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This Durban Home Invites Nature Inside to Mingle with Warm Architectural Touches

Brought to life by Julia Rutherford and Nikhil Tricam, this Salt Rock home focusses on the inherent qualities of its serene appeal

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By Kimberley Schoeman  | February 16, 2024 | Interiors

when a home is surrounded by natural beauty, one can't help but immerse oneself in the tranquillity of the rustling forest and the serenity of the great outdoors. Architect Julia Rutherfoord and multidisciplinary designer Nikhil Tricam are not only friends but great business partners who spoke the same language when it came to collaborating on this Salt Rock project in KwaZulu-Natal.

Taking just over two years to complete from inception, the key aspect was to honour the beauty of the outdoors while still creating an entertaining and warm space indoors. The linear and stark property leaves everything to the imagination from the outset, allowing you to step into a different realm on entry. The sense of calmness that washes over you as you connect to nature offers the most soothing sensation one can experience, allowing you to relax and unwind in a home that grounds you.

The focus of this space also became apparent on Julia's first visit to the area. "The site chosen was incredibly beautiful.

The detailed kitchen island is clad in Kalki Ceramic clay terracotta tiles. Photography Nikhil Tricam.

When we first stepped onto the property, I noticed this enormous sculpture-like tree in the centre of the plot. It became the most important tree in Elaleni and had to be protected, thus, it became the primary spatial informer. We needed to find a way to work around the tree and really do justice in making this natural creation an awe-inspiring sight,' says Julia.

'It was at this point we realised that the architecture is secondary to the context of the space and the forest. We tried to allow the architecture to pay respect to nature, the trees and the forest around it. The way the tree informed the design, was that it chose to keep us on the ground level. We couldn't go any deeper on the site or drop the level of the home because of the roots, and we couldn't build a double or triple storey due to the canopy of the tree. It guided us on how to design the home and the position of the space,' mentions Julia. 'Yeah, exactly,' Nikhil added. 'It informed every single major architectural gesture on that site.

Glass doors open completely to allow a seamless flow into the outdoor area. Photography Nikhil Tricam.

Just to add on, we imagined that courtyard to be experienced as part of the common living area. The clients are entertainers at heart and very social, so compartmentalised living was not ideal for them. We chose to open up the space completely, to have as permeable a façade on all the public areas which allows the canopy of the tree to form another spatial element. When all the glass doors are open, the kitchen, dining and living areas meld into this cohesive space with the tree as the central element. The wooden patio decks penetrate the space and you move across and under the tree as opposed to moving through the house from one space to another.'

The crocodile bench designed by Studio Kalki is styled with an artwork by Ed Suter. Photography Nikhil Tricam.

The use of natural textures and a neutral colour palette helped ease this home to seamlessly integrate into the outdoor space, blurring the lines of what is natural and what is man-made.

"The tree was the primary SPATIAL informer - something that would inform the architecture, the way the house would interact with its surrounding nature ― Julia Rutherfoord

Nikhil explains, 'In terms of the style, the home is contemporary modern with a strong regionalist imperative. It is an architectural structure that relies on materiality and light to form itself as opposed to the shapes of the building and context. We used as many natural materials as possible with most of them being sourced locally. From the stones attained at the local quarry to the locally produced ceramic tiles, the polished flooring and the wooden decks, we were cognisant of the way these natural materials were used to try and be as innovative as possible.'

Architect Julia Rutherfoord with multidisciplinary designer Nikhil Tricam. Photography Nikhil Tricam.

Julia and Nikhil took the best elements and incorporated them into the areas most used by the family. "The kitchen island was a standout feature as this is where the family would convene with friends over a glass of wine. The fireplace was another beautiful space we accented with a brass inlay to acknowledge the warmth of the fire and paired with beautifully green glazed tiles across the entire wall, mentions Nikhil.

A freestanding bathtub alongside the stone wall showcases the outdoor-indoor living area. Photography Nikhil Tricam.

Whether you're in the bedroom or living area, this home allows you to embrace nature at its finest and goes beyond the constructs of where indoor and outdoor begin and end, permitting you to live through both seamlessly. Every design element was carefully considered to create a native sanctuary that this family can call their perfect home.

The outer structure of the home is an alluring mix of textures. Photography Nikhil Tricam.

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