Category Archives: Lifestyle

Daylight Robbery

Daylight robbery

With the building of the new house, or should I start again with: when planning to build a home, all sorts of interesting developments tend to crop up.

After plans were drawn up I was surprised to hear about the new law that prescribes the percentage of windows that is allowed in any specific room in a house, especially where western and eastern windows are concerned.This is to ensure optimal energy consumption in the home.

While this makes sense in an economic unit I think it should be my choice if I bought property that would enable me to have a home with an incredible view, I should be able to build the house of my dreams with the view of my dreams. Why should I be penalized because of a new law if all the houses in the area is not compliant, because they were built before the new law was written. I did take a lot of precautions already, but I don’t want to give up on having a great view.

While I was pondering this Frederika asked me an interesting question. “Where does the saying: Daylight robbery come from.” I had no idea.

Apparently in England people, in the late Middle Ages, were taxed for the amount of glass windows that they could afford to have in their homes. This forced many of them to have either very small windows or even no windows at all in some rooms. It led to very dark interiors even in daylight hours. Hence the term; Daylight Robbery.

This new law that prohibits bigger windows make me want to proclaim out loud that this is absolute daylight robbery! Is

The facades

After several meetings with the architect we are at a point where we can start talking about “our house” with a picture of what it might look like in my mind. I have a very visual brain. I tend to visualize things in images. I can only properly think of things if I can see what it should look like.

The first stage of planning was floor space and how to accommodate it in the slope of the land without too much excavation. Seeing that we had very specific needs it took us some time to get to the ideal. With great excitement we reached a step in the planning that we were happy with. It meant that we had to go back several times to “the drawing board “ and to start all over again. Especially the kitchen had great challenges as we have very specific needs there. Above all, we do not want to make the place too big.

Once again, I am impressed with how much thinking goes into simplicity. We have such set ideas of what things should be like, that it takes imagination to change ideas in your head. At last our floor plan was finished. We are satisfied with traffic flow through the more public spaces, enough light, cross ventilation, sun angles summer and winter, views, wind direction not to talk about things like storage space privacy in certain areas and a thousand other small concerns important to us. That includes studio space for me, a home office for Frederika and even a small place for woodwork and a tinkering place for me to play in.

Even with the house spread over ( technically) four levels, we still planned it that we would need to use the stairs in our direct living space as little as possible, as we plan to live there into old age if we are fortunate enough to have that luxury. It means that living area, main bedroom and garages are on one level. (I am not going to carry groceries up and down flights of stairs if I can help it!)

So far so good! The next step was the design of the facades. What a shock to see that the perfect house looks just like all the other new houses in the area. I do not really know what I expected, but always having lived in older houses in Worcester this modern monster did not fit into my picture of home. I brooded for 24 hours before I accepted that I actually opted for something totally new ( that might also be translated as modern).

I sat down thinking about what upset me and then started to redesign the look by lining up windows and creating unified lines and areas of contrast in color and texture. Fortunately the architect is a patient man. The next set of plans were perfect.

The Saga Continues

Weekly meetings with our architect seems to become a highlight in our busy weeks. The first meeting was to establish our basic needs, what exactly we need in our new house, which land surveyor we want to use as we need to know the exact contours of the stand. We want to use the contours of the land as closely as possible so that we can minimize excavation.

With the second meeting Wilhelm had a basic floor plan. It was very exciting and extremely disappointing at the same time. The ideas were brilliant, I must confess, but it was not what we had in mind. Well, not exactly… So we brooded over the plans. We could not respond immediately as the next day I was part of an art exhibition opening in Wellington, and the Monday morning the exams of our post graduate Ethics course started in Stellenbosch.

On Monday night we tackled the problem. Poor Wilhelm got a detailed e-mail discussing every detail on the plans. Changes were made to just about every square meter. Like a true professional Wilhelm said, on my enquiry if he received the mail, that he got the mail, and that he might even read it at some stage!

Saturday was our follow up meeting. With his usual smile he listened attentively to our lamentations. On Sunday evening, as we were about to leave for our second week of Ethics classes, he handed the second set of plans to me, this time hand drawn. This time the response is great. We still need a few changes to it, but it was already closer to our ideal.

An added problem so far is that it is difficult to envisage the results as we do not have any idea of aesthetics so far. We do not really know even what style he has in mind. That would most likely be another struggle waiting to be fought. So far we are still very excited.

The saga continues.

Finding the right Architect

Finding the right architect

I always wonder why people, when they make the biggest investment in their lives, they believe , they should do it without any professional input. If you have toothache you consult a dentist, if you want a haircut, you seek the best hairdresser in town, but if you design a new house, your biggest single investment you will likely make in your life, you do it yourself or ask somebody that can draw to do it for you.

A lot of friends frown when I say that I am going to have an architect design the new house. The first question I usually get is: “ Do you know what those guys cost?” or “Why, don’t you know what you want?”

In my experience, whenever I walk into a house, or even if I just see one from street level, I can immediately see which one was designed and which one was just drawn by somebody. But like most things in life it is a personal choice.

My personal choice this time around is Wilhelm Sadie. We worked together before and the result is an incredible little holiday home that always feel like a piece of heaven. I know he listens to what I say and tries to accommodate our whims, but he is hard headed enough to be stubborn if we want something that will not work.

The first step he did, that really impressed me, was that he made a house call. He said he needed to see our furniture and art collection before he could start thinking about the house. We , like anybody else I suppose, have furniture that has meaning for us. Pieces of furniture we grew up with and that we collected at specific times in our life together that says who we are.

