windows. I slotted wooden windows into the standard steel windows to create something of an asymmetrical edge.

The deli feeling is continued with a large central counter – a modified piece from Onsite Gallery – and the collection of dining-room tables. The tops and sinks by Stucco Italiano are cast and ground-down concrete. Instead of the standard grey aggregate (stones added to the concrete), we added 50% brown stones to give the concrete warmth.

How did you treat the outdoor areas?
Because we live in the volatile Cape weather climate, I wanted to create “outdoor rooms” suitable for all conditions. The porch is great for breakfast in winter and the courtyard is cool in summer. The prevailing wind comes from down the valley, so heavy American-style barn doors can be used to close the courtyard when it’s blowing.

How did you avoid lapsing into the cliché of a farmhouse design?
There is so much history in the Cape and it would have been easy to simply reproduce, instead of reinterpret, the vernacular. The obvious thing would have been to paint the house the traditional white and we met with some resistance from friends and family, as well as other people on the design team, when we decided not to do this. It took quite a bit of encouragement to convince them otherwise.

The introduction of several new industrial elements, along with remaining true to the structure and materials, also prevented the design from lapsing into a cliché. 

Chris Wood 083 469 3036, objectenvelope@gmail.com