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Your home is where you braai: The evolution of SA’s ‘braai room’

19 Sep 2018

The origins of the beloved braai room - or the ‘binnebraai’ - are hard to trace. While it is likely some industrious individuals had been quietly braaiing indoors for centuries, the room only entered mainstream South African life around the 1980s.

While it is likely some industrious individuals had been quietly braaiing indoors for centuries, the room only entered mainstream South African life around the 1980s.

Why then? You may ask. There are a number of theories. One is that the introduction of TV in 1976 spurred the desire to watch the game while ‘kuier-ing’, hence the need for shelter and a safe electrical outlet. Another is face brick - the trend which allowed people to blacken their meat without the fear of blackening their walls. “A third was an important cultural shift: braaiers who chose not to weather the elements for the perfect chop were no longer automatically labelled ‘soft’,” says Crispin Inglis, CEO of PropertyFox.

No matter the origin, the braai room is still very much a thing. Inglis says research conducted by them in 2017 showed that braai rooms add as much as R20 000 to the price South Africans were willing to pay for a home.

In honour of Heritage Day PropertyFox, looks at the evolution of the South African ‘binnebraai’ over the past four decades:

Braai rooms in the 1980s

- The décor

Luxury firmly bowed out to practicality in the early braai room. Most braai rooms were furnished with old lounge furniture, and many sported cane chairs with floral cushions and a speckly-glass-topped coffee table. Walls (and floors) were face brick and adorned with a springbok flag and a sports jersey or two. There may well have been a Mexican figurine sleeping under his sombrero on a table in the corner.

- The hardware

Many braai rooms went without doors or windows, but in order to qualify as a binnebraai, had at least three walls and a solid roof or ‘sinkdak’.

- The food

The usual fare included lamb chops (well done, not free range), boerewors, cheese and onion ‘braaibroodjies’, potato salad, coleslaw, tinned fruit salad and vanilla ice-cream.

- The drinks

Crème soda floats, Lion/Castle/Black Label shandies, brandy and coke.

- The entertainment

For the early adopters, the ‘manne’ might have jointly moved the TV to the braai room for the game (and struggled for hours to find the channel). For the more sensible, Springbok Radio would supply the game commentary.

Braai rooms in the 1990s

- The décor

With braai rooms spreading like wildfire, the 90s saw things getting a bit more pimped - some people even added thatch and called theirs a boma. (Note: many still do.) These were invariably furnished practically, but with purpose-bought seating, often wooden chairs and a table. Bars in the binnebraai, always popular, grew in significance and were decorated with coasters and glasses from seaside holidays and trips to the Currie Cup game in another province.

- The fixtures

Wooden windows and doors, with glass to keep the cold out and the fun in.

- The food

Meat staples remained chops, wors, sosaties and marinated chicken. Salads, though, underwent a great renaissance. For the first time, South Africans discovered that iceberg lettuce was not, in fact, lettuce. Enter Cos, butterhead and summer crisp, and then someone sundried a tomato and our taste-buds came alive. Balsamic vinegar and olive oil unseated mayo during this decade too. However, coleslaw and potato salad were going nowhere - except from Addis plastic containers to crockery bowls.

- The drinks

Beer drinkers had a lot more choice. It was possible to buy a keg of draft to drink at home. And for those who preferred sweet alcohol, the rise of savanna cider and alco-pops had them dancing on the tables by 7pm.

- The entertainment

A nice big hi-fi to play the Bon Jovi, Nirvana and Bles Bridges.

Braai rooms in the 2000s

- The décor

The ‘noughties’ saw the introduction of zones in braai rooms: the lounging zone, the dining zone, the bar zone. Decorators started taking these spaces seriously, and hurricane lamps and soft fabrics introduced some luxury which allowed braaiers to linger longer.

- The fixtures

The stack-away door sparked the ‘Is it a room?’ ‘Is it a patio?’ head scratch. Allowing whole walls to disappear, this door did much to inform the evolution of braai room aesthetics.

- The food

Free-range meat, steaks and whole roasted chickens joined the braai menu, with fancy breads like bruschetta and panini replacing the braaibroodjie for many.

- The drink

Brutal fruits and Heineken delighted the senses, and light beer became acceptable around the braai.

- The entertainment

Enter the flat screen TV and karaoke machine.

Braai rooms in the 2010s

This five bedroom, five-and-a-half bathroom home in Waterkloof, Pretoria, has a lovely patio area with built-in braai. It is on the market for R15 million - click here to view.

- The décor

Architects increasingly started to design houses with the braai room as a core part of the floorplans. Indoor living areas spill gracefully into the binnebraai, with stack-away doors dividing spaces. The aesthetics of many of these rooms have gone from strength to strength, with neutral on-trend walls and soft lighting making them inviting spaces that add real value to a property.

- The fixtures

Frame-free stack-away doors blend the outdoors and indoors even more seamlessly.

- The food

Fillet steak, BBQ smoked ribs and peri peri chicken wings have been joined by veggie patties. Potato salad and slaw remain a constant, but sweet potatoes and red cabbage have spiced them up.

- The drink

In a word, craft: craft beer, craft gin, craft tonic. Pink bubbles and rosé are also having a big moment this decade.

- The entertainment

A bigger flat screen and wireless speakers playing music off your phone. And for the very advanced, Alexa is in charge of tunes at the braai.

- Want more? Check out these homes with fabulous braai rooms:

This four bedroom, three bathroom home in Centurion, Gauteng, offers a large garden, pool and entertainment area with built-in braai. It is selling for R3.16 million - click here to view.

- A three bedroom house in Buhrein for R1.649 million - click here to view.

- A four bedroom house in Blouberg for R2.7 million - click here to view.

- A four bedroom home in Hartbeespoort for R19.2 million - click here to view.

- A four bedroom house in Cape Town for R4.3 million - click here to view.

- A five bedroom home in Centurion for R7.7 million - click here to view.

- A thee bedroom townhouse in Kosmos for R1.4 million - click here to view.

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