Once their children arrived – and with them a growing collection of pets – this professional couple realised they’d need to make some lifestyle changes and so set about building a family-friendly home in a scenic Jo’burg estate

Offering a winning combination of security and picturesque park-like grounds, Waterfall Country Estate reminded the owners of this home of growing up in Bloemfontein where they’d had the freedom to roam around the neighbourhood with their friends.

While this professional couple’s previous house was minimal, modern and compact, they wanted their new home to be easy to live in, warm and well suited to life with young children and an assortment of pets. “We looked for an architect who’d understand that the design needed to function practically for a family,” they explain. They chose Karissa Barnett, not only because she’s a mother herself, but because the houses in her portfolio had pleasing proportions and a good flow.

The owners’ brief was for a family-friendly, country-style home that would be ideal for entertaining and make the most of the estate’s lovely natural scenery. With this in mind, Karissa designed a double-story house that offers north-facing river views from both the bedrooms upstairs and the living areas downstairs.

The ground floor’s open-plan layout gives the family convenient flexibility. The kitchen is centred round a large island where they can enjoy breakfast and also has a dining nook for casual dinners. This area flows out onto the patio, which is perfect for sunny afternoon get-togethers with friends. When a more formal space is required for entertaining, they make use of the dining room which is separated from the living room by recessed French sliding doors.

The generous proportions of these rooms, which have lofty 3,4m-high ceilings, inspired interior designer Amanda Barnett, Karissa’s daughter, to suggest pairing elaborate skirtings with an Art Deco motif with complementary architraves. “More formal elements like these are kept in check by the wonderful warmth of the wooden floors,” she says. “It was important to the owners that the interiors wouldn’t be too traditional, but would reflect the fact that they’re a modern, young family.” Mixing clean-lined and more ornate furnishings and choosing a sophisticated colour palette of naturals and greys, accented by a few walls in a dramatic shade called Bovine, has a resulted in a look that’s pure contemporary country.

octkarrissa10gh octkarrissa11ghoctkarrissa12gh octkarrissa07ghoctkarrissa09gh octkarrissa06gh
“Building and decorating a new house involves a million decisions and a huge amount of time,” reflect the owners, “but the end result is exactly as we envisioned it to be: a beautiful, yet practical home.”


• If you’ve got the space, consider creating areas that will help to keep your home organised. For example, a ‘drop off’ area near the garage that’s fitted with hooks and other storage solutions so your kids can offload their blazers and schoolbags.
• Create an outdoor storage space for towels and lilos near the pool, and a toy store close to your children’s bedrooms.
• Children equate to wear and tear so look at your budget and, where possible, invest in good quality finishes that are comfortable and will wear well.
• Having a family doesn’t mean you have to forfeit style. For example, dark neutral fabrics are a practical choice for hiding spills and stains, but can risk looking dreary. Give them a lift by combining varying textures and adding vibrant scatter cushions here and there.