House Tour

IN PICTURES | Repurposed design shines in this Cape farmhouse

The eclectic interiors of this Overberg home express its owners' love of laid-back living, travelling and upcycling

24 November 2019 - 00:00 By Tracy Chemaly
The dining area on the farmhouse's verandah offers a sheltered outdoor option for dining. The furniture is a mix-and-match of hand-me-downs.
The dining area on the farmhouse's verandah offers a sheltered outdoor option for dining. The furniture is a mix-and-match of hand-me-downs.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux

Growing up on Halfaampieskraal, a farm in the Cape Overberg region, Jan-Georg Solms recalls spending more hours outside on the verandah than inside his family home. Such blissful recollections of rural life made it integral for him to recreate this leisurely porch for sheltered outdoor living in his own dwelling, just 300m from the home in which he was raised.

"There's very little to do here, other than watch the sun rising, and then setting 12 hours later," says Jan-Georg. It's a simple life he shares with his partner, Cobus Geldenhuys, their seven dogs, 150 geese and flock of sheep. "Once in a while we'll hear a neighbour drive past, and we get to see the blue cranes fly by twice a day," he adds.

The verandah that runs the length of the home was one of the only changes made to the original structure when the couple decided to move out of the main dwelling, which they run as a guest house.

By doubling the depth of the verandah to 5m, they brought it flush with the guest room and bathroom walls, linking the two spaces by creating an outdoor lounge and dining area that looks out onto crops of canola, wheat and barley, and the Riviersonderend Mountains in the far distance.

"If the verandah had a TV, I'd be there all day," jokes Jan-Georg.

Jan-Georg (left) and Cobus (right) are followed by their family of dogs wherever they walk on Halfaampieskraal.
Jan-Georg (left) and Cobus (right) are followed by their family of dogs wherever they walk on Halfaampieskraal.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
Wall art on the verandah comes in the form of repurposed water drip trays from terracotta pots mounted as a linear display of colourful circles
Wall art on the verandah comes in the form of repurposed water drip trays from terracotta pots mounted as a linear display of colourful circles
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
A farm reservoir has been transformed into a swimming pool.
A farm reservoir has been transformed into a swimming pool.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
An outdoor shower cools things down on summer days
An outdoor shower cools things down on summer days
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux

But Cobus has laid some ground rules, about which they poke fun at one another. For one, only a certain number of nails are to be hammered into each wall, limiting Jan-Georg's penchant for cluttering surfaces, and leaving no opportunity to install a television.

Then there's the colour quotient: no more than three colour palettes are allowed in a room. "Cobus tries to contain me," he laughs, admitting to the difficulty he experiences in constraining himself.

The couple's two extremes find their balance in what they call "our version of minimal" —pared-back yet homely, comfortable furnishings, and curated assemblages in specific locations.

These exist alongside subtle odes to Greece, a country they've been visiting and sailing around annually for 17 years. Hellenic marble busts, sailing maps, Art Deco yacht-shaped mirrors and black-and-white postcards from the Acropolis Museum in Athens are nods to this love affair.

As is the home's base coat of white, to which they've added their own interpretation of Greek warmth and hospitality.

The artworks in the living room reference the couple's love of Greece, the Mediterranean and sailing.
The artworks in the living room reference the couple's love of Greece, the Mediterranean and sailing.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
A collection of colourful crystals is displayed on a side-table in the living room.
A collection of colourful crystals is displayed on a side-table in the living room.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
The camel saddle in leather with brass studs belonged to Jan-Georg's father and is a sentimental piece that he grew up with in the main farmhouse just 300m away.
The camel saddle in leather with brass studs belonged to Jan-Georg's father and is a sentimental piece that he grew up with in the main farmhouse just 300m away.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux

The couple's affinity for the Mediterranean summer light had them paint their living room ceiling rafters a crisp white, matching the abode's original whitewashed walls - thick 100-year-old clay structures plastered with a straw-and-manure mixture that naturally regulates the temperature indoors.

"But it's an international Greek house," says Jan-Georg, pointing to the 3D puzzles he's built of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, London's Big Ben, St Petersburg's Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood and Florence's Duomo. These form an impressive cityscape on the living room sideboard, each one either stained with varnish or painted dark to match. "It's like a fictional city of all the iconic buildings grouped together, becoming one city of architectural sculptures," he says.

Clever creative touches are dotted all around the home. Alongside the make-believe city is a cut-out in the shape of a standing lamp, painted white and hovering just off the wall to create a silhouette when switched on. "I usually don't like lights hanging from the ceiling. Because it's painted the same colour as the wall, it disappears in the daytime," says Jan-Georg of his ingenious design.

The indoor living and dining room lead to their outdoor counterparts on the verandah, this inside option being preferred in winter, when the fireplace roars.
The indoor living and dining room lead to their outdoor counterparts on the verandah, this inside option being preferred in winter, when the fireplace roars.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
The lean-to kitchen can be closed off from the dining room with a curtain, allowing for heat to be kept inside the living area when the fire is blazing.
The lean-to kitchen can be closed off from the dining room with a curtain, allowing for heat to be kept inside the living area when the fire is blazing.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
The couple loves cooking and the kitchen is a much-used part of the home.
The couple loves cooking and the kitchen is a much-used part of the home.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
A shelf acts as both storage and display for the eclectic crockery collection and other objets.
A shelf acts as both storage and display for the eclectic crockery collection and other objets.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux

Wall art on the verandah comes in the form of repurposed water drip trays from terracotta pots mounted as a linear display of colourful circles. And then there are non-functioning lamp stands fitted with glass crystals, bottle stoppers or animal figurines instead of the expected lightbulb.

"I see the potential in something that's been discarded and try to give it new life," he says, referring to his knack for recycling furniture pieces.

In the guest bedroom, Art Deco mirrors in the shape of yachts are a reminder of the couple’s love of sailing.
In the guest bedroom, Art Deco mirrors in the shape of yachts are a reminder of the couple’s love of sailing.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
The green quilts in the main bedroom are filled with goose down from the farm geese.
The green quilts in the main bedroom are filled with goose down from the farm geese.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
The basin pedestal in the bathroom is made of green Argentine marble, which was bought on auction. The large nude is one of Jan-Georg's paintings.
The basin pedestal in the bathroom is made of green Argentine marble, which was bought on auction. The large nude is one of Jan-Georg's paintings.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux
In the main bedroom’s en-suite bathroom, an antique table holds a collection that includes a Napoleon bust – to which Jan-Georg added red tassels.
In the main bedroom’s en-suite bathroom, an antique table holds a collection that includes a Napoleon bust – to which Jan-Georg added red tassels.
Image: Greg Cox/Bureaux

As Jan-Georg and Cobus settle in to watch the sun set from the verandah, reclining into their matching Morris chairs, the stillness of dusk washes over Halfaampieskraal.

"Maybe I just have too much quiet time," says Jan-Georg with a laugh, as the blue cranes fly overhead, back to their nesting grounds for the night.