House Tour

IN PICS | This modern farmhouse is an enchanting off-the-map escape

Interior designer Lisa Storer’s home outside Johannesburg blends rustic warmth with industrial simplicity

12 September 2021 - 00:02
By Lori Cohen/Bureaux
The chimneys of this modern farmhouse in Gauteng have been boxed in with a metal structure add create interest to the exterior.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux The chimneys of this modern farmhouse in Gauteng have been boxed in with a metal structure add create interest to the exterior.

"It was time to shift gears," says Lisa Storer, who turned her back on city life in Johannesburg to build a new home with a strong connection with the land.

Lisa had worked for years as a retail buyer and chose to untangle herself from corporate life to pursue interior design, and open a lifestyle store, The Storer.

Pouring her creative energy into a new career, as well as a new build was ambitious. But a glance at the modern farmhouse she has created makes it seem effortless, thanks to her natural gift for mixing comfortable furniture with salvaged finds.

The barn-inspired home is an enchanting off-the-map escape with open floor plans, large windows, and a balance between rustic warmth and industrial simplicity.

Lisa and partner Brad's home rests in the grassy habitat known as the Highveld, on the Monaghan Farm estate, an hour from the city.

"We looked at the landscape first and let this lead the design, as well as the interior choices," explains Lisa.

Walls of glass doors open to create an easy flow between inside and out.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux Walls of glass doors open to create an easy flow between inside and out.
Lisa Storer with her partner, Brad, and children, Lucy and Tomas.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux Lisa Storer with her partner, Brad, and children, Lucy and Tomas.
Lisa Storer's outdoor living room, with stone walls and wonderful textures, reflects her eclectic sensibility.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux Lisa Storer's outdoor living room, with stone walls and wonderful textures, reflects her eclectic sensibility.

She worked with architect Adrian Morris of Morris & Co on her contemporary interpretation of a farmhouse. "It's essentially three barn-like structures, hugging a central courtyard, with internal, glass-lined passages connecting them," she continues.

Like a traditional farmhouse, the home features open-plan living in the "barns", each with large windows positioned to embrace the outdoors.

Taking the South African context into consideration, Lisa says they explored the use of relevant materials - a way to ensure the house fitted sensitively into the landscape.

A combination of corrugated metal, locally sourced stone and concrete form the multi-textured skin, while inside, it's an assembly of polished concrete floors, wood and injections of interest in the furnishings.

The homeowner bought the mid-century occasional chairs at an antique store. The fabric was damaged, but she chose to honour the original choice of the designer and recovered it in a similar burnt-red tone.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux The homeowner bought the mid-century occasional chairs at an antique store. The fabric was damaged, but she chose to honour the original choice of the designer and recovered it in a similar burnt-red tone.
The homeowner designed open steel shelves to flank either side of the fireplace in the lounge off the dining room.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux The homeowner designed open steel shelves to flank either side of the fireplace in the lounge off the dining room.

Taking the lead from a traditional farmhouse, the kitchen is the heart of the home, inhabiting a vast space, with exposed distressed poplar beams and striking steel supports.

Tucked to one side is a snug lounge with a fireplace - the ideal spot for a post-lunch nap or after-dinner drink. The lounge has pops of blue and green in the furnishings - a break from the muted tones used elsewhere, and an example of how Lisa enjoys introducing unexpected elements in her design.

"When I design a space, I'll first consider the purpose of the room. Then I start with one piece - in this case, I had a blue vintage rug. The choice of the green chairs grew naturally from there," she says.

"A room is never complete. It's a process," she continues. "As you live in the room, you get a better sense of what it needs, and I add layers until you have a room that feels like part of the family."

She reveals her two favourite rooms to design in homes are bathrooms and bedrooms. It's clear she's had immense fun conceiving unique quarters for her children Maxine, Tomas and Lucy.

Shocks of wallpaper adorn her daughters' bedroom walls, but it's the whimsical beds that inspire doses of fantasy - one a romantic, French white cane wedding-cake-of-a-bed, the other an antique upholstered Corbeille, fit for a princess.

An antique upholstered Corbeille bed adds a good dose of whimsy to the homeowner's daughter's bedroom.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux An antique upholstered Corbeille bed adds a good dose of whimsy to the homeowner's daughter's bedroom.
The homeowner says bathrooms should be places where you can find solitude and relax. Her daughter's en suite has a spa-like feel.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux The homeowner says bathrooms should be places where you can find solitude and relax. Her daughter's en suite has a spa-like feel.

Antique stores are regular hunting grounds for Lisa.

"Choosing pieces is quite an organic process. I go with an open mind and then look for items that resonate with me, and I am particularly attracted to pieces that come with a story. When I feel a pull to something, I have to have it in my house; it's a heartfelt process. I'm a big believer in the honesty of your home. It's about expressing a feeling of what the house is about," she says.

Many pieces have been collected on buying trips abroad. Her collections of vases, figurines and curiosities are sourced from travels in India, Morocco and Mexico, as well as pieces from Kenya and South African artisans.

The main bedroom is divided by a timber wall that doubles as a headboard and separates the bed from a walkway that leads to the bathroom.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux The main bedroom is divided by a timber wall that doubles as a headboard and separates the bed from a walkway that leads to the bathroom.
'When designing, I look at traditional design. I look at functionality, and then I work outside these lines to surprise and delight,' says the homeowner.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux 'When designing, I look at traditional design. I look at functionality, and then I work outside these lines to surprise and delight,' says the homeowner.

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The homeowner is not afraid to mix things up, old and new, steel and stone, wood and fabric.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux The homeowner is not afraid to mix things up, old and new, steel and stone, wood and fabric.
'Similar to bedrooms, a bathroom should be a sanctuary,' says the homeowner.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux 'Similar to bedrooms, a bathroom should be a sanctuary,' says the homeowner.

Her playful touch is evident everywhere. Dried flowers in muted tones are swept together in bunches and strategically placed on ornate brass side tables in a bathroom or emerging from shelves hosting waterfalls of green plants. Rug choices sway from shaggy to shabby - Lisa is not afraid to mix things up.

"I enjoy putting things together that seem like they shouldn't be, including antiques with modern pieces," she explains.

In planning the footprint, she was also led by the surroundings and the light that orientates the house. The Highveld's icy winter mornings, and bright warm afternoons, she says, dictate how and where they live in the home.

"The mornings are all about the kitchen and dining room; then we move into the TV room in the afternoons where we'll have a fire on, or the children will be in their rooms or playing in the courtyard. Then, in summer, we are down at the pool house or up on the verandah eating, entertaining and enjoying the views," says Lisa.

The pool house sits away from the main home, embedded in the landscape.
Image: Elsa Young/Bureaux The pool house sits away from the main home, embedded in the landscape.

Her favourite room in the house? "In each room, there is an element of love. I've put a lot of love and attention into this house. It's like having lots of friends. They each fulfil a different need in you, and you have a different special relationship with each of them." - Bureaux.co.za