Welcome to the ultimate dream pad for the footloose thirtysomething urban émigré, who values all the macho industrial chic that the city has to offer, but prefers the adult anonymity of green suburban life. Welcome to Boogie Nights and days dreaming out over the undulating blanket of garden forestry that unfolds from the heights of Waterkloof Ridge. Not only is this house the ultra plush zenith of a party destination, having hosted the most memorable beach party in Pretoria history (see entertainment box). Being the creation of a wide-eyed and willful design duo, it also pushes out the frontlines of contemporary concrete minimalism enough to qualify as something of a prototypical moment.
But firstly there is the duo, which inhabits this multiple volume chunk of whim turned to concrete. Elaine Holzhausen is an environmental consultant and her fiancé, Werner Joubert, is a construction fiend, which goes some way towards explaining some of the more outlandish structural aspects of the house. He confesses that he saw building his own home as the perfect opportunity to set himself an obstacle course of technical feats – testing his own mettle on his own turf. Take for example, the sleek wooden staircase ascending from the open plan ground floor living area to the mezzanine with its suspended walkway between the two understatedly sexy bedroom wings. Generally, these kinds of steps are made of solid steel clad in an outer covering of wood. But Werner opted for one hundred percent solid wooden steps, with Misando wood sourced from Zambia, fitted directly into the walls in a technical feat of note. It simply had to be done.
Werner and architect Andre Eksteen, of Earthworld Architects, worked together to turn this dream of interior and exterior height and volume into a tangible reality. When the couple first chatted to Andre about designing their home, he was quick to announce: ‘I don’t do Tuscan.’ And that was enough to convince them that he was the man for the job. ‘This house is all about basic form, simple spaces and clean lines,’ says Andre.
‘It’s a conceptually driven collection of walls closed up with planes of timber and glass.’ So clean are the lines of geometry in the house, the doors don’t even have frames. Frames would have been that one bit of fuss too much.
‘Werner loves raw concrete, exposed steel, stone and concrete. He loves to use everything as naturally as possible – to give buildings a timeless feel,’ says Elaine. ‘He’s an interior designer caught up in a construction guy’s body.’ The house may have taken several years to build and may still, according to Werner, be something of a work in progress, but Elaine is far from complaining. ‘We use the whole house, and it’s such a peaceful place to be,’ she says, gazing out through a wall of customized sheer glass doors that extend the whole way up to the roof, about triple the height of the midget doors we generally accept as normal. Far from being your average little box on a hillside, this is a house to wake up the neighbours. And to be sure it has spawned something of a trend in Pretoria’s suburban architectural subculture.
Elaine and Werner have done their fair share of dancing since they first met in a Pretoria nightclub about 10 years ago. In fact, to celebrate their sassy union, they decided to throw a bit of a bash in the shell of their house before the roof was even up. Their engagement party in 2004 went down as the most decadent beach party in Pretoria history. They brought in seven truckloads of beach sand, a couple of flame throwers and a live DJ to spin LPS, while their guests danced the night away and luxuriated in the Jacuzzi until the first Loerie yawked its song into the light of dawn. ‘I don’t know how many phone calls we got after that party from girls who’d lost their earrings in the beach sand,’ laughs Elaine.
These days they’re keen proponents of the slightly more low-key Saturday braai. Watching Rugby on the flatscreen TV in their slick underground bunker-style bar with ace acoustics, takes the game to a whole new level and, instead of allowing their guests to starve until the braai is ready, they’ll always be sure to bake a loaf or two of homemade bread to serve with wine and snacks as the party warms up…