A Dream House Is Born

This Blog describes the design principles adopted by the architect Sergio Chinelli during the design process of this modern contemporary South African home. It also follows the construction processes from inception to final completion

Join us on this fascinating journey to witness the birth of a dream house.

The architects final renders at design development stage

The site is located in a peaceful residential estate in the fast paced hustle and bustle of Fourways in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs. The house faces directly north along its longest side and gestures to the north and east to capture the best daylight and surrounding shallow mountain views. Situated on the corner of the residential block, the design provides for openness to its eastern and northern sides whilst turning its back on its only two neighbours to the south and west. With close direct access to a green belt situated across the road, the house is well positioned to enjoy a tranquil park with its many small lakes that filter down, joining into the Jukskei river. The linear form of the house makes the best use of its long northern exposure. This creates a minimal sleek aesthetic and an overall lightness also achieved through the use of delicate, thin structural concrete and steel elements. The house enjoys vast outdoor covered entertainment areas that frame diagonal views of the green belt and L-shaped private garden surrounding it. The inside and outside spaces merge on opening large multi-track sliding doors that divide the open-plan kitchen, dining lounge from the covered terrace. The use of a folded concrete overhang wrapping around the eastern and northern facades create a strong unifying architectural element that defines the aesthetic of the house and acts as an essential means of controlling the sun. The low-lying proportion of the folded concrete form set the scale for the rest of the house to follow. The bedrooms float effortlessly above the covered entertainment area allowing the kitchen, dining and lounge running parallel to the terrace to enjoy a single storey mono pitched roof. Lounge and dining rooms are subtly separated via the use of a double sided slow combustion fireplace to heat and to be enjoyed on both sides. A long axial circulation space runs through the length of the building allowing views right through the house on both ends. The space created under the mono pitch in the children’s symmetrically designed bedrooms is utilised by small mezzanine spaces to act as play areas or extra sleeping accommodation. The mezzanines face each other across a flat roofed shared bathroom for both rooms to enjoy. Both bedrooms enjoy north facing garden views from their respective covered Juliet balconies. The main bedroom is located on the North – East corner providing for panoramic views over the surrounding mountains. A large east facing triangular window that site below the angled roof plane celebrates sun-rise and provides sky views throughout the day. The main en-suite bathroom celebrates a free standing bath by cantilevering it over the edge of the building and framing it around a frame-less glass corner towards the mountain views. A studio is strategically located above the garages facing the open driveway with separate access from the street. This positions the studio within the public domain and helps separate work space from private spaces. The studio achieves an industrial working loft charisma conducive to creative thinking by making use of vast vertical space and useful mezzanine spaces. This is also achieved through the selective use of contrasting industrial finishes such as exposed concrete, exposed brick, plywood and steel. The mono pitched roofs that encompass most of the house create voluminous open spaces making rooms feel larger than reality. The vertical scale of the spaces are kept at a human scale using lower horizontal defining elements such as flat concrete slabs and suspended bulkheads where more intimacy is required such as the balconies, passageways, bathrooms, sleeping areas etc… The exposed laminated rafters and the white tongue and groove ceilings creates a light airy roof plane helping reflect light down into the spaces below. Hanging light fittings were chosen over autonomous downlights due to their ability to fill space and create unique identifiable spaces for each of the rooms in the house. The minimal entrance is defined by a floating entrance canopy growing out from the underside of the covered entrance porch. This light weight steel frame with timber pergola beams within it help constrict the space below and help channel the visitor into the house as well as dapple the harsh northern sun.
The entrance lobby is modelled on a New York style apartment foyer that celebrates the act of entering through the use of an open reception with a focal point at its centre. The entrance lobby is a multi-functional space as well as an entrance lobby. The entrance lobby frames the floating steel and concrete staircase located on axis with the main entrance. The sculptural staircase acts as the lobby’s focal point. The transparent glass wall behind the staircase frames a small outside winter courtyard to be intricately landscaped to bring nature into the house. A private TV room is located just off the entrance lobby with corner windows framing a private courtyard on the western corner of the property.

The processes undertaken during construction. A visual build diary…

The stand is cleared of vegetation and the setting out of the foundations begins

The Foundation excavations are prepared and steel reinforcing is inserted to strengthen the foundations. A soil test is undertaken by an engineer who determines the correct type of foundation to be used for that specific soil condition

Deep foundation excavations for concrete support columns

Steel profiles are erected to act as guides for the building of the brick walls

The foundation walls are built up to the level of the concrete surface bed

The inner face of the foundation walls are waterproofed and lined with a damp proof membrane to protect the outer face of the foundation walls from moisture.

Stormwater and sewer over-head vent pipes are installed

Stormwater pipes are installed in the centre of the concrete columns and will run up vertically to the roof slab above.

The soil below the concrete surface bed is compacted in layers of 300mm’s to ensure a solid platform on to which the concrete floor will be poured.

