Lavender fields, a Shiraz vineyard and a stone footpath leading past a fountain up to a set of timber barn doors and into an entrance hall clad with 300-year-old stone… No, we are not in the French countryside but in Stellenbosch, where Maryke and Johan Henn built their dream home which they share with their daughters Mihke (19), Nina (16) and Lisa (12).
Completed in October 2008 and beautifully decorated by Bella Interiors, the home is a reflection of Maryke’s warm personality and classical taste. The exterior, however, demonstrates architect Henje Boudry’s ability to marry the couple’s diverse tastes: while Maryke loves all things French, Johan, the CEO of an investment management company, prefers modern architecture.
“It is still difficult to admit to Henje that she was right when she insisted on having the floating staircase and double-volume glass panels in the entrance hall,” laughs Maryke, who originally thought these elements wouldn’t be right for the French château style she was after.
But the couple’s contrasting taste was not the only challenge Henje had to overcome. “Things were further complicated by the estate’s architectural guidelines, which stipulated a contemporary Cape colonial style. My solution was to design a home with a classical feel, but a modern floor plan: open-plan living areas, blurred boundaries between interior and exterior, and a subtle division of the living areas and the bedrooms.”
The striking stone-clad wall in the entrance hall is the core of this division. “Maryke went through enormous trouble to source the 300-year-old sandstone via a local supplier who imports building materials from demolished French châteaux. And amid all the construction drama she was writing her Master’s thesis on Afrikaans literature,” says Henje.
To create a backdrop for the textured finishes, Maryke opted for a neutral, understated palette. Karlien Visser and Joané Swart from Bella Interiors were involved right from the start and assisted Maryke with everything from fabric to sanitary ware and chandelier choices. Says the decorating duo: “She condensed her brief with the words French, linen, silver, lived-in and casual. We based the interior on this, but we also made an effort to strike a balance between an elegant interior and practical choices for a family home with teenagers.”
Although they are outdoor, active people – Maryke goes for a run every day, while Johan is a mountain bike enthusiast – the couple also like their home comforts. Large fireplaces, where they can relax with a book and a bottle of good wine, were key items on their wish list. In the spacious eat-in kitchen, Maryke enjoys the simple pleasures of cooking with vegetables and herbs from her own garden.
So would they ever build another house? Johan does not think twice before he responds: “We had a great team, from the architect to the builders and decorators, but no; this is our dream home in the perfect location.”