De Wet 34 - Bantry Bay
The site is positioned in the heart of Bantry Bay, on the slopes of Lion’s Head directly overlooking the bay with its beautiful rocks and crashing waves. Views towards the east are of the city lights of Sea Point and Robben Island in the distance.
The key idea was to create as large a one level living space as possible. Quite unusually the Living spaces are situated on the top levels and the Bedrooms and more private functions on the lower levels.
One enters from the street, onto the site which is situated below the road, through a very understated wooden panelled gate. The entire street façade is made up of only 2 materials, rough dark grey shale stone found in the immediate vicinity and American redwood, a sustainable wood, known for its ability to weather naturally to a light greyish colour without any surface applications. One steps through a garden and up to a what appears to be solid wood gate, no fancy handle…nothing…just a buzzer. The gate opens and you enter a magical sculpture courtyard with fever trees, cycads and ground covers (sculpture by Anton Smit- Kungwini Head). Irregular granite stepping stones lead you down to the glass front door slab set in crushed grey stone. As one enters a skew concrete wall with a large frameless plate glass window leads one’s eye directly to a view of Robben Island as well as the courtyard and east face of the Living side of the house. A moment to pause and absorb the dramatic view. To the left is the Entrance gallery, a 60m2 reception foyer that acts as arrival and gallery space. ‘I have always wanted a personal gallery space. In our previous house we had very little wall space so this house is the total opposite, lots of full height glass but also lots of wall space and open space for art and sculpture,’ says Stefan. Part of his collection is a Kevin Brand twisting sculpture called Three Blind Mice, an Eduardo Villa bronze, an Egon Tanya bronze, Girl with Red by Lionel Smit (in photos), a Makoro wooden dugout boat from Central Africa and a fish basket from Namibia. ‘We love collecting things from all our trips overseas. The house will get filled over time to become a bit of a museum and gallery…it will probably take the rest of our lifetime to fill,’ comment Stefan and his wife Carla.
The Reception gallery leads onto the Studio ledge overlooking the courtyard. This is where Carla and the children will do pottery and other creative projects. It is also the perfect place for Carla to watch over the kids playing in the garden below. Over a small bridge to Stefan’s study overlooking the magnificent view of the Atlantic seaboard and through the double volume to the Living room below.
Then past a tree trunk which looks like it is holding up the raw concrete ceiling and down along a long linear roof light to the granite stone staircase leading one to the Living level. The roof light was very carefully placed to line up exactly with the peak of Lion’s Head in the distance. On one side of the staircase is a raw gun metal finished thick steel plate that acts as a balustrade. A protruding shale stone set into the wall houses a welcome candle. ‘I am hoping that the smoke from the candle will eventually stain the wall…I want the house to have a raw and primal quality. I want the imperfections and the life of the house to show and change over time…to get its own patina of life and use’ - Stefan.
The arrival in the Living Room is marked by the subtle change in floor finish from the overall floors which are Neo Sardo granite with a hand hewn soft edge giving it an ancient quality. A Silver Grey veined granite tile from Fuzhou in the North-east part of Fujian Province, China, lines up with the water feature creating a spine running through the house connecting the two wings, the double volume glazed Living sea facing wing on the left west side and the more solid and sculpted L-shaped wing on the east overlooking the courtyard garden. At the end of the water feature is a stepping stone and on it as focal point is a sculpture, Refigure 1, by well-known South African sculptor Anton Smit.
A massive rough-hewn granite boulder (made up of two huge natural boulders and painstakingly torched and chipped to get to the final shape. It weighs 5 tonnes and needed to be brought into position by crane) forms the cocktail Bar at the arrival to the double volume Living area. This space connects to the courtyard garden to the east while also taking advantage of the views over the ocean to the west. This double sided space is then able to have a wind free external space and reduces the heat load from the setting sun in the west by taking advantage of natural ventilation across the area.
This space houses the raw timber Dining table by Pierre Cronje. Chairs are a mix of DC1 Dining Chairs (OKHA) and cheap plastic outdoor chairs, an interim solution. A stainless steel light called the Bird’s Nest (designed by Stefan, Adam Court and made by Rado) hangs in the double volume and commands the space. The Lounge area is simple and understated. White leather Jada couches by OKHA sit around a thick wool carpet, the Ripple Rug (designed by OKHA and made by Rugalia), picking up the dark colours of the sea beyond. A white Volakas marble coffee table on red casters, the Movement coffee table (OKHA), forms the center piece. ‘There are so many raw textures in the house that we felt that the furniture needed to be as neutral as possible. Also with small children, leather is most practical, so the decision was to go with the very simple and clean lines of the Jada Sofa, keep the legs in white and accent it with a random mix of scatter cushions’ says Adam Court of OKHA who worked on the Interiors with Stefan.
The Lounge opens out onto the long Pool terrace, with seating pavilion at the one end and BBQ pavilion at the other. The pool, in a dark grey polyuria finish, to reflect the sky and connect with the ocean colour, runs the full 17 meter width of the building. A shallow play area or beach forms the centre point with a palm island on the one side. ‘This is the one big quirky idea in the house. I wanted to create a bit more foreground and depth to the terrace. Often when you look at the wide expanse of the sea it can appear too flat. I also always dreamed of owning an island so the two came together,’ says Stefan.
Situated around the Courtyard garden are the Kitchen and Family Rooms. An outdoor Boma (African campfire enclosure) is situated in the corner of the Courtyard garden. This is the focal point of summer outdoor living. Many evenings, suppers are prepared on a fire (braaivleis - an Afrikaans word for grilling meat on a fire) and the family sit around casually chatting and eating. A large wild plum tree holds the space in the corner of the garden. Stairs lead down to the Bedroom level below.
The Interiors create an emotional and sensorial journey when moving through the house; the location, the incredible geography and astounding views it provides create drama at every turn. At the same time we wanted the interior to surprise, moving from space to space. We wanted to shift and alter the mood and emphasise the different roles of each zone, from private and secluded areas to generous entertainment spaces.
By utilising a broad base of textures and finishes, the décor feels natural and subtly organic, comfort being of paramount importance at all times; the overall ambiance is one of calm and serenity.
Colour is kept to a bare minimum; the interior works predominantly with a light and shade tonal range, allowing the exterior views, the mountain, the ocean and sky and also the artwork to bring in colour.
The furniture and lighting is predominantly a combination of select designs from the OKHA product range in conjunction with bespoke pieces that were designed specifically for the project. OKHA products are manufactured locally in South Africa and utilize only skilled local artisans and wherever possible locally sourced materials.
The canvas like slabs of pure white wall that mold and delineate the interior spaces also provide a consistent gallery feel throughout; as such art and sculpture played a pivotal role in personalizing the interior and acted as an inspirational interactive catalyst.