As more businesses are moving out of the congested and run-down centre of Harare, the surrounding – formerly residential – suburbs are seeing a huge upsurge in the number of homes being converted to office and commercial usage.
Trends Industrial and Pace International have offices in South Africa and in Bulawayo but were needing a base in Harare, so the property in Belgravia seemed a perfect fit for their requirements. They needed extensive office workspaces, as well as admin and meeting spaces, and comfortable accommodation for their staff when they travelled up to Harare for business and meetings. The property in Duthie Road was ideal – although in need of some reworking and renovations to perfectly fit their needs.
The property consisted of a modest three-bedroom family home – solidly built of brick under tile, probably constructed in the 40s or 50s, set on around three-quarters of an acre, in a quiet residential area. In addition, there was an existing two-bedroom cottage, some outbuildings, a swimming pool, and an entertainment area. The garden could provide ample parking space for both staff and clients and the peace and quiet would help to create a conducive working environment. The suburbs offered a welcome, more secure alternative to the city center, plagued by traffic congestion and parking problems.
The site was acquired by the client in 2019 and they then engaged the local architectural firm, Nyambuya, and Associates, to design the renovations and extensions, with Westmoreland Construction as the main contractors for the build.
Westmoreland commissioned local real estate company, Fine and Country Zimbabwe, as project managers to co-ordinate the diverse contributors to the project.
Fine and Country Zimbabwe are an affiliate of the international, award-winning real estate group – Fine and Country – which has over 300 offices across the globe. The Property Development arm of Fine and Country Zimbabwe is a fairly recent advancement in their local portfolio. The property development branch was started in 2016 when Fine and Country recognised a gap in the market for upscale development projects and joined up with the local company, Mainland Development Group. In addition to sales, rentals, and valuations of upmarket, luxury properties Fine and Country now offer an exclusive project management service for discerning clients. The service is particularly useful for Zimbabweans in the diaspora needing a trusted and experienced managerial facility with extensive knowledge of the local property and construction environment.
The clients are based in South Africa and we’re looking for a design aesthetic similar to what they’re accustomed to and in line with international interior design trends. To this end Fine and Country (under the auspices of Senior Property Consultant Karen Nyenga) consulted with South African-based company, Projects 4 Design (P4D), for details of the interior design and décor scheme. Fine and Country, together with P4D, created the overall look and feel of the place from the colour palette to the bathroom and kitchen design. P4D commented, “The interiors on this project were well thought out and made use of a range of different specified materials, with the onus of instilling a sense of balanced contemporary modernity. The spaces evoke a sense of warmth through the use of natural materials, such as wood and stone, and reflect the idea of a poised and modern environment enshrined with both a sense of coziness and comfort.”
Initially the house and garden were nothing special – somewhat dated and lacking in charm or pizazz, and the various structures were not particularly coherent. Fadzai Mangoma, from Nyambuya and Associates, was tasked to redesign and reconfigure the various structures to accommodate the client’s needs. His superlative architectural design is contemporary, stylish, and above all extremely functional, addressing and even surpassing the client’s brief. Mangoma’s design proposal was drawn up very quickly – in about a week – and with very few amendments was approved by the client. Although only around a third of the original structure was retained for the office and accommodation spaces, Mangoma has succeeded in preserving some of the character and spirit of the old house.
The original home has been reimagined by Mangoma to now include the main reception area, the two CEO’s offices, a boardroom, several other admin offices, and a small kitchenette for staff lunches and to cater for corporate functions. In addition, there’s a partially enclosed open-air courtyard behind the reception area, which works as a lightwell, allowing natural light to filter into the offices and can also be used for outdoor functions and events.
Access to the reception from the parking area is framed by an imposing concrete beam and asymmetrical pillar façade, softened by incorporated planters on one side. There’s an entrance portico with a porcelain tiled floor and a slatted steel roof covering. The reception is spacious, light, and uncluttered with a marble-fronted desk set in front of a translucent blind that shields the window looking on to the courtyard. A minimalist frosted glass wall displays the company logos and a dropped bulkhead defines the space.
The exterior of the building has been cladded in raw corten steel sheeting left in its natural, rusted finish. The choice of the exterior cladding was informed in part by the client’s core business of mining and related industries. The cladding also serves to create a modern, simple, boxy look for the older structure, while at the same time helping to conceal external plumbing and services. The steel façade is slightly away from the existing brick walls so the window recesses are quite deep, protecting the interiors from direct sunlight and adding an interesting 3D dimension.
The harsh steel cladding has been partly softened by the inclusion of vertical ‘green’ wall sections. A number of different plant options were tried before finally settling on an artificial plant covering – zero maintenance and long-lasting! The existing tiled roof has been replaced by a more contemporary metal sheet roof utilising the Klip-Lok brand. The new roof is clean and simple, leak and rustproof, easy and quick to install, and on top of that looks great too.
The old cottage has been transformed into a three-bedroomed accommodation option, with luxurious spa-like bedrooms each with en suite bathrooms. Mangoma has designed sliding solid wood barn-like doors between the bedrooms and bathrooms, which are a good space-saving option. The exposed rails on the doors add a touch of a minimalist industrial chic. The bathrooms were designed by P4D to be simple and modern, with glassed in-shower cubicles and large shower rosettes, a free-standing tub, surface mounted basin, and metro-style wall tiles. The bedrooms are also uncluttered, elegant, and spacious – the neutral colours and minimalist décor create a soothing and restful environment.
There’s an open-plan kitchen, dining, and lounge area overlooking the existing pool and the entertainment gazebo. The kitchen contains up-to-date appliances, including both gas and induction hobs, and a washer and drier. The open-plan space includes a small dining area and a lounge area decorated with Italian leather furniture. Most of the furniture – including the soft furnishings, curtains, and blinds – was selected by Mangoma, with some input from the client regarding personal preferences. The result is elegant, sophisticated, and comfortable homey spaces.
The main access to the residential section is through a centre pivot solid meranti door into a small foyer. The foyer also has access to the double garage as well as the hi-tech solar and inverter system, which allows the whole property to run ‘off grid’.
The existing thatched gazebo by the pool has been updated by Mangoma with the addition of bi-fold doors to open up space and a new bar counter with shelves behind. Bar stools, lounge furniture, and outdoor furniture create a relaxed entertainment space. Originally, there was a pool table in the gazebo and Mangoma has re-used the pool table lights, augmented with similar lights over the bar, to create a relaxed, fun ambiance. As the business is very much based on client relationships, the pool gazebo is ideal for entertaining and winning over clients.
There are two additional rooms next to the pool, which is currently used as storerooms but could be converted to additional bedrooms in the future. There’s also accommodation for a live-in groundsman/caretaker.
While the driveway and paved parking area was specified by the architect, the old, neglected garden was brought back to life and updated by Orange Turf Construction and Maintenance, who have retained the older more established trees and added a water feature, new beds, pot plants, and an automated irrigation system
Fine and Country can be contacted at:
20 Maasdorp Avenue, Belgravia, Harare
Nyambuya and Associates can be contacted at:
1 Exe Road, Vainona, Harare
Mobile: 077 891 3477 or 077 243 8370
-text by Michael Nott
-photos by Structure and Design
-additional photos and renders by Nyambuya and Associates