Built by Berolsky

A burger king shacks up with a design queen and good taste never looked better

Words: Dylan Muhlenberg | Photographs: Nick Gordon

He's always hands-on with his shops, so you would’ve seen the handiwork of Sascha Berolsky’s shop-fitting at Royale, The Waiting Room, Neighborhood, El Burro, Taqueria, Cabrito and Junior. That's why after buying a fixer-upper just a five-minute drive from the rest of his empire, Sascha was well-versed in construction and could apply everything he’d learned to his own home.

Dating back to 1932, the house hadn’t been inhabited in years, and renting the place across the road, Sascha led a ten-man team to complete the renovation in a record three months. Not that there was another option.

“We set a deadline that we couldn’t extend because we’d already sent out invites for our Christmas party months before,” explains Sascha. “We moved in on Christmas Eve and had 20 people around for lunch the next day. It was horrible. Nina was nine months pregnant and I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

There’s an undeniable sense of calm now, even with a pair of boisterous boys hell-bent on disrupting that. The young couple’s solution is simple – don’t keep anything on the bottom shelves, don’t be precious about your things and always allow kids to be kids. What they’re rather strict on is style, and staying true to the original footprint of the house, Sascha’s opened it up by getting rid of boxy rooms and incorporating all the little outhouses to create the type of free-flowing home that modern living demands.

“A house is always a work in progress – there’s always something to do, and as more money comes in we’ll get around to doing more,” explains Sascha, whose biannual snowboarding and surf trips overseas are on the back burner indefinitely.

And although Nina’s decor style of choice is of a much older vintage than the mid-century pieces with which Sascha’s filled their house, she’s in charge of all soft furnishings and has the wallpaper that she designed hanging in the entrance hall and her cushions and pillows scattered throughout. There are also swatches of fabric temporarily hanging up in the lounge, which will form part of an upcoming range from Room 13, her design studio. For over a decade now, the studio has specialised in corporate identities, logos and design work for clients that include Spier and Ellerman House, with homeware being the next iteration of the business under Nina's creative direction.

“We recently sold our offices and downscaled, after deciding to simplify our lives,” says Nina. “Working from home is a relatively new arrangement. The perks are that I don’t have to wake up early or search for parking anymore. And I can even work in my pyjamas all day if I want to. I get to fetch the kids in the afternoon and we all have lunch together. After they’ve had a little bit of me they tend to leave me alone for the rest of the afternoon. Although sometimes I’ll look up from my desk and one of them will be standing there, asking to print a picture of a Ferrari. It’s so adorable, you can’t say no.”

Room 13’s new office space used to be a dumping ground of sorts, and besides Sascha’s quiver of surfboards neatly stacked at the entrance, it’s the perfect space for the company Nina runs with her sister, and is filled with reference books and magazines and swatches of fabric and comfy couches and plenty of storage and all the other things crucial to their business. Nina feels that the actual office section where their desks are is quite small, but that that doesn’t matter once everyone is sitting behind her big Mac.

Several tricks have been employed to make the house as green as possible: there’s an attractive living roof at the back of the house, which Sascha made himself using crates and succulents; a grey water system that feeds runoff water from the bathrooms and kitchen into the garden; and then there’s a waste-fueled free-standing fire-place in the lounge that can be set on a timer so that the house is warm by the time the family wakes up – perfect for chilly mornings. There’s even an eco swimming pool.

“With this pool you just sweep it once a week and throw in the Kreepy now and again when there’s some plant sediment. If you don’t mind swimming in that then you could just leave it because it cleans itself. You can actually drink this water. And it’s much better for your skin because there’s no chlorine or chemicals. It also attracts more bird life. And way more dragonflies. We love it – the water runs through the plants on the side and on the wall and then that acts as a filter.”

Sascha’s mom, who his kids call “Vovo”, is at the house today visiting the oldest Berolsky boy who lives in the flatlet downstairs. Dina’s responsible for the greenery that has added to the abovementioned eateries successes, and her green-thumb is evident here too, bringing in all of the houseplants and doing all the landscaping. Sascha inherited both his love of plants and his business acumen from his mom. 

“My parents didn’t go to varsity. They were entrepreneurs that did Hillbrow Records and CD Warehouse, and because of that I was selling Chinese noodles in school before people even knew what 2-Minute noodles were. Instead of taking clothes back to school I’d fill my bags with noodles, buying for 50c and selling for R5. Since back then I wanted to get into restaurants.”

Having worked in a pork pie factory in Lincolnshire, then a turkey factory where she had to chop off the top right wing of a never-ending conveyor belt of dead birds, Nina’s entrepreneurial but not so hot on the food business, preferring to immerse herself in beautiful things. She's relegated Sascha’s eBoy prints to his game room, and decorating their home with the art that they’d collected from before they lived together, which includes work by Olaf Hajek, Marsi van der Heuvel, Lauren Fowler, Lorraine Loots, Lyndi Sales, Paul Senyol, Warren Lewis and work snapped up at the Michaela’s end of year exhibition, all of which hangs harmoniously throughout the house.

Other noteworthy pieces are by James Mudge, Gregor Jenkin and Pedersen + Lennard, along with Sascha’s mid-century finds and the clusters Nina assembles using trinkets and some of the pieces she inherited from her dad. The house is also practical. For example, it has a drain in the middle of the bathroom floor. 

“Dude, if it wasn’t for that it would be underwater here most of the time. They sit with buckets and just pour the water out. These boys are hectic.”

We escape to Sascha’s place of solace, a games room he claimed in what would’ve been wasted space between roof and ceiling. Adding a mezzanine level accessed by a ship ladder, where the bottom two steps have been blocked so that the kids can’t climb up here, makes for a safe space where Sascha’s able to play Fifa uninterupted. Most of the time...

“I never come up here, clearly, because look at that mess. This looks terrible Sash, seriously, can I not clear some stuff away before they take photographs?”

We don't take any photos. 

Although their styles are somewhat opposite, the opposing forces that live here have culminated in an attractive home. A highly creative couple at the top of their respective games, Sascha and Nina have made a space that’s true to the original integrity of the building they inherited, as well as to them as people. It’s a lived-in space that’s perfect for a family that’s big on living.