A damp proof membrane and steel mesh is installed in preparation of the pouring of the concrete surface bed

The conrete surface bed is being poured…. The mass of white electrical conduits will be connected to the main electrical distribution board in the garage

A concrete truck pumps the concrete through a pipe and is poured to form the concrete surface bed

The concrete is leveled off to reach a consistent finish

The walls go up in super-structure

Stormwater and plumbing pipes are extended in the air in order for the brickwork to continue

Stormwater and sewer pipes are capped off to prevent the pipes from being blocked with concrete or building debris

Steel roof ties are installed at the top of the wall to tie the roof rafters down to prevent the roof from being pulled off in high winds.

Steel reinforcing starter bars ready to be extended for the pouring of the concrete columns

Concrete lintels over opening such as the garage are supported to prevent sagging of the beams whilst the structure cures

Hollow core blocks and lintels are put into position in preparation for the pouring of the first floor concrete slab

Blocks and ribs are completed. The deck is ready for the installation of plumbing and electrical conduits

Concrete beams are propped and shuttered in preparation of the pouring of the concrete beams

Props and shutters are put into position

Props remain in position of 21 days after the concrete has been poured to support the slab until it has fully cured

Electrical conduits and steel reinforcing mesh are installed. The slab is poured

The completed concrete slab. The slab will need to be wet for several days to prevent the slab from loosing moisture aiding in the maximum strengthening of the concrete

The following day after the concrete is poured the side shutters are removed in order to inspect the concrete for any errors during the pouring process

The walls on the first floor go up

The site is surrounded by a temporary fence to conceal the site from view and to keep the public out of harms way

The lintels are installed over the long 9m opening. Two lintels are installed one above the other to distribute the loads evenly across the opening

Propping commences for the roof slab

The shuttering for the concrete cantilevers are nearing completion

The roof slab is ready for the pouring of concrete

A silhouette taken at sunset

Steel I-beams to support a concrete mezzanine play area

The walls receive plaster

The roof slab is poured

The slab has cured and the shuttering is removed

With the shuttering removed the cantilevered slabs float effortlessly in space

Galvanized electrical boxes are installed into the slab to provide a space into which the downlights and transformers can be installed. The box’s are sufficiently deep to allow for sufficient air space for the downlights to breathe

The impressive light effect through the ribbon strip windows in the passage

Due to the extent of cutting needed on the site in order to level the slope, a retaining wall is built to protect the neighbours existing boundary wall foundations from being exposed and destabilized

The roof rafters are installed

Pockets in the existing walls are cut out to allow for the rafters to be inserted in order to create support for the roof

Roof purlins are installed perpendicular to the rafters in order for the roof sheeting to be installed

Diagonal concrete beams are poured above the triangular windows

A wide angle perspective of the corner site and how the house dominates the site

The plastering nears completion

The slender structure takes shape

The roof sheeting is installed. Klip lock sheeting is used over conventional sheeting as this avoids the need to puncture the sheeting in order to secure the sheeting to the purlins below. This will help prevent leaks


The soil around the outer perimeter of the house is removed allowing the plaster to run down to the foundation. The portion of wall beneath the soil is then treated with a waterproof paint to protect against any rising damp.


Electrical conduits and galvanised boxes ready for bricking up


The wall mounted Gerberit cistern is installed flush into the 220mm thick brick wall. The mesh covering the cistern creates a rough surface onto which the plaster can adhere. The plaster will cover the cistern completely allowing only the water pipes and soil pipe accessible ready for the installation of the WC pan.


Jam-liner frames line the full extent of the door reveal such that the frame sits flush with the surface of the walls on both sides of the frame. Jam-liners are used when you wish to install an architrave around the perimeter of the door frame. An architrave is the skirting that bends vertically upwards and over the frame


Corner strips are used on all the corners prior to Rhinoliting in order to achieve pristine crisp sharp edges


A silver sisolation is used under the roof sheeting to prevent any possible moisture from entering the house. The roof is insulated with a thermal blanket followed by a polystyrene ceiling board which acts as a ceiling in the traditional sense but is also a highly effective insulator.


A cut-out is made in the roof to allow for the installation of a 13m long skylight


The exterior of the house receives its first coat of plaster primer. Plaster primer is a highly absorbent paint that is absorbed into the plaster to seal the finish of the plaster prior to the application of you final coats.






Aluminium door and window frames are being installed

Kitchen and BIC carcas’s are being installed






















Floor finishes are being installed













Laser cut staircase structure is ready for installation

In-situ concrete driveway is cast. Temporary shuttering is used to define each concrete block

Pre-cast concrete steps are installed














The concrete lining for the swimming pool is underway

Core drilling to allow for the installation of the vertical up-rights for the balustrades

Outside steel work, painting and timber wall cladding is underway

And finally…..After more than a year of building…

The final product….

We have the relevant design experience and the on-site knowledge to bring your dream to fruition. Contact us today for an obligation free proposal. Visit the contact page on our website for our details. www.sergiochinelli.co.za



by SergioChinelli