Prism Crush

Architect couple Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens reimagined an LA-style mid-century bungalow on Johannesburg’s Westcliff Ridge as a contemporary Googie-inspired fantasy, complemented with the city’s most extravagant views.

Seen from above, the sharp lines and angular geometry of the concrete verandas and swimming pool contrast with the rocky ridge they’re perched on. The organic shape of a table designed by Silvio and Lesley using the roots of a leadwood tree is visible to the left of the wedge-shaped cut-out.

A wedge-shaped cut-out in the concrete of the top veranda reveals the swimming pool below. The two levels are connected with a raw galvanised iron spiral staircase. The covered outdoor lounge area on the lower level features designs by SRLC. The downstairs poolside area also features Panton chairs by Verner Panton, Paola Lenti Float Pool Loungers and a circular lounger by SRLC.


In the main sitting room area, mid-century and 1960s design pieces are set in dialogue with the LA-style late mid-century architecture of the house. Although some walls were removed during the renovation and alternation of the house (showing the zigzag shape of the ceiling to better effect), its footprint remained exactly as it was, which, Silvio points out, accounts for the room’s modest proportions.


The yellow/mustard armchairs are Giselle chairs by Gamma. The rug is from Paco. The leather sofa is by Flexform. The Delicious Light by Clarisse Design is a reference to the tropical landscaping often associated with Googie architecture.

The wall above the fireplace features a geometric motif inspired by enigmatic Italian architect Carlo Scarpa, known for his fusion of Venetian, Japanese and modernist aesthetics. The timber and glass screen between the fireplace and the kitchen was restored to retain the historical layering of finishes in the house. The junction between the original zigzag roof and the concrete slab of the veranda offsets the historical and new aspects of the architecture.  The side table next to the Elda Chair by Joe Columbo is by SRLC with Heino Schmitt for the Jao collection.


Although the open-plan bathroom is kept private from neighbours with a section of that faceted stealth bomber-inspired roof (orange on the inside like a bomber jacket) that seems to reach over the corner and cling to the side of the house, it too has views over Johannesburg. The bath, custom-made from a mouldable acrylic solid surface material, features pleasingly mechanical sanitaryware from the iB Rubinetti Bold collection.


The master bedroom upstairs is housed in the most extravagant architectural gesture of the house – a prismatic, faceted ‘hat’ with a conical skylight that beams in natural light. This Googie-inspired sculptural form is clad and articulated in its interior with blonde oak floors, walls and ceilings creating a kind of envelope for its asymmetrical arrangement of furnishings. Glass sliding doors slide away entirely, letting in the 270-degree view over Johannesburg’s urban forest. Gazing from the bedroom, Silvio points out the birds on the horizon.

Words ― Graham Wood
Photography ― Elsa Young