Give your house back its personality

When making alterations or remodelling your home or apartment, you might want to find out what architectural style it was built in, in order to revive it to its former glory, and give it back its personality while at the same time adding value.

Playing detective

You could play detective to find out your homes architectural style. Check which kinds of materials were used in construction and the methods used — study the wood, plaster and paint for clues.

Also check out the shape of your roof, the placement of your windows, and examine your ceilings, as they might point you in the right direction.


In South Africa there are a number of styles of homes. Some of these styles like Cape Dutch and Cape Malay are unique to South Africa, and are rich in culture and heritage, while others like Victorian and Art deco are more international.

Cape Dutch
ape Dutch buildings are fast becoming valuable monuments, which you should take pride in. Houses in this style have a distinctive and recognisable design, with a prominent feature being the grand, ornately rounded gables. Within the house look for thick walls, stable doors, and square multi-paned windows set low in the wall and often shuttered. Cape Dutch floors were originally made of cow dung and built up in layers over years.

Cape Malay
Cape Malay houses are similar in general architecture to the Cape Dutch. Malay-influenced houses favour flat roofs and central courtyards flanked by block-like wings for bedrooms and kitchens.

The Victorian era lasted 64 years, from 1837 to 1901. A busy building era throughout South Africa, Victorian style encompasses both ‘servant’-cottage terrace houses and free-standing Victorian mansions.

Victorians favoured high ceilings, generous doorways and sash windows. They also enjoyed decorative details such as pressed ceilings, embossed wallpaper, cornices, half-walled strip wood panelling and iron balustrading (or broekie lace). Corrugated iron verandas and decorative balcony tiles were also popular.

Art deco
Art deco was a popular design movement from 1910 until 1939. This movement was, in a sense, an amalgamation of many different styles and movements of the early 20th century, including Constructionism, Cubism, Modernism, Bauhaus, Art Nouveau, and Futurism.

Many early apartments were built during this era and both the houses and flats enjoyed block-like architecture with slightly rounded edges and chevron details.

Art deco homes are characterised by parquet flooring and distinct mint green, candy pink or lemon yellow kitchen and bathroom tiles, often flecked and bordered with black tile details. Balconies were recessed rather than being exterior protrusions and steel windows were favoured over the sash-style.

Cape Vernacular
This is a Victorian rendition of the Cape Dutch style, known as ‘farmyard architecture’. As a style it lacks pretension and it also tries to respect the landscape in which it resides.

This style of home has been heavily favoured on urban outskirts and popular weekend-home investment towns. Rough plaster walls are whitewashed and uneven doors and details are acceptable. Roofs are either corrugated iron or tile but are most authentic in thatch.

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