The house, a summer retreat for a family living in London, sits along the Kromme River estuary that flows into the warm Indian Ocean in South Africa. The long and narrow site—a little shy of an acre—stretches from the street to the river.
The original house was demolished to make way for a new house positioned at the rear of the site, with a vehicular graveled courtyard enclosed behind low walls facing the street. The thatch roofs and curved bagged walls are contemporary in a manner yet reminiscent of the original St Francis Bay bungalows, a combination of fisherman’s cottage and Cape farm architecture. Architectural guidelines mandated the clean white walls and pitched in thatch or slate.
The house consists of single storey “barn-like” forms placed in a series of configurations to create “little ”—a local term for farm courtyards—which, in turn, create varying degrees of shelter and privacy. Each “barn” serves a different function: the first is a service wing housing a garage and kitchen, two are for outdoor entertainment, one for the living and dining spaces and two are for sleeping. The courtyards in between have been planted with indigenous grasses, shrubs, and trees to reintroduce the presence of the nearby coastal thicket.
Where the house opens to the outside, the large thatch roofs are supported on a series of over-scaled eucalyptus columns; these pavilions can open entirely by sliding the glass doors and timber shutters aside into concealed cavities. When all are open, the structures feel like a series of thatched pavilions that allow the seamless free flow of movement from inside to out and allows for uninterrupted transition from one courtyard through the house, to the next.
The children’s bedrooms open up onto the entrance courtyard providing a safe and sheltered area in which to play. Two of the bedrooms have sleep lofts as does the playroom, and along with the window seats in the bedrooms, provide guests with additional sleeping space.
The elevated living room terrace features generous outdoor sitting spaces and is flanked on one side by the main bedroom wing and on the other by the swimming pool. The pool with its long, low, white walls is reminiscent of an old reservoir and is surrounded by indigenous dune forest vegetation. From the poolside deck, timber boardwalks meander through the garden, leading down to a little beach in front of the river.
That said, I love the whimsy of the house, and the openness, and of course that pool and garden area. The cats would have a field day …