South Africa’s Route 62 is something of a road less travelled, a route that winds its way for some 800 kilometres through the mostly arid Klein (little) and Groot (great) Karoo, taking its passengers through placid small towns, ramshackle hamlets and sprawling farmlands.
One of the towns on this iconic thoroughfare is Vanwyksdorp, a typically small settlement and an oasis for the farming families who live on the homesteads surrounding it. It’s close to here, some 25 kilometres away, that Pietro and Amanda Russo found exactly the property that they had been searching for – for five years.
“We love the Little Karoo, Amanda’s family can trace their settler heritage to the region and both her sister and her mother live in the area,” explains Pietro, who is an architect and the designer of his family’s Karoo off-grid escape, a prefabricated pod concept he has named Ecomo, a marriage of the words “eco” and “mobile”.
The property’s prospectus popped up in his inbox one Sunday morning and he “drove here in the pouring rain from Cape Town that same day – and fell in love”. Just a few months later they purchased the plot.
It took the couple a few more months of planning before they set the building wheels in motion. For both Pietro and Amanda, who is an interior designer, accessing the views was imperative to the design of their home and it was essential that they felt at one with their natural surrounds rather than imposing themselves on the environment.
“We walked the plot for months before deciding where to build. Every dimension of the house is based on where we have the best view and quality of the various aspects of the landscape. The orientation, the dam, the mountain peaks, the rock formations and the flora. Even when we cook and wash the dishes, we can see the dam and the Rooiberg mountain pass,” says Pietro, who painstakingly drew up a plan for a space that makes as little impact on the environment as possible.
Each panel of the family’s pod home was constructed off site and included all electrical wiring, waterproofing and insulation. This meant all the panels were delivered at once, minimising the house’s carbon footprint.
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All cooking happens on gas, all appliances are solar-powered and all lighting is LED. Yet despite its eco pedigree and an intentional focus on getting back to basics, there has been no loss in aesthetic quality. The family’s Ecomo pod home is a happy marriage of clean, contemporary lines and warm textures.
The building consists of two adjacent pods, which together create three main living areas – a 50-square-metre central living and kitchen space and the couple’s and their young son Antonio’s bedrooms situated on each side of it. Off the living area is a covered deck – the perfect perch for afternoon naps and midnight stargazing.
Every window acts as a frame for the magnificent surrounds.
“In the spring, it’s incredible. You can see the spring flowers emerge and carpet the landscape, while in the winter months we spend so much time cosied up next to the fire,” says Amanda, who adds that the wealth of birdlife that frequents their garden in spring and summer is a source of great entertainment for the whole family.
The house is specifically designed to let the outside in and in the summer months this proves imperative – temperatures regularly reach 40 degrees Celsius and the open sides allow for much-needed ventilation.
Of the interiors, Amanda explains: “Pietro designed a lot of the furniture himself – he likes a lean-lined aesthetic, while I’m a little more bohemian so we worked hard to marry the two styles. We wanted it to be comfortable, warm and accessible, as well as stay in keeping with the natural tones and hues of the veld, the often moody sky and the Rooiberg mountain pass with its blood-red boulders.”
They have indeed achieved this wish by working with a palette of natural hues and textures. Solid wood, slubby linens and natural tones and textures are visible at every turn and touch, and the effect is at once easy on the eye and welcoming – inviting the visitor to cast off their shoes and sink to the floor to watch a sunset or simply gaze at the beautiful, unspoilt Karoo views.
While there’s no denying the splendid surrounds both inside and out, what this carefully designed residence gives the Russo family is something rather more valuable.
As Amanda says, “Connecting to nature in all its rawness, not being governed by a strict schedule and the abundance of space and silence are all things we look forward to when we come here from the city. But mostly our home gives us time – time to really enjoy each other and reflect on our lives and, of course, the beauty of this magnificent place.”
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Article source: https://www.domain.com.au/living/modern-country-the-offgrid-pod-home-providing-a-welcome-rural-retreat-20180209-h03qna/