House Blount

This project is a family house in a typical upmarket secure lifestyle estate in Johannesburg. The challenge that these estates pose is around responding in the context of limiting estate guidelines, which often rule out the instinctive architectural response.

As a practice, we are increasingly working with clients in this way, and forming ways of creating privacy, relationships to street and neighbours, connections to landscape and sky, that can negotiate these guidelines.

We were fortunate that this estate has only a few rules that had a direct effect on our design, namely a restricted exterior colour palette and a rule that the roofs had to be flat or double pitched (min. 30 degree pitch). Also in our favour were the mature existing trees. The client wanted easy family living centred on the children and the garden. The response was two ‘barns’ gently inserted between the existing trees and creating garden pockets in-between. The barns are simply divided by function and the scale and detailing of the barns responds accordingly. They are linked to each other and to the entrance by SA pine colonnade forming a promenade through the house and garden. In this way, the scale of the 700 sq.m house is moderated.

The ‘public’ barn is single storey and dark on the outside, containing the kitchen, dining and living room. It’s detailing is crisp and modern, steel framed with highly insulated walls and roofs, and concealed gutters. The dark exterior acts as a foil to the planting and is contrasted with warm timber floors and ceilings. The sides of the public barn can all open up to garden so that it feels like a pavilion, framing views of the garden and the jacaranda. The children can run along the walkway and through the garden and the space seamlessly.

The ‘private’ barn is pale and more intimate, containing bedrooms and study areas on two floors. They provide a literal and visual retreat, but with constant connections to the garden through bay windows and balconies. In its detailing it represents a more ‘conventional’ house, overhanging eaves and roofs, brick and plaster walls.

As bursts of rebellion against the good taste tyranny of the estate guidelines, the ancillary service ‘boxes’ to the main barn are painted in bold colours. The inside of the garage is vivid pink, the playroom off the main kitchen and the inside of the kitchen cupboards, yellow, the courtyard blue and the first floor kitchenette green.

The orientation and detailing of the spaces has been carefully considered. The public barn is highly insulated, and with north light is warm in winter, shaded by the trees in summer. The smaller scale of the bedrooms makes them easy to heat in winter and they open up in summer to breezes.

Like many other homeowners in Johannesburg, the clients wanted to install energy saving measures but budget was an issue. The infrastructure to enable the house to be off-grid in the future has been installed. The grey water is already being recycled and used for irrigating the garden.

Above all, this was a happy project, the team of client, architect and contractor worked well together. The project was well built, delivered on time and in budget, and most importantly, the clients are delighted with and enjoy living in their home.