Project Name: House Joubert, Elephants’ River

Location: Limpopo, South Africa

Date Completed: 2015

Company Name: Krynauw Nel Assosiates Ltd & Kim H

Architect: Krynauw Nel Assosiates

Interior Designer: Kim H

Bordering the famous Kruger National Park (a national game park the size of Wales), is a smaller private game reserve called Olifants (elephants) Reserve with a big river also called Olifants River winding through it on its way to neighbouring Mozambique and the Indian ocean. By road this destination is 7 hours away but as the client is a pilot it is only a 45 minute hop from the small private Johannesburg airfield to a landing strip 10 minutes away from the site.

The client acquired a site on the banks of this river with planning permission for a 230 sqm house that had to be unobtrusive for obvious reasons and using stone and thatch and rendered walls only. The designers built a four bedrooms property with en suite facilities, plus a gym. The client required a spacious “modern bush” contemporary family home that would generate togetherness. It was important that a strong inside/outside connection was incorporated along with maximum usage of the river frontage.

The clients wanted something modern and contemporary so Krynauw Nel and Kim H had to fuse more conservative materials like stone and thatch with a modern approach showing I-beams, open plan spaces and a high level of indoor/outdoor living. Teeming with wildlife including lions, leopards, hippos, cheetahs, rhinos, elephants, snakes and crocodiles, the designers raised the living areas well above the site for safety of occupants and also for increased views. The main bedroom is at the highest point of the property, becoming the tree-house with 270 degree views.

Working closely with the interior designers and exploring African themes the design spans from ancient natural and tribal roots to modern day life with all the “mod-cons” of massive glass windows, a gym, 4 en suite bedrooms, staff accommodation, cold-room, etc. By omitting passages and avoiding the creation of “wings”, the space is intimate with all bedrooms leading directly into the living space. As the house is a popular place for the family and all its members to meet and reconnect, the architectural design supports this function of bonding inhabitants. The lively and alternative furnishings both expands and enriches these themes.

Key artisan skills used were stone thatch with traditional building methods of the area. Stone masons, frame-less front door specialists, table carvers, animal mask producers were all involved in the creation of this project. The designer’s favourite aspect of this project was said to be the surprising volume on entry of the property, although compact there are no passages. The large glass facades reflect the glass in a dappled way.