A courtyard for all seasons


André and Ronél van Nieuwenhuizen’s courtyard was transformed into a sunny stoep that can be enjoyed come rain or shine!

By Jani Venter

Photographs Elza Roux

When André and Ronél van Nieuwenhuizen of Pretoria decided to exchange their spacious family home for a smaller place six years ago, it was a neglected facebrick house in Waterkloof that caught their eye. They were thrilled with the property – but the family (and even the estate agent!) weren’t that enthusiastic.

The couple saw plenty of potential in the old house. “We wanted a home that suits us perfectly and this place was just right,” says André, a town and regional planner. However, Ronél conceded that the facebrick was an eyesore, so it was soon plastered over. “My father-in-law was very willing to help, although he always joked that we should have just built a new house,” she says.

All year round

The courtyard and stoep is where everyone likes to gather. “We utilise the area all year round; it gives us a lot of pleasure,” says Ronél, referring to their stoep which was completely transformed in just one month. The living and entertainment area is located in the middle of the U-shaped house, with sliding doors leading through to the lounge and kitchen.

The stoep gets lots of sun so it’s warm and cosy in winter. But the family found it way too hot in summer, so they decided to make a few adjustments after the first year.

Initially, they installed transparent polyurethane sheeting over the wooden beams. “But then the stoep really became like a sauna,” recalls André. “We started looking around for remote-controlled canvas awnings, but the prices were excessive – they would also have made the stoep and its adjoining rooms too dark.”

Eventually, they solved the problem with 80% shade cloth draped over cables on top of the roof sheeting and mounted to the adjoining walls. This, combined with an attractive light-wood fan from Sky Fans, quickly solved the heat problem.

The sofa was too big to get through the sliding doors and had to be lifted over the roof. Cushions made by Domus Interiors; glass lantern from @home

A focal wall

The courtyard boasts a small patch of garden that’s not under cover and a beautiful wall fountain that forms a striking focal point – all Ronél’s handiwork. She measured and helped build the fountain and is proud of the neat finish – especially in light of the quote she received from a landscape architect who wanted to charge them R24 000 for the courtyard garden and pond! In the end it cost them only R1 000.

“It was the middle of winter and bitterly cold. I sat here on a camping chair to check that everything was done properly.”

Ronél traced a pencil line around the fountain to mark where the tickey creeper (Ficus pumila) should be trained to grow; these markings still help her to keep the plant in check.

The compact garden is also planted up with Buxus, Westringia, Abelia, maidenhair fern, echeveria, impatiens, pansies, allysum, Erigeron arvinskianus and colourful seasonal plants. “Flowers are symbolic of a celebration,” says Ronél. “So I always like to have blooms and colour on my stoep.”

Ronél wanted the fountain in the lion’s head to spout water properly so her father-in-law came up with a clever solution: they attached an orange spray nozzle from a garden hose to the pipe of the fountain and spray-painted it black. “His clever idea cost us just R3,” she says, smiling. The lion’s head is from Style Decor.

The project

• The facebrick walls were plastered and painted.

• On the northern side of the stoep, where the sofa now stands, a sliding door was removed and the gap closed.

• The wall behind the pond borders a service road so it was raised to add privacy; an electric fence was installed for security.

• Wooden beams were installed along the length of the stoep; 80% shade cloth over the courtyard keeps it cool.

• The floor is finished with large square ceramic tiles in the same colour as those in the house, but with a different texture.

Large cream ceramic tiles from Italtile have been laid on the floor; the same tiles have been used inside the house, but with a textured finish. “We were worried about people slipping," says Ronel.

André and Ronél’s tips for a cosy stoep

• Do your homework and decide on your needs before you redesign living areas; we know what works for us and what doesn’t, so we had a clear vision in mind.

• Don’t let yourself be put off by challenges or negative comments from people. If you see the potential, go for it.

• Choose your finishes so there’s a seamless flow between the interior and exterior.

• Make sure you also have a plan B and C

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April 2023

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