Our art is more of a problem than a collection. We have lots of it. When Frederika and I got married we each already had a collection. Unfortunately our art is not bought for investments. We buy art because we love it, the paintings tell a story of who we are, where we were and what is important to us. A lot of the friends we made in Worcester are friends. The art we collect of them tell their as well as our story. A story of growth, pain, progress, life and friendship. If I show you our art I show you fragments of my life.

I can hardly wait to be able to exhibit our lives on the walls of our future home.

At the outset we have three main objectives and needs for our new our home: Big open living space, views and big walls to accommodate our art.

The photos of sketches at the top is whrer i had to give measurements of every single important piece of furniture in the house. The story continues…

The New landowners


  • There is an incredible freedom if you can start looking for property without any pressure. We want to sell our house for several reasons that I already touched on. In the circumstances your available choices are almost too many. You can go for the small plot cut-off from a large older property in a settled neighbourhood, this is usually a panhandle type of property with the advantage of being safe, but with limited space and usually a area difficult to accommodate in the building process. In a area still being laid out, you can select the best position but you will be surrounded by builders and unfinished houses surrounding you for the next ten years. Building in an estate set-up means your building style and even the colour you paint your house is prescribed to you. I am much to individualistic to settle for that. Maybe I will settle for that when I move to a retirement village.

    The View of the plot from street level


    In the end we settled for the piece of land that stole our hearts, or is it our eyes. It was an emotional buy, and had nothing to do with rationality. We bought the view to die for. Maybe that is a bad choice of words. Let’s rather say we bought the view I would not mind waking up to every morning. Beautiful mountains in all directions, protected nature area within walking distance and the Karoo botanical gardens within sight

    I can hear you thinking: there must be a catch! Well, there is. The plot slopes with exactly ten meters from the highest to the lowest point. I am sure we will still cry a lot of tears ( and pay many a rand on construction and earth moving) before we can start building there.

    If we can say perfect happiness is the most important part of any purchase, I promise that this was a good buy. To add to the attractiveness of the buy I can say that it is bordered by a area that is public open space, that makes it appear twice as big, the plot is covered by local fynbos and succulents ( that I hope I can protect from too much damage from the building process) and that it is situated on the corner of two streets that means it is unlikely to feel boxed in by other houses later.

    So far so good.

  • The story of finding a new house.

    Change is part of our daily lives. I realized that last year when I closed down my practice to join the wonderfull group of doctors at Worcester hospital. Two years ago I would have laughed at anybody who would have said that I would even consider doing it. But today I can say that I feel very much at home with my new hospital family.

    Our family was so fortunate to live in the house we bought at 24 Sutherland street more than rwenty years ago. It is a wonderfull family home that could expand to accomodate any number of people, without ever feeling crowded. Except for our own kids we had many exchange students, especially from Germany and Poland that joined us for a year. All of them enriched our lives tremendously. We had several family members and friends that stayed with us for longer or shorter times as well, and the house accomodated us all.

    But, as I said, things change. Kids grow up and go to university, but even though Wilhelmina moved back we know that it would only be short term. As we do not have children at home any more I am not prone to take any more students in, as our own kids are out of the house which makes it more difficult for foreign kids to adapt.

    …so, suddenly our beautiful house feels utterly empty. We do not need to stay across from the school anymore, as there are no more kids in school. I do not need to stay close to work many more as I seldom have to rush out at night for an emergency.

    Except for the change in the family and work circumstances, we, as people, change with time too. We need different things. The rolls of our lives change, our needs change. Suddenly I feel a need for n different way of living. We do not need separate entertainment area where kids can make their own noises anymore. These days they join us as grown ups in their own right, a fase of our lives that I thoroughly enjoy.

    As my favourite architect, Mies van der Rohe said: “Less is more”. For now we need less (and more). I need less rooms. Rather give me one big living area than a lot of separate rooms. I want to be able to talk to my wife and friends while I am busy in the kitchen. I need a living area to live in. Not a kitchen, a lounge, a diningroom, a family room and a separate outside area and braai area. There must be one area to do it all.

    So before we could really even decide about selling the house, at the drop of a hat, we spontaneously started looking for a new home. We quickly realized that what we were looking for does not exist. Not yet anyway. We saw countless variations of the same kind of place, in different areas of Worcester. Houses comes with standerd features: gararge, kitchen , bathrooms (usually two and a half of them?), lounge and other usual features.

    All houses are built to resemble something else. It is either supposed to look like something in the Tuscan style (that is not found in Tuscany) or it should be built in the style of an African farm house or Cape rural style (that I havent seen on a real farm either) or it should look like something else. Is it really that difficult to just built something origional with contemporary building materials?

    But after all was said and done, we saw nothing that Goldilocks would call “just right”.

    The shock of that was: We will have to do it ourselves!

    Where do you begin? With Julie Andrews we will sing: “Lets start at the very beginning”.

    We need to get a piece of land to build on. We need a plot.

    Now we have a whole new dilemma. What, where and how. But that is the next episode

    Bookreview. Phillip Glass: Words without Music

    Genius is a fascinating thing. I love reading about people who “made it”. A well written autobiography is the ultimate. The problem with biological studies is that the person writing it often has a n unhealthy respect for the person he is writing about and may leave out critical detail. Above all it is often the biographers point of view and not the way the hero of the biography sees things.

    Continue reading Bookreview. Phillip Glass: Words without Music