Jane Troughton and Greg Courtney are living their dream. An eight-year journey, sparked by electricity and water shortages in 2007, has finally reached fruition and the couple are enjoying their Gorgeous Green House – a testament to their pioneering spirits and commitment to eco-friendly living.
The couple broke new ground in many ways. After buying a 1940s traditional home in Durban North, they demolished much of it, taking care to recycle, reuse and donate wherever possible. Eco-friendly materials had to be sourced and they were fastidious in their commitment to “living more gently on the planet”.
They hit many a brick wall as they navigated the new SANS (South African National Standards) 10 400 building regulations and had to find builders and suppliers who shared their green philosophy.
Today they are not reliant on the grid, powered by solar energy and harvesting water for household use.
“This is everything we ever dreamed of – and more,” says Jane. “One of the goals in sharing this journey was to change perceptions that ‘going green’ was for hippies living in hobbit houses. We hope we have proved green design has nothing to do with the aesthetics of the house.”
She is right. The green technology is not visible. Solar panels on the roof cannot be seen, rain water is harvested in tanks and used everywhere in the house and then recycled again for watering the garden. Water is heated via a combination of solar and induction geysers.
The house has a cooling flow of air, courtesy of floor-level ventilation, whirligigs and a wide veranda, and the interior finishes made from recycled or repurposed items could be – and will be – featured in any upmarket glossy décor mag. The house has been filmed for a TV documentary, with a couple more in the pipeline.
The kitchen fixtures are of sustainable bamboo and counters made of 60 percent recycled content. Throughout the home, wherever possible, materials from the original house have been repurposed. Furniture from their previous home in La Lucia is now in the new house, some reupholstered.
Recycled plastic has never been more beautiful. The veranda decking has the appearance of wood – it is in fact recycled plastic. Ditto for the carpet in the master bedroom with a soft pile that belies its origins.
The beautiful indigenous garden has a natural pool in which plants filter and oxygenate the water. It has a pump and being chemical-free, is home to fish and frogs, dragonflies and insects, that control unwelcome guests like mosquitoes. The couple, their children, Caitlin and Peter, and friends enjoyed many a swim over the festive season with the assortment of creatures.
The garden is a haven for wildlife and there is a seamless meeting of outdoors and indoors. Two showers – one indoors and one outdoors are in the en suite off the master bedroom, bringing the outdoors indoors.
“We have phenomenal birdlife and it can get really noisy,” says Greg. “We forget that we are living in a city.”
A vegetable garden yields a steady crop for the family’s meals.
There is a beautiful roof garden outside the master bedroom, above the living areas, and the pièce de résistance, the vertical garden that welcomes visitors at the front door.
The home is decorated with Jane’s beautiful mosaics – and now that the house is complete, she plans to indulge this passion to the full.
After all, who could not fail to be creative in this haven of nature and tranquillity?