05 Feb

Irene Estate Property Gets New Look From Nuclei Lifestyle Designs


In 2006, Nuclei was contacted by the new owner of one of the few remaining properties in Irene Estate in Pretoria, to assist in the design and renovation of a beautiful yet seriously run-down old house.

Our client bought the property with its large grounds (3600m²) and gardens, as well as several other outdated buildings, solely to ensure it was not cut into small sections or demolished and replaced by townhouses.

Our brief was to restore the building to its former glory, while at the same time bringing it into the 21st Century with regards to amenities and services.

The property had not been used as a residence for two decades and had undergone substantial alterations during the sixties and seventies, without any concern for the style and character of the original house. The research was not conclusive in determining the exact date in which the original house was built but indicated the date to be roughly between 1914 and 1926. A clear architectural influence we could identify was a Victorian design mixed with Art Deco giving the building an old-world charm and unique grandeur.

Nuclei’s first goal was to rectify the layout and circulation of the rooms and corridors, so they would conform to more modern living conditions, whilst at the same time removing “improper” alterations and keeping with the original style and character of the house.

It was imperative that we ensure that the residence would have the appropriate number of rooms, bathrooms and amenities, equal to its current investment and future market value.

Nuclei had free reign which allowed us to fully develop the potential of the property according to our high skills and experience. Restrictions included budgetary constraints and heritage value, but since the latter was very important to us and our client, this was not something that hampered our creativity, but rather served as inspiration.

We obtained formal approval from PHRAG (Provincial Heritage Resources Authority – Gauteng), official approval was obtained from Irene Estate, and thereafter Council before construction work could commence.

The construction process required skilled manual labour involved with the restoration of old Oregon Pine timber floors, skirting, doors and architraves, as well as re-use, restoration and add-ons to existing pressed ceilings. Old timber and lead glass windows were also restored.

Before: The flooring conditions

After: The Flooring renovated.

The existing pillars and arches in the foyer were used to make casts to allow reproduction and for re-use in the rest of the house. This allowed us to open some of the areas to get natural light into the old dark corridors, and at the same time, this also allowed a more open living arrangement, that what would otherwise not have been possible.

New extensions to the old house were dealt with by firstly making them compliant to the old and characteristic architecture, by using flat concrete roofs, instead of pitched metal roofs and by recessing them where possible so they take no focus away from the original house. Other new extensions, that replaced the poor later additions, were completely redesigned to fit in with the old-style architecture and to mimic the Victorian/ Art Deco style reminiscent of the original house.

Even the wraparound veranda with columns were extended around the Northern façade of the building, in order to ensure that the continuous character is maintained on all visible elevations of the house.

The building had no proper kitchen when purchased so a totally new kitchen was created as part of the main living space. It was decided to go for an open kitchen design, despite this not being in character with the old Victorian or Art Deco era, but to ensure the house will comply with a twenty-first-century lifestyle.

All the bathrooms were completely re-designed or added as new additions, and done in an old-world style and character, befitting the grandeur and grace of the rest of the house.

Old wallpaper discovered during the renovation was matched with similar wallpaper, still in manufacture in England, since the Victorian area. These were imported and used in some rooms to capture the original style and atmosphere of the old house.

Since the sprawling garden formed an important feature of the estate, it was redesigned and partially formalized in a formal Victorian style garden. This allowed for the pool to be restored which ultimately became a beautiful feature amenity.

As a later phase, the other outbuildings were either demolished, or renovated to better suit the rest of the property and to add to the overall value of the estate. This allowed the creation of a small cottage with a lovely old English character, in place of rundown outbuildings.

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