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Past Perfect

Face-lifting a beauty from a bygone era

Text Sarah Buitendach Styling Leana Schoeman Photographs David Ross

Parktown North might be one of Johannesburg’s most sought-after suburbs, but it wasn’t all that long ago that the jacaranda- and oak-lined streets of this pretty enclave were tracts of open farmland and undeveloped acres. If the walls of architect Patrick Henry and partner John Houliston’s home could talk, they’d have almost 100 years of the area’s history to divulge. ‘The house was built in 1922,’ explains Patrick, ‘and was originally set on a smallholding.’ Amazingly, until Patrick and John bought it in the early 1990s, the property had only seen three other owners but had systematically been subdivided over the years.

The previous owner had a real interest in early Transvaal homes and had restored this one to its former glory – red stoep, white walls and all. Over the years, the original structure had been connected to several outhouses, including a turreted room. ‘It was known as “The House of Seven Buildings”’,says Patrick. While the couple initially made do with the historically accurate house they’d bought, they were soon itching to make changes that would be sensitive to its history but also add soul and warmth. As Patrick says, ‘we’d lived in the house and knew it well, so when we decided to make big changes we’d refined our ideas and had a sense of what would work.’ Over time they updated and expanded the kitchen and redid the bathrooms.

Today the house is a jewel tucked up a panhandle, surrounded by an immaculate garden that John has lovingly developed. ‘The garden,’ says Patrick, ‘is eclectic like the house; it responds to its layout.’ Café au lait-coloured exterior walls and white window frames have given this colonial dwelling’s exterior a contemporary update, while local interior designer David Muirhead has worked his magic on the interiors. ‘One year at Rooms on View I saw a room that David created,’ says Patrick, ‘and it was just so me that it acted as a catalyst to make contact with him.’

‘This being an old Johannesburg homestead,’ explains David, ‘we were fortunate to have a wonderful covered patio at the front of the home, which acts as an inviting reception. We used oversized wicker armchairs there, with the chandelier adding a sense of frivolity.’ He also transformed the lounge into an elegant but cosy spot filled with art and family photographs while the guest suite now epitomises comfort with its mix of Ralph Lauren fabrics and bespoke furniture. ‘We often have friends to stay and this space is perfect because it’s part of the house but still feels a bit private and removed,’ says John.

The house’s latest addition is an outdoor area that spans what was once the property’s back garden. Boasting a new pool surrounded by raised decking and flanked by a pavilion, it is the ultimate entertaining spot, and even with its modern aesthetic still works well with the old-world style of the house. It’s a great place for doing very little – other than soak up the sun. ‘It has a casual essence about it, but with an underlying sense of glamour that echoes the comfort of a bygone era,’ muses David, summing up the spirit of this timeless property.

BIG IDEA #1: The Great Outdoor

The property’s back garden was originally grass-covered and fairly nondescript. To create what is essentially a large outdoor entertaining space (bottom left and opposite), the grass area was covered by a raised wooden deck that surrounds a newly built rectangular pool. The decking also leads to a pavilion (opposite) that was built in the corner of the back garden – to be used for outdoor entertaining. One side of the pavilion was glassed in to protect the space from wind while the open sides sport electronic blinds and decorative curtains. The floors were covered in a neutral screed to match the grey of the gazebo’s steel structure and coordinated soft furnishings, allowing the backdrop of African artefacts to be the focal point.

BIG IDEA #2: Stoep Talk

The front stoep of the house was originally a typical empty red-floored entrance with limited use. With a little imagination it has been turned into an additional ‘room’ for the owners to entertain in (see page 60). The floors were painted in a grey acrylic paint and the exterior of the house was painted a milky-coffee shade. Electronic blinds were installed to shield the stoep from the sun. David Muirhead framed the space with bold striped curtains and filled it with elegant outdoor furniture that includes a wooden server off which drinks are served. The stoep looks on to the front garden, which the owners trenched and replanted – leaving the original garden levels but introducing new paving and stonewalls.

This article was originally published in the July 2010 issue of House and Leisure.

House & Leisure - Past Perfect Article

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