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The evolution of SA’s ‘braai room’

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.

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.

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’.

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.

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.

Braai rooms in the 2010s

- 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.


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