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Rule of Three

The Parkmore home of a Jozi interior designer is a celebration of relaxed outdoor living thanks to a triphasic renovation.

Tucked away in a corner of Parkmore, only minutes from the bustle of Sandton, interior designer David Muirhead’s home is a locus of calm and easy living, with an air of comfort that nods to his individual design language. Built for entertaining and outdoor living, the house didn’t a ways lend itself to such modern luxuries.

It was back in 2004 that David was brought to have a look at what his agent labelled ‘the funny house up the road’. They had been viewing properties for around six months, but David hadn’t found one that spoke to him. But this one was different. ‘I immediately fell in love. It was the family who owned it, its ’50s-style glass frontage and the home’s energy, out the big old camphor tree was the trophy,’ he explains.
Built on a 1 000 square metre stand, the size of the house is a relatively small 350 square metres. It’s a north-facing rectangle with a glass façade spanning the northern perimeter, which leads onto a garden. It wasn’t arranged in a way that David could see himself living in, and so began a three-part renovation that has spanned eight years.

‘I wanted to achieve the feeling of a sanctuary, somewhere I could entertain in private with a space that was adaptable,’ David says. The -major areas he wished to tackle were: the bedrooms, which were too many and too small; the bathrooms, similarly pokey and lacking a separate guest loo; and the outdoor area, which had no formality and no connection to the house.

Each of the three renovations took on varying degrees of involvement. Beginning with a paint job and swimming-pool redesign, he used one of the old bedrooms as his office. By the end of the third phase the interior spaces were roomier, with four bedrooms having been converted into two large suites and a new link between interior and exterior by way of a narrow, covered veranda.

Both of the private domains are extensive, each with an en suite bath room and a lounge. ‘I’ve a keen interest in hotels, where bedrooms are all inclusive spaces, and therefore love a bedroom with a lounge area included,’ says David. Today, a double shower, walk-in closet and lounge area all form part of David’s suite, with a direct view of the garden in front. He was able to gain more space by taking it from the passage that previously ran alongside.

The living area between the two suites was opened up, making one large room, and a wall was put up on the eastern end in place of the original glazing. The interior is plush, with a series of classic armchairs and a deep-set sofa coupled with the plumpest scatter cushions. David has used mirrored panelling throughout the interior to enhance the sense of space, as well as oak wall panelling for warmth.

The second suite has been completely closed off from the rest of the house by way of an entrance that leads off the veranda. Again, revisiting his experience with hotel design, David felt that guests should be afforded privacy when coming and going. In a combination of dark hues and lustrous finishes, it has a den-like appeal.

The veranda is the true heart of the home, with its lean-to style roof covering the full length. Taking the form of a tiled runway and built for living, lounging and entertaining, it constitutes the transitional area between indoors and out. Divided into separate zones with sofas, coffee tables, dining tables and loungers, it offers year-round use and is an authentic outdoor room.

For David, his home is an ever-changing, constantly evolving project. ‘This is what I do, so for my own home it’s an ongoing process and there are always new plans on the horizon,’ he enthuses. Phase 4 is in the makings, with plans to create a courtyard in the back that will link the kitchen with the outdoors. In a home that celebrates the function of the outdoor room, this promises to be a worthwhile addition.

Clever Ideas: Transforming the Garden

The clean-line rim-pool seamlessly extents the veranda outward to the garden, which originally had “No personality” and was all one level.

David chose to terrace the garden, separating landscaped from architectural zones, and as a result has achieved a more considered exterior with decadent nodes. The original kidney-shaped pool was taken out and a digger-loader used to create a new lower terrace of neatly clipped lawn. By using matching slate-coloured tiles to frame the swimming pool, outsized planter boxes and upper terrace, a measure of regularity has been afforded with crisp linearity its champion. The raised bed of poplars in the rear introduces greenery an eye level and cleverly conceals the fence behind.

A section of the far wall is covered in antiqued bronze-mirrored panels and the rest is painted in broad grey and off-white stripes, which run from left to right covering the elegant new front door – which is, in itself, an architectural element.

Q + A with David

Can you break down the phases or your renovation?

We did it in three parts. Phase 1: decorating, painting and getting rid of the kidney-shaped pool in place of a newer, sleeker one. Phase 2: I gutted all the internal walls, leaving only the kitchen in place and reconfigured to make room for two new suites. I built a wall between the second suite and the living area and also claimed more kitchen space from the store room next door. Phase 3: I built in the covered patio and landscaped the garden.

Which features were you determined to retain in your home?

I thought the glass frontage should be retained and we duplicated this ’50s aesthetic in the guest suite area to continue the simple lines of the facade.

And to conceal?

We wanted to conceal any trace of facebrick and work instead with amazing paint, wallpaper and timber on the walls.

What’s your favourite time of day in the home and why?

The early morning as the building faces north, also dusk around 6 pm, when the house and garden take on a different personality. It’s like the theatre begins as the sun disappears and the garden lights set the stage for entertaining, especially in spring and summer.

What would you not do over again?

Live on a property while it’s being renovated. It’s really not worth the stress.
Whose help could you not have done without?

David Fortune, my friend and associate, who is a brilliant and patient project manager and architectural technician. Also, I loved working with SCiC on the kitchen.

In your opinion, what are the benefits of renovating versus building anew?

I love renovation. I see potential in old spaces and get excited about remoulding and recycling a space, particularly if there are good bones or aspects that define an identity with the architecture.

How have you continued the interior outdoors?

I have treated the patio like an indoor space, with fully upholstered sofas, lamps and accessories that add a sense of absolute comfort. I love the veranda; we spend most of our time here.

Why live in Parkmore

The major attractions of Parkmore include the fact that it is well-positioned in relation to Sandton CBD, as well as upmarket shopping venues and excellent schools such as Montrose Primary, Greyston Prep, Crawford, St Stithian`s, Kingsmead, St David`s. The Morningside and Sandton clinics are both close at hand for emergencies, and there are several medical practitioners as well as convenient shops along 10th and 11th streets.

For sports enthusiasts, George Lea Park along Sandton Drive hosts the Sandton sports club, which offers cricket, senior and junior football and volleyball clubs, as well as an indoor pool. For those that prefer less-strenuous activity, the Field and Study Park with its indigenous flora and open fields is the perfect place to walk the dogs.

What is also important to buyers in Parkmore is that its character has remained essentially suburban, despite its proximity to the Sandton CBD and the extensive renovation and modernisation of its original homes in the past decade.

Of the existing homeowners in Parkmore, 90% are over the age of 35, but among recent buyers in the past 12 months, 41% have been below the age of 35. What is more, new residents (five years or less) are now as neuromas as those who have lived there for 11 years or more – at 35% each.

Reference: Property Junction | December 2012 – January 2013

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