Amongst the vines

This bold home was designed to maximise its vineyard vistas.

It was the sweep of undulating vineyards bordering the site in South Africa’s Constantia Valley that clinched the deal for New Zealander Victoria Bresler and her husband Matt. “They fell in love with the view,” says architect Jan-Heyn Vorster. “We all did.”

So they snapped up the site and started on a view-maximising plan to build on it. Although this was criterion number one, the Breslers also briefed Jan-Heyn to design a relaxed but contemporary home for themselves and their three young children, Jonty (8), Hannah (6) and Ollie (4) that featured a lot of“good, honest materials” such as glass, wood and concrete.

And the couple got what they asked for – and then some. Today the home features flyaway roof structures and an artful interior where generous amounts of solar film-coated glass and pale oiled oak are complemented by off-shutter concrete in both the walls and ceilings. The result is extremely easy on the eye – and on liveability.

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From the outside, the bold construction is no less striking. The house encircles the vineyards, appearing to hover slightly above the ground. There’s a gentle transition down to a large salt-water pool that appears more like a pond. And, completing the picturesque setting, a fynbos garden curls alongside the vineyard, with masses of flowering trees, both indigenous and exotic, covering the one-acre plot.

Matt is a lifelong plant lover. For the garden he brought in 165 trees, some as tall as six metres, and many of them hard to source. “For some of the species on my wish list, I ended up tracking down the only specimen I could find in the country,” he says. “Our three-year old, Ollie, helped eight of us drag one of them, a 40-year-old kokerboom, from its first suburban home. It really felt as if he was being handed the mantle to look after it for the next 40 years.”

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Also pencilled in to last another 40 years or so is Matt’s 1000-bottle-strong wine collection. The wine cellar housing them was another pet project. “We used cabling and stainless steel rods to create a minimalist structure that suspends the bottles against the cellar walls,” Matt says. “Then we clad it all with klompie bricks – small, traditional, handmade bricks that we chose to be in keeping with the vineyard setting.”

But as challenging as moving mammoth trees and erecting state-of-the-art wine cellars was, there were still bigger problems to tackle. The site’s previous house had been low, so mountains of soil had to be brought in to elevate things so that services such as geysers, the heat pump and the bore hole tank could be accessed. But the team managed to accomplish this without disrupting their desired aesthetic. While from the road the house appears to be a double storey, on the vineyard side it appears as a single level.

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Another astute design feature is the multi-level, zinc-coated titanium roof. Angled above each room in order to best suit its purpose, it is double-height in the living and entertainment area and low-slung in the bedroom wing.

Matt and Victoria love their home’s contemporary design and open flow. “We always wanted to build a house out of straightforward materials,” Victoria says. “We’ve got what we always wanted and we’ve complemented it with the furniture we’ve bought, while adding a bit of interest and character with some of our favourite collectables from our travels.”

As for their talented architect, Jan-Heyn says it was a treat to work with people who understand how good design improves quality of life. “All successful architectural projects should be a collaborative process,” he says. “The garden and the interior design should both respond to the architecture – and, in this case, they really do.”

Words Hilary Prendini Toffoli
Styling Danielle Howard  
Photography Warren Heath

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