Bramasole, which means "yearning for the sun" in Italian, is the home of architect Robin McIntosh, his wife Melanie, and their two children.
During 2005 the McIntosh family relocated from Polokwane to Gauteng, as Robin had several large projects in the Johannesburg area. The family lasted for 3 months and decided that Gauteng was not for them. It was decided to return to Limpopo, to Magoebaskloof, to a property that had been the family's weekend getaway.
The property was bought in 1997 and consisted of a monstrous 2400sq.m concrete shed beautifully tucked into the very edge of a rain forest. The shed was originally built to house an Angora Rabbit farm, and has also been used as a stable during the mountain's version of the "Rand Hunt".
It took a full 10 years for Robin and his family to finally make the break from the city to venture into a life in the country, after bravely tackling a monstrous renovation which saw the transformation of what could only be considered an eyesore into a home for Robin and his family and a 4 star luxury guesthouse with a difference.
"It takes a great deal of vision or plain stupidity to imagine that this solid mass of concrete could ever be transformed into anything remotely beautiful, and sometimes I think both were required to make this work", says Robin, who got the ball rolling in terms of the design and left the rest to his wife, Melanie, who championed the project as the Project Manager. As a town planner's assistant, Melanie had had little experience in the construction and décor industry, and yet managed to manage this project better than most of the building contractors that Robin works with on a daily basis. Country life has presented its own challenges and getting material in on snotty muddy roads was not fun.
On a very tight budget, the shed was slowly and painstakingly transformed into a home for the McIntosh family, Robin's parents, as well as 8 luxury guestrooms which are tightly tucked up against the forest edge. Situated at the very edge of a lake, Bramasole cuts an imposing figure complete with an indigenous forest halo. The precarious approach along the narrow dam wall adds to the drama of the approach as the full extent of the building reveals itself.
The interior has a surprise of its own, as this fairly simple shed exterior makes way for a luxurious interior with an enormous double volume space bathed in natural sunlight from the skylights. No attempt was made to hide the trusses which form part of this very unusual interior space which is dominated by a central fireplace.
The rooms are themed from regions around the world from the luxurious Paris apartment to the cosy "Delft" room spinning around the world to Venice, Morocco, Egypt, Africa and the east - Jade. The Paris apartment is a luxurious room with views into the forest and over the lake with an open plan lounge/dining/kitchen area and a braai patio. The views into the forest are awesome with trees overhead lapping at the eaves. We tried to be extremely subtle with the décor, avoiding corny memorabilia.
Bramasole has used colour and texture to blend an eclectic mix of antique and modern furniture and décor in the house, as well as the guesthouse. Reclaimed parquet flooring (from the old Schul in Polokwane) has been re-used as wall cladding and counter surfaces giving a warm textured look to most of the rooms.
Robin and Melanie made extensive use of Earthcote flooring and walling products which have also contributed to the distinctly earthy and homely feeling they have achieved in the rooms and public areas of what is essentially a Boutique Guesthouse.