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Renovation secrets: Cottage to modern loft

Renovation secrets: Cottage to modern loft

We got Doreen de Waal to spill the “beams” on her conversion of historical Tamboerskloof cottages to modern loft apartments.

A communal courtyard is shared by the guest cottages.

A communal courtyard is shared by the guest cottages.

Cottage Conversion Challenges

When Doreen de Waal called in architect Mike Scurr from Rennie Scurr Adendorff Architects to work on the addition to her original Sir Herbert Baker stone homestead in Tamboerskloof, she didn’t know quite how many challenges lay ahead. Here’s what they learnt along the way.

Q&A with Doreen de Waal

Doreen de Waal had a vision for her beautiful stone homestead, and watched that vision come to life.

What were the biggest challenges when renovating this space? The fact that the new building had to interface with the historic building. We were asked by the local municipality to have a heritage study done before they even looked at any plans. And we had to compromise!

Your thinking on mixing old architecture and new? The new intervention must not try to mimic the old – it must be something totally different.

What’s your tried and tested trick for expanding a sense of space? Height is my answer for spaciousness. I always want to lift the roofs.

The bedroom section is slightly raised from the main living zone and incorporates a bath.

My advice would be to start with a good architect who understands and deals regularly with heritage matters, and trust him or her. Start in good time, as these things can drag out. Know the pros and cons and understand what you cannot do so you won’t be disappointed. Be informed.

Any other tips you’ve learnt along the way? Where can you save, and where should you never skimp? I usually splash out on one item for the bathroom, be it the bath, basin or shower floor. You don’t have to spend a fortune on the taps and fittings – there are some excellent quality, well priced and beautifully designed ones around. Don’t think that the most expensive item is necessarily the best. Don’t skimp on the electrics, especially double plugs. Plus, you don’t have to tile an entire bathroom – tile where necessary and paint the rest, or paint the whole bathroom and seal it. Shop around, source interesting products, ask and investigate. It’s a fun process and will allow you to be more involved and better informed.

Q&A with Mike Scurr

Mike Scurr from Rennie Scurr Adendorff Architects is the architect behind the transformation. We ask him for a few trade secrets.

Adding the glass box was a modern intervention into an old building.

Mixing old and new architecture always brings specific challenges. The key aspect is to understand the significance of the heritage resource. Sometimes a subtle or modest new intervention subservient to the older structure is the right answer, while in other situations it may be more appropriate to provide a bold modern contrast. It is important to respect and conserve the old while at the same time providing the necessary vehicle for modern living – light, space, views and open-plan living are naturally achieved more easily with modern design and planning.

Maximising the view of nearby Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak.

The National Heritage Resources Act of 1999 provides very clear guidelines regarding the process to be followed. As one example, alterations to any building older than 60 years are governed by this act, in addition to the usual gamut of local authority and land use regulations. It is recommended to consult appropriately skilled professionals and engage with the authorities early on in the process.

Contact Details

Mandy Allen
Production: Sven Alberding
Photographs: Greg Cox/


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