Clever architectural design took this house from tired and dated to classic and timeless.


Homeowner Jenni Lee was looking for a secure lock-up-and-go house with off-street parking in Newlands, Cape Town. After purchasing a fixer-upper, she enlisted the help of architectural designer Jenny Collins of Red Cat Design to renovate the house. They worked within the existing footprint and kept to a strict budget.



Downstairs, the conservatory was removed and a covered patio built and off-street parking created. Part of the store room was demolished and the remaining space used to enlarge the cloakroom. The wall between the kitchen and dining room was knocked down to create an open-plan space.

The three bedrooms upstairs were made into two larger ones since visitors can be accommodated in the guest room on the ground floor. The upstairs passage, which overlooked the dining room, was closed off to become a dressing room, and the bathroom became an en suite. They also built a balcony along the front of the house. The interior was completely gutted and everything from skirtings to cornices was replaced.

View more of this makeover in our November issue, on shelf now.



1. Be strategic and retain the same footprint to avoid a longer, more expensive route with additional approvals.

2. Avoid moving the plumbing, and don’t replace all windows and doors.

3. Removing floor tiles is labour intensive and expensive. Lay a thin screed over the tiles and install the new flooring over it.

4. In this house, we removed glass bricks, but retained the same size wall openings to avoid having to install lintels.

5. Relatively inexpensive elements can take a look from drab to fab. Consider replacing plain skirting boards with moulded ones and swop flush internal doors for panelled ones. Opt for smooth walls and add plaster mouldings and a coat of paint.

6. Continuity in a small or open-plan space is important. Vinyl flooring can be laid anywhere, so it allows the same finish to flow throughout the house.