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Featured Home & Design May 9, 2018

Luxe Redux

From the garden, the tightly proportioned, slim rusted steel grid of the cottage’s structure creates a linear framework in the modernist tradition. The grassy mounds leading up to the cottage were landscaped by Patrick Watson. The iron-rich red-orange rocks of the ridge protrude through the grass. They provided a buried cue for the rusted steel used throughout the cottage. Silvio says the material reference to the buried landscape helps to create a sense of earth and a connection to nature.

 

A garage conversion is seldom an inspiring thing. But that doesn’t have to be the case. With imagination and insight, and by throwing out the rulebook, architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens have created 55m2 of pure inspiration, and quite possibly the most spiritually transporting loo.

 

From the street, a large pivot door of rusted Corten steel leads under a portico to the front door, and, via a boardwalk, to the garden beyond. The pavement has been paved in ironwood railway sleepers, a reference to the materials used in the construction of the cottage’s partner pavilion, also on the property. The rusted steel is part of the architects’ concept of evolving a “modern African language”, bring a raw materiality to a modernist aesthetic with refined execution. The rust is also a reference to the iron-rich stone of the rocky ridge this cottage is on. In the juxtaposition of the refined ceiling and lights and the raw, elemental materiality of the steel, the contrast and constant interplay between the raw and the refined is set in motion.

 

The interior space is arranged around three nuclei: lounge, dining and sleeping space. In the dining area, a simple raw oak table doubles as a desk and dining table. “It has a kind of purity about it,” says Silvio. Behind it, the white wall-to-wall unit includes a kitchen area. The splashback in the kitchen is made from salvaged ironwood from railways sleepers, elevated by its refined treatment. It is also a reference to the ironwood used in the main pavilion. Above it, the ceiling ramps up to clerestory windows to draw in the northern light. The glossy enamel floors are a hard-wearing industrial product, a remnant of the building’s initial existence as a garage.

 

The raw oak of the dining table, Silvio says, “has a kind of purity about it”. Its simple, almost monastic quality is offset against the luxurious glimmer of copper and velvet, adding a range and richness to the textures and material qualities of the cottage, softened and humanised with a Paco Vintage Reloaded Persian carpet.

 

Reupholstered vintage armchairs soften the space. The Vintage Reloaded rug is from Paco, a renowned Johannesburg carpet maker. The colours draw in the surrounding landscape, and the raw linen curtains and the green colour of the wall create continuity with the landscape and trees outside, which are a strong presence in the interior because of the glass wall the runs the length of the cottage. It’s a reminder of the cottage’s connection to nature, and, as Lesley says, part of the design to “tone down” the interiors so as not to compete with the view.

 

Reupholstered vintage armchairs soften the space. The Vintage Reloaded rug is from Paco, a renowned Johannesburg carpet maker. The colours draw in the surrounding landscape, and the raw linen curtains and the green colour of the wall create continuity with the landscape and trees outside, which are a strong presence in the interior because of the glass wall the runs the length of the cottage. It’s a reminder of the cottage’s connection to nature, and, as Lesley says, part of the design to “tone down” the interiors so as not to compete with the view.

 


Inside the concrete prism, the vanity is asymmetrical, like the tower itself. “We did a Corian vanity that was also shard-like,” says Silvio. The gleaming copper sliding door and porthole window contrast with the raw concrete. The texture of the books adds another dimension to the experience, and riffs on the idea of reading on the loo.

 

Light from the leadlight windows at the top of the shard filters down and creates a particular, almost spiritual atmosphere. The window was made by Ariane Janse Van Rensburg, a senior lecturer in the architecture department at Wits University and specialist in the symbolic meaning of windows. “We wanted an abstract stained-glass design,” says Silvio. “There are one or two little coloured blocks, too. As the sun comes through them, the colours contort, and as the light moves across the room and you have a sense of what time of day it.” The concrete is impregnated with the wood grain of the shutterboard, another reference to natural materials that adds to the effect of the patterned light.

 


Words: Graham Wood
Photography: Greg Cox

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