Architect’s own house

James Finnie
03 Feb 2010

Pure white box creates a light and airy home for architect James Finnie's family

Many factors forged the design of this house. A limited budget, demanding client (the architect himself and his wife) and a narrow, sloping site meant that economy of footprint, basic building materials and open plan spaces created a simple, two-storey box on a solid brick base.

Cape Dutch Long Houses from the 1800s inspired the rectangular simplicity of the house, set against the rugged mountain slopes of Hout Bay, outside Cape Town. An open plan ground floor provides a single entertaining space – some 20m from one end to the other. From the front door, the space flows from lounge to kitchen to dining room, into a multi-functional work space which can be closed off from the main area by three full height sliding doors.

The centrepiece of the ground floor is the kitchen bar counter, oriented towards an enormous glass-covered opening looking out over a canopy of trees and the Hout Bay valley below. The 3m high x 12m wide glass and aluminium doors slide completely away, allowing the space to flow onto a cantilevered terrace, providing a very special place to sit and entertain.

Next to the kitchen is a lofty double height dining/gallery space which includes a long stairway to the family sleeping area above.

Simple passive design techniques were used to heat the house in winter and keep it cool in the blazing Cape summer. A solar water heater reduces electricity consumption and keeps heating costs down while stainless steel ceiling fans circulate fresh air through the main living and sleeping areas.

Glass has been used not only to frame views of the stunning landscape but to allow light to penetrate deep into the narrow space in winter, heating up an exposed screed floor. An external canopy provides shade in summer and the double height gallery space funnels hot air out through high level windows.

Beautiful in its simplicity and true to its form, this house ticks all the boxes for the Finnie family – light, spacious, elegant, economical and a pure pleasure to live in.

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