If your new home makes your mother cry, causes your uncle to mutter about a ‘life-long chore’ and leaves your new-born baby staring at an exposed roof without a ceiling, you know you’ve undertaken a mammoth task. If, on top of all this, you need a hammer and a screwdriver just to get in and out of your front door, you may well start wondering if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew.
Today, the Bothas can laugh about their challenging renovation, but it wasn’t so funny at the time. Marianne, a medical doctor, and Francois, a data analyst, took second place in last year’s Fix it with Flair competition as a result of the passion and determination with which they single-handedly restored Delfshaven, their cottage in Wynberg, Cape Town.
They bought their house, which dates from 1859, in November 2009, started the restoration work slowly, and were in full swing by December 2010. And during all the chaos and dust, they also managed to add two children to their family: Felix and Roux.
The couple were able to look beyond this depressing state of affairs and realised that the house, which is far too big for them, could be divided in two so that one half could be rented out. Luckily, it was fairly easy to do this. ‘We literally only had to enclose two passageways (one on the top floor and one below), build a new staircase and divide the property in two. Each half already had its own front door,’ Francois explains. ‘We still want to work on the garden, perhaps convert the garage into a bachelor flat and swap rooms with the children,’ says Marianne.
A Major Revamp
Because Marianne and Francois wanted to restore the home’s original character, one of their biggest tasks was to sand all the woodwork: floors, seven painted interior doors, 10 huge sash window frames and a staircase. The house also needed extensive plumbing and electrical work. And they had to make a plan to work with the low ceilings on the top floor, which were only 1.8m high.
Décor And Lifestyle
The Bothas love natural wood and selected décor that complements the cottage’s classic, old-world feel – many pieces were bought second-hand, others Francois made from recycled wood. Francois’ parents gave them the kitchen cabinets after they removed them during their own renovation project. Most of the chandeliers were already in the house and simply needed to be cleaned. The home’s palette of soft blues, neutral tones and splashes of red creates a tranquil and inviting atmosphere. ‘It’s a wonderful home, but the noise of the children and dogs on the wooden floors is quite a challenge. We’re very satisfied with and proud of our handiwork. We now have many great memories and anecdotes to tell, but with the wonderful knowledge that we managed to finish this huge project within five years, rather than the lifetime we anticipated – and all without losing each other. This house is very dear to us,, says Francois.
Words and images: Home