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A 140sqm Tropical Family Home Filled With Art

This beautiful house effectively maximizes space, making it look bigger than it actually is

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Original Article: Graham Wood/Bureaux.co.za Photography: Greg Cox/Bureaux.co.za Pictorial Direction: Sven Alberding/Bureaux.co.za

Homeowner Piet Boer relates experiences with the “wildlife” surrounding his Forest Town home, which is right across Johannesburg Zoo. “On a Saturday morning early, when there is no traffic noise and you open up the sliding doors, the sound just flows in,” he says. “We hear lions and birds, and there are monkeys that make strange whistling sounds.”

Piet is an architect and is, in his own words, “obsessed with the memory of place,” and what connects a person to a place. It’s a strange coincidence that he’s ended up living in a home where an unlikely memory like that wafts across the garden as dawn breaks. But it was perhaps less of a coincidence that the fact that both Piet and Lucia grew up on farms initially attracted them to the house. “We wanted something small, and we definitely wanted a house that allowed us to live inside and outside at the same time,” says Piet. “The last thing I wanted was to be encased in a house. It needed to open up and allow us to live outside.”

The house is just 140-sqm, but seems much larger. Despite the apparent simplicity of its design—a simple L-shape—it cleverly integrates interior and exterior areas to appear much larger. Lucia and Piet did very little to alter the house; they simply cleaned up the original floors, replaced the ceilings and repainted. The most significant changes were the kitchen and the new sliding doors that let in more light. “The intimacy of this house is just amazing for us,” says Piet. “We use every single square meter, and you never feel claustrophobic because it is so open.”

Lucia and Piet have managed to infuse the space with their collection of contemporary South African art. “With art comes identity and what you relate to,” says Piet. The walls are filled with art, mostly concentrating on local artists ranging from the 1960s and 70s to the present. Lucia is also always on the lookout for fresh talent, and buys works from up-and-coming artists. “The other thing I really love about art, because you collect it over such a long period of time, is that you have the memory of certain periods of your life in certain works,” says Piet.

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Changing and transforming pieces at home, he says, keeps memory fresh and infuses the present with a sense of the past. “It keeps it relevant,” says Piet. “It’s not a museum. They have to work for the way you live.” 

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