Not content with having come through one big building project not entirely unscathed, we have embarked on another.  This is being handled at arm’s length though and so far, seems to be going reasonably well.  Although I might feel differently when I eventually get down to Cape Town to see it firsthand.


This picture shows the French doors leading from the dark downstairs bedroom opening onto the covered patio on the right. It also shows the drop from the patio to the garden and pool level.

We have owned a townhouse – or ‘cluster’ – as they’re sometimes referred to here, in the southern suburbs of Cape Town for about 13 years.  When our children were at university there it was a very useful base for us and we’ve used it for many holidays and breaks from Johannesburg as time has passed.


This downstairs floor plan gives some idea of the shape of the stand and pool.

It is a freestanding house in a gated group or cluster of 5 other similar homes and as such has been an easy ‘lock-up-and-go’ option.  It has a small, compact garden and a pool to match.  There had been only one previous owner before us and it was in good condition.  But as often happens when you buy a house, there are little things you know you would have done differently had you designed it yourself and just like some people have almost permanently itchy travel feet, I have permanently itchy ‘alteration’ fever.

It can be quite an intrusive condition.  I hardly ever walk into a house without immediately thinking about how it would look were a door or window in another place, if the house were turned back to front to give privacy to the garden and pool area, if it was plastered differently, if the roof was angled better, if it could benefit from skylights and if dividing walls could be demolished to make one, light spacious open plan room…. I never stop.  Sometimes I don’t even have to go into a house before I start envisaging how it could look if tweaked a bit here and there.

So it is no surprise that over the years we’ve owned the Cape Town property, I have pondered and wondered about it.

From the day we moved in the shape of the swimming pool has irritated me.  The garden is a slightly unfortunate wedge shape and someone in their wisdom thought it a good idea to have the swimming pool follow the curve of the garden wall.  Now, about 17 years old, the pool needs extensive resurfacing and it seemed like a good idea to change it altogether.


View from the small covered patio over the garden.  Not possible to see the curved side of the pool on the right but possible to see that the patio needs resurfacing.

One of the downstairs bedrooms had no direct access to light, only having French doors and windows opening onto a covered patio area. This has driven me crazy and I can’t even begin to describe the various ideas and harebrained schemes I’ve come up with to get around it. In the top photograph you can see the French doors on the right, opening onto the small, covered patio.

It’s a three bedroomed, 2 bathroomed house with an additional guest toilet and basin (powder room in Americanese) and a study.  The study and main bedroom en suite are upstairs and the study has the best outlook in the house, facing north towards Table Mountain.


View from the upstairs study (soon to be bedroom) towards the southern aspect of Table Mountain.

It’s all very well having a study right next door to the bedroom when we’re home alone, but when someone in the family gets on the phone to clients or worse, brings them to meetings at the house, it is not an ideal situation at all.

So, as happens, the renovation of the swimming pool became a renovation of the patio and garden which became a little bit more and a little bit more again.


Passage/Hall wall on the right to be broken through with double glass doors.

In a nutshell, the dark downstairs bedroom is being turned into the study.  The door leading into that bedroom has been bricked in and the wall the bedroom shared with the passage (hall) has been knocked through to accommodate double, glass paned sliding doors.  This way, that room will receive ‘borrowed’ light from the kitchen and hallway.


The original bedroom door has been bricked up and the double opening knocked through.

By moving the doorway of that bedroom, we’ve been able to convert the ‘family’ bathroom into an en suite for the second downstairs bedroom.


The open door on the right has been bricked in as seen in the previous photo. The bedroom door beyond has been brought forward so as to create an ensuite bathroom which is not visible on the left.


Doorway brought forward

The upstairs study is going to become a bedroom and a small, en suite shower room is being built behind it, above the kitchen.  In this way, it does not extend beyond the existing ‘footprint’ of the house.

And since we were putting in a new bathroom and needing to slightly improve another one, we decided to do all three.  The bathroom fittings were delivered before the builder was on site and without any warning from the supplier.  Fortunately a neighbour was able to give the delivery men access to our garage but as it turns out, we’re a bathtub short and nobody wants to talk about it.

Another issue I’ve had with the house and with the whole development is that there are no bathroom or toilet facilities for outside workers or labourers.  When the house is locked up and not in use, there is no access to a bathroom for the gardener who takes care of both our small garden and the common driveway area. For this reason, we’re adding a toilet and basin area in the little utility area behind the kitchen with outside access.


Small washroom taking shape in the little drying yard behind the kitchen. 

So a small project has become quite a major one and the house is uninhabitable at the moment.  Our lovely architect, Bernard Krige, has done all our plans and has been down to Cape Town a few times to check on progress.  Down here in the Southern Hemisphere, all builders close for a month over Xmas and New Year so there is only a week to go before all work stops.  They will start up again on the 15th of January and no doubt we’ll have to travel up and down a bit in the new year.  I am sure our neighbours will welcome the peace and quiet for a month but despite the houses being very close together, we have not had a murmur of complaint from anyone as yet which couldn’t be more different from what we had to deal with in Parkhurst.

An absolute priority with this project is to make the small garden ‘water-wise’.  Cape Town is in the grip of one of the worst droughts in history and there are draconian water restrictions in place. Since we’ve had such success with the water tanks we installed at Treetops, we’ve decided to install two smaller tanks in the garden in Cape Town.  These will not be connected to a pump and filter system to service the house, but will hopefully provide water for the garden and for topping up the pool when necessary.

The pictures below, taken about 6 weeks ago, show the existing pool with the curved right side, the retaining walls to contain the future raised garden on the left and on the right, a water-tank-plinth-in-waiting.  Unsurprisingly, there is a waiting list for water tanks in the Cape at the moment. The plan is that when the time comes to empty the existing pool, we will drain the water into the tanks for storage until the new pool is ready.