With care and creativity, an old Garden Route house has been transformed into a family home with a holiday spirit.
The ‘ocean room’ of a Nature’s Valley holiday home, doubling as a second patio, was comprehensively remodeled and opened up to the coastal surrounds. OPPOSITE Raw, stained wooden cladding is a recurring theme throughout the first-floor living area. Much of the furniture, retained from the previous house, was reupholstered in hues evocative of the sea. The light fitting is from Morgan Associates (morganassociates.co.za) and the coffee table is from Weylandts (weylandts.co.za).
The owner didn’t want the kitchen to be open to the living spaces, so a multipurpose counter was installed and is used throughout the day.
The dining area was designed to be distinct from the rest of the living area – but with visual links to it. The table was built by Tinks Milner of Beachyfide in Plettenberg Bay (beachyfide.co.za). The light that hangs above the table was designed by Sarita Sharman (sharman.co.za).
There’s a belt of land between the Indian Ocean and the Tsitsikamma mountains on the Garden Route, bordered by a lagoon, that’s much favoured by city-dwellers needing a tranquil, unspoilt escape. And here, in the heart of Nature’s Valley, open to the forest and the ocean, and the possibilities of long days of leisure, is the holiday home of a Limpopo-based family, who relish its quiet ease and spacious comfort. It wasn’t always so. The house was once a boxy, red-bricked and dated maze, uninviting and cold, with no hint of ‘holiday’ in its mien. But the site on which it stood was gifted with sea and mountain views, and good elevation. The family’s previous holiday home had become impractical – the children had grown up and their needs had changed. A larger, tailor-made space was required, so when this property became available, the family gladly made the move. Because the fundamentals of the house were good, despite its drawbacks, and they were reluctant to disturb the ecology of the area with heavy construction, they decided to work with what was already there.
They called in Kobus Nieuwoudt of Johannesburg-based architectural firm Nieuwoudt Architects, as he had experience with the area’s attributes and constraints, as well as local contractors Neethling Developments. Kobus, in collaboration with partner Elsie, was entrusted with both the design and the interiors – a dual focus that resulted in a seamless whole. Kobus’ brief was threefold: to give the existing house a facelift and improve its flow; to create a home that was unobtrusive and as respectful of its surroundings as possible; and to demolish only what was absolutely necessary. What emerged after eight months of renovation was a veranda home, strongly informed by the ‘constructive simplicity’ of modernism and reflecting the architect’s appreciation of spatial balance. ‘We tried to keep the footprint minimal so that, in the spirit of Nature’s Valley, the house could nestle into the lush vegetation,’ Kobus explains.
‘The house fits well into the streetscape, and importantly, its height does not exceed the surrounding tree canopy.’ Inside, there’s a high central-volume space with flanking canopy roofs leading off the main structure. Exposed trusses were installed (as opposed to a horizontal ceiling) ‘to give additional dimension and interest,’ says Kobus, who wanted to create ‘a deep/secure space’ that referenced the main elements of the environment – forested mountain, lagoon and sea – in the design, as well as the palette. The entire ground floor was retained, and a garage bay (with covered link to the house), a laundry and another bedroom were added. The foyer was enlarged, and the staircase and the existing rooms were modified. The kitchen, accessible from two sides, features a stand-alone multipurpose counter, which forms an eating, living and relaxing ‘space’ in its own right. On one side is the dining and patio area; opposite is the ‘ocean room’, which doubles as a second patio. Four bedrooms share the ground floor, all leading out to the deck. (The master bedroom is on the upper story.) The floor slab upstairs was extended. The interior brick walls were demolished and reconstructed in dry wall. Although it ‘reads’ as one house, each story can be regarded as a separate ‘suite’, if required, each with its own entertainment section and kitchenette. ‘What’s pleased everyone,’ says Kobus, ‘is that the spaces “live” and feel exactly the way they were intended to. The house can comfortably accommodate a number of people, without looking cluttered or feeling crowded.’ And, most importantly, to passers-by and occupants alike, it whispers ‘holiday’.
BIG IDEA #1
One of the ways to make a home comfortable – especially on holiday – is to have an easy-to-maintain bathroom with clean surfaces. The main en-suite bathroom was fussy and impractical, so transforming it was high on the owners’ priority list. Revamping involved a partial resurfacing, clearing of the existing spaces, and installation of new basins, tubs and fittings. The flooring is South African pine, stained and sealed. Pigmentedscreed was laid in all the showers.
BIG IDEA #2
Before the renovation, the cramped staircase was positioned at the front door. It was moved and the trance foyer opened up, to let in natural light and create a central hub’. A further passage was added, leading to the garages. The patch of lawn at the entrance was retained (the decking path is made from imported garapa timber), and the main outdoor area – almost 700m2 of indigenous garden – has been laid out on the opposite, north-facing side.
BIG IDEA #3
on THE ROOF
The facade was softened by fragmenting elements such as the roof and by recessing or cantilevering parts of the upper story. The upper-floor slab was made thicker, with added reinforcement, to ensure structural strength, and to level the flooring throughout and raise it uniformly to the desired height. The new, gently pitched roof has improved insulating properties and lends itself to the easier harvesting of rainwater, which is collected into a storage tank.