The interior of Niël Stemmet’s home at Die Kelders strikes the perfect balance of light and dark much like the exuberant brushstrokes of a Jan Vermeer painting.
Niël Stemmet, owner of Koncept Design and Architecture, guides us through his own home, which is a reflection of new life and renewal, and an intimate connection to its environment. Anold house in the Overberg coastal village of De Kelders, it’s been restored with sensitivity to its surroundings, as evinced in its décor, with each room a veritable still life.
Q: You carry many titles, including that of ‘curator with an ecofriendly approach’ – what does that actually mean?
A: I do wear many hats–I’m also a writer, guesthouse owner and public speaker. It sounds diverse, but they’re all creatively connected. To me, a curator is one who collects with an experienced eye – over time, with respect for the environment, and in the knowledge that what he or she collects should still be relevant 100 years on.
Q: How did you get your home to blend in with the environment?
A: When building a home it’s vital that you take your neighbours, nature, and the surrounding environment into account. Instead of making a statement, the house and garden should be in harmony – they should tell the same story. The days of showing off, of flaunting how big you can go with accents, columns, and paint techniques, are gone.
Q: What did you retain of the original house?
A: A great deal has remained, albeit in other incarnations. The old vibracrete walls became shelving; sandstone from the pool was used to clad the exterior walls, and the concrete tiles were made on site. The original black slate tiles were used as skirtings, and poles used in laying the concrete flooring were cut up to create a mural of wood.
Q: What natural elements are incorporated?
A: In summer, the house relies on cross – ventilation to stay cool – something I learned from my grandfather. In winter, we keep everything closed, trapping the sun’s heat inside; a large hearth and solar-powered underfloor heating adds extra warmth. The garden is largely indigenous; we use grey water for irrigation and the pool is filled with salt water.