An airy haven along South Africa's rugged west coast offers simple lessons on making the most of a wild and wonderful view.
Alma Viviers; Produced by Sven Alberding
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"There is a wildness to this part of South Africa—it's a very special place, where you get the sense that there is plenty of adventure to be had," says Rob McClelland of the country's craggy west coast. It was along this shoreline, in an area called Grotto Bay about 45 minutes north of Cape Town, that he and his wife, Gina, scoped out a sandy lot for their family's vacation home. They knew the surfing would be good because the offshore winds (those blowing across land toward the water) are prevalent. And because the property is situated on a small inlet, it came with a rare opportunity to orient a home to the north—without compromising sea and sunset views.
"In the southern hemisphere, this means you get good light without the severe heat of an east-west orientation," explains Rob. To take best advantage of the extraordinary lot, the film and production company executive sketched a clapboard-clad house with wings that would progressively recede, allowing even more light to filter through the interiors. What's more, the design broadened the family's views of the sea and brush-covered dunes.
Continuity with the environment drove every element of the plans, from the sloping, lagoon-like pool that appears to merge with the ocean to a sunlit kitchen open to the outdoors on both sides. Here, Rob and Gina share more of their ideas for building a vacation home with a seamless connection to both land and sea.
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Listen to the Landscape
In the living room, foldaway doors turn the view of the South Atlantic into a fourth wall. To keep the focus on the environment, the owners opted for a neutral palette and organic materials inside: White cotton upholstery and a textural sheepskin mingle with low leather-and-wood bucket chairs and a raffia-fringe pillow. A fireplace with a mantel crafted of African wooden mortars (and topped with a collection of seashells) turns the open-air room into a cozy hideaway in the winter.
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Let In Light and Fresh Air
A vaulted ceiling in the great room rises two stories, ushering in ocean light via three lofty windows. Rob had the majority of the kitchen appliances installed in a small alcove to leave the upper half of the space open to a view of the flowering brush, or fynbos (shrubs native to the dunes of the western Cape). Shuttered folding doors separate the kitchen from an outdoor barbecue area.
In the open dining area, distressed ladder-back chairs with woven seats add a hint of charming grit, strengthening the room's connection to the landscape. To highlight the beauty of the natural textures, Gina and Rob painted the walls, ceiling, and floors the same crisp shade of white for a light, bright canvas.
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Add Counter Service
An outdoor kitchen counter on the inland side of the home is a favorite spot for morning coffee, and gives a prime view of the ocean without the glare of the afternoon sun later in the day. The hinged glass doors and counter stools are clad in aluminum.
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Create Natural AC
The master suite is located in the gabled wing closest to the sea, where a pair of disappearing walls welcomes in breezes from ocean and land. The four-poster bed is crafted of salvaged wood and designed to appear as if it washed ashore.
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Gives Baths Breathing Room
Rather than tucking the deep soaking tub behind a bathroom wall, Rob situated it in a corner of the master bedroom and adjacent to the deck, allowing for warm sea breezes during a soak. Rough-woven linen draperies frame the view without blocking it.
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Build A Free-Form Pool
To mirror the unstructured beauty of the wild surroundings, Rob dreamed up the idea for a meandering, lagoon-like pool. "When I explained the concept to the pool people, they just gave me a blank stare," he recalls. He designed a steel frame that would reach from the edge of the master deck to the kitchen, and created the slope with poured concrete. The balau deck sits nearly flush with both the concrete and the interior flooring to make smooth transitions between indoors and out.