Semi-detached Woodstock Home

WORDS Amelia Brown PHOTOS Karl Rogers

From the road, you would never guess the contemporary interior or the sense of scale of this quaint and unassuming semi-detached house in Woodstock, Cape Town.

For most architects and interior designers, the dream is to have carte blanche or, better still, to work on a property of their own. Interior Designer Hendre Bloem had been looking for the right space to launch a property development arm of his design studio. He knew immediately that this Woodstock semi-detached house was it, so he suggested a collaboration to architect Mias de Vries of Fifty8 Twelve Design.

“It’s always a pleasure designing beautiful spaces for others, where I have to balance the client’s needs with my own ideas and somehow come to an acceptable design loved by both parties,” says Mias, who owns a share in the property. “Working for a client pushes you to think differently and stretches you as a designer, whereas being your own client gives you the freedom to make all the decisions. And, in this case, collaborating with another designer has made this process even better.”

Mias applied the same fundamental brief he always does: to transform a space into a liveable piece of art while making use of its inherent characteristics.

The objective was to add value without over-capitalising. Interior walls were knocked down to open up the separate kitchen, dining and living room, set at the back of the property; an underutilised roof space was converted into a third bedroom, and en-suite bathrooms were added to each bedroom. Due to the property’s venerable age of 110 years, Heritage Western Cape dictated that no changes could be made to the facade and the roof. Concessions were made to allow for the installation of two roof windows, capitalising on the views of Table Mountain, and adaptations to the shape of the roof at the back of the house, which is not visible from the street.

With just 116 m² internal space to work with, the team applied a theory developed by French architect Bernard Tschumi, which states that there is no architecture without events, actions or activity: The spatial flow and design of the house was developed by organising its key elements: movement (hallway, staircase and circulation area), event (bedrooms, lounge, dining, courtyard and stoep) and services (bathrooms and kitchen).

“Zones 1 and 3 (movement and services) were purposefully kept dark in terms of colour,” says Hendre. “Black, charcoal and grey define these spaces and create a framework for their functions. We kept Zone 2, the spaces in the middle where one lives and entertains, airy.” The duo ensured every square metre is used efficiently, which enables the event spaces in-between to be as open and multifunctional as possible.

The original has been lovingly incorporated into the modern and renovated to form a symbiotic relationship of old and new. Hardwood flooring, exposed brick and timber interact with sleek satin black finishes, polished marble, granite, solid oak, frameless glass and raw steel.

From its unassuming exterior, the house opens to a modern interior with pieces by OKHA, Casamento and James Mudge and walls adorned with South African contemporary art. As you’re drawn through, a charming exterior courtyard extends from the kitchen, and there’s the revelation of a master bedroom sanctuary in the eaves.

The design philosophy has increased the impression of space. The “edges” of the house, the movement and service spaces, disappear in darkness, leaving the event space in-between open and free, ready for the owner to interpret, create and live in.