I first saw artists Ronel and Gerhard Human’s inspiring home when I dropped my boys off for a playdate late last year. Both living and working space, it is filled with curated items, vintage furniture, heirlooms, and lots and lots of art. There is so much personality in this house that I asked Ronel if I could photograph it and do a home tour, to which she graciously agreed. Here’s the story of the family home that they share with their two young boys and two dachshunds.
How long have you lived here?
We bought the house two years ago. The character and the high ceilings quickly sealed the deal for us. We moved to Paarl from Simon’s Town where we had a much smaller place, so the size and flow of the house were amazing. The quality of the construction of the house was another plus: the old houses were still built with such attention to detail. The window frames, doorjambs, ceiling details, everything is made from good, solid materials. Modern homes are built with speed in mind; these were still built without rushing to complete the job, with quality being a priority.
The amazing thing about these old homes is that they have been constructed with the elements in mind. The layout allows for a cross-breeze to cool things down in summer, while the warm heat raises up to the ceiling. And in winter, the rooms can close to contain the heat, so the natural temperature control in the house is excellent.
Have you done a lot of renovations since you bought the house?
Overall the house was in great condition, but the colours were not us – everything was cream, so we had to paint a lot. I believe that you truly own a place only once you’ve painted; that’s when it starts to feel like your own. Paint makes such a huge difference! At first, we tried to paint ourselves, but the walls are so high that we only painted one wall each and then decided to get help! We also took the carpets out and found fantastic wooden floors underneath.
The renovation is a gradual process. We do what we can on a budget, and paint is the one thing that makes the most significant difference.
What other changes are you planning?
There are things that I would have liked to have done quicker, like breaking down the wall in the kitchen. I want to add French doors between the living room and the kitchen and add some pendants above the kitchen table. I also want to install a gas stove at some point. But for now, we love the kitchen. I especially love the charcoal walls in the kitchen (Spookwind from Midas). It creates such a beautiful background for the white and green tones. The previous owner’s wife wanted to rip out the cabinets and redo it, but thankfully they ended up not doing it. So these are still the original cabinets installed in the 60’s.
We like things that are handmade, that have been passed down, and that has a story. And vintage items, quality things that have been well made.
What are your favourite items in your home?
There are a lot of special art pieces, things that Gerhard made for me. Many of our paintings were also given to us by artist friends, and these are not replaceable. Our carpets are also very special to us. I love a beautiful handmade rug on a wooden floor.
What are must-haves in your home?
I can’t imagine my home without art or plants. Plants are so important; they give life to a space. Gerhard has green fingers; he cultivated the potted Yellow Wood in the kitchen from a small seedling.
What was the biggest challenge that you faced in this house?
The biggest challenge in this house was the studio. It used to be a stoep that was closed in the 50’s or 60’s. They covered the floor with Novilon and painted the walls in blue! The light in there is incredible, so it was the perfect space for my work. There is also another room adjacent that we are using for our graphic design work. We painted the walls and lifted the vinyl to have a cement floor put in. Once we started the work, the renovators made such a mess that it took the fun out of the project. There were a lot of mistakes and things that had to be fixed afterwards. But now it’s a great space. We spend most of our time as a family in the kitchen or the living room, and the kids also spend time with me in my studio, drawing or colouring.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to create a similar look?
Everyone has a unique taste in art and things that they like, and it’s important that your home shows that. We love to support local artisans instead of buying mass-produced. We love unique handmade items, something with a story and history and something that has meaning. I also prefer natural fibres and raw materials. In that way, it’s sustainable as well. Decorating your home is a personal thing because it’s your personal space.