This modern barn on Jacobsdal wine farm in Stellenborsch is home to Koba and Cornelis Dumas and their two young sons
At the southwestern edge of the Stellenbosch wine region, on the vine shrouded slopes overlooking a gleaming False Bay, is a silver grey barn. A barn filled with beautiful furniture and books and photographs and laughter. A barn that’s actually a house. And in the house lives a little boy called Pieter, and his father and mother and baby brother, Stefan, and their two dogs, Suki and Simba. Happily ever after.
Two years ago Pieter’s parents, Cornells and Koba. built the house on Jacobsdal Cornelis’s family farm. Here the Dumas family has been living and making wine for almost 100 years. It’s a stone’s throw from Pieter’s grandparents’ house, separated by a jungle-garden where many an afternoon is spent exploring.
Unlike the house that Jack built in the popular nursery rhyme, this house was not rancomly assembled. Nor does it have any stray malt, a cat that killed a rat, a priest all shaven and shorn, or a forlorn maiden who mil ked a cow with a crumpled horn
The house that Pieter’s parents built was meticulously designed by longtime family friend and Cape Town-based architect Francois du Toil. His brief from Cornelis and Koba was centred on needs rather than definite ideas: lots of light, generous cooking and entertaining spaces and, above all, it needed to be practical and accessible for the constant visits from people, animals, kids and cowboys. It is Pieter’s house, too. after all.
Francois’ design philosophy is driven by an analytical approach, not a predetermined style. He borrowed extensively from his background in industrial architecture and applied similar designs and construction techniques. He also decided to keep the structure free of any ornament and decoration, letting the lush farm exterior and eclectic decor tell the story instead.
The result is an ultramodern abode, consisting of two parallel barn-like buildings — a single-storey living space and a double-storey unit housing the bedrooms and study — that are connected by a glass box. The structures comprise a series of prefabricated steel portal frames, bolted to concrete foundations and clad in corrugated Zincalume sheeting. They are a striking sight on the farm, even more so if one considers that the method and materials used resulted in reduced construction costs and time -the steel frames were literally erected on site in a few days!
The house has an abundance of enormous windows, Scandinavian larch flooring and flawless white walls. A perfect blank page for the tales that are told by the furniture and faces in and around it.
So yes, the house that Pieter’s parents built does, like Jack’s, tell the stories of people past and present, of family and friends, of love and loss.
Not that it was really planned. It just happened, like all good stories do. The furniture and fixtures are a combination of inherited, bought, restored and handmade pieces. Pieter’s family is very sentimental, and has passed on exquisite pieces from generation to generation, such as the white baby grand piano his mother started playing when she was eight, the antique cutlery from the days his great-grandfather served as a Member of Parliament, and the 12-seater Rhodesian teak table from his great-great-grandfather.
It also helps that Pieter’s father is a furniture designer with a particular penchant for good-looking leather chairs. His work is scattered throughout the house but is best enjoyed while sitting next to the free place in the lounge, sipping a glass of pinotage, gazing through the bay window at the garden. If you’re lucky, you might spot a suikerbekkie drinking nectar from the flowers of the Cat’s Whiskers plant.
Filling the gaps and white walls is mostly left to Pieter’s mother. Between being a part-time accountant and full-time mother, Koba carefully curates the bounty of her smart shopping trips alongside heirlooms, and Pieter and Stefan’s toys. She says it’s a work in progress. An evolution. Like building a peculiar puzzle, where no piece has a definite place and no-one knows what the final picture will look like.
The picture at this stage is breathtaking. Light, airy rooms where the decor is a perfect blend of country chic, Scandinavian simplicity and non-hipster retro. It’s one of those homes where you instantly feel welcome.