South African design – Limited edition
Carefully considered and evolved over time, this extraordinary home in Wilderness doubles up as a workspace and home for seven.
A Haven for kids
On any given weekend, ‘Black House’ (a name that has stuck since Trevyn and Julian McGowan chose the distinctive dark shade for their home’s exterior) literally teems with young people. The McGowans’ energetic brood numbers five, ranging in ages from three to 19. ‘But there are always a lot of other kids, too,’ says Trevyn. ‘Most of ours bring a few friends to stay, so over weekends we generally have between 10 and 14 kids at a time. They move through the house like shoals of fish,’ she quips.
Trevyn’s description is apt. With its floor-to- ceiling foldaway glass ‘walls’ and double volume spaces, the home designed by the McGowans merges seamlessly with the ocean. Set high up on a dune, it overlooks 20 kilometres of pristine white beach and a sparkling expanse of sea that dissolves softly into sky at the horizon line. The overall effect is one of transcendent space, light and water – evoking a feeling of being part of, rather than spectator to, the incredible scenery. Although undoubtedly a showstopper – owing to its refined architectural form, generous scale and unique position – this is, first and foremost, a family home.
A Decade-Long Labour of Love
In its current form, Black House has been a decade in the making. Initial renovations began in 2005, after the couple had wound up their affairs in London and dedicated time to understanding the full potential of their new property. Just four-and-a-half hours’ drive from Cape Town and 15 minutes’ away from George, Wilderness is unique in that it offers spectacular views over the ocean as well as lush, green vistas towards the headland, which is threaded by a lagoon and framed by dramatic mountains.
A Home with a Sea View
Like most of the properties along this strip of coast, the house has a south-facing outlook towards the sea. ‘It’s great because we can enjoy stunning sunsets without the direct glare,’ says Trevyn. The north-facing benefits are, however, to the rear of the house. Unlike many of its neighbours, Black House does not turn its back on the mountains. ‘When we were staying in the original cottage, we realised how much of the light and warmth came from the rear,’ recalls Trevyn, ‘and so we opened the house up to the back, and created the garden, which has a really sunny aspect. We also kept the house high on the site, to maximise the back light.’
Needs Evolved with the Family
With their steadily growing family and rapidly expanding global design businesses, the McGowans embarked on a second,even more ambitious, renovation in 2011. Lasting almost a year, it saw the addition of a three-storey glass ‘tower’ and roof garden on the western side of the house – projected out towards the sea – and a rim-flow pool deck that has become a focal point and family hangout. The top level of the new wing accommodates a dramatic living room that offers the experience of being on a ship, while the middle floor houses an expansive, bright office space that opens out onto the pool deck. Lower down on the slope of the dune than the original foundation line, and nestled in the newly landscaped indigenous garden, the ground-level space is a combined gym and en-suite guest bedroom, looking directly into the tumbling surf. In contrast, the roof garden towers over the ocean, boasting truly jaw-dropping views, a Jacuzzi and open fireplace. It has become a favoured spot for everything from sunbathing and sundowners to studying.
Now Spanning Four Levels
The house is divided into a number of zones, where the family can relax, entertain, work, exercise or play – anchored by the central, open-volume, communal family space. ‘The key to this home’s success is that it offers both communal and breakaway spaces,’ says Trevyn. ‘There are various areas that allow people to divide off, but still feel connected. We’ve also created “islands” where we can congregate – like the giant sofas in the main living room, where we all hang out and read together, and the dining- room table, where we enjoy an early family dinner every evening. Julian is a fantastic cook and we really love our home. Our family time is very contained. We work exhaustively, in a very focused way, so when we’re not working we really just enjoy being at home together, without distraction. Home is an amazingly beautiful place.’
Time for New Pastures
After almost 10 years of living in the Black House, the next chapter for the McGowans will be to create a ‘live-work family village’. ‘We’ve designed it already, of course,’ admits Trevyn, ‘and it’s all about teenage children, separate but interconnected buildings, and a new adventure.’ Trevyn anticipates that Black House will not be on the market long. ‘It’s such a welcoming and accommodating space for big groups of people to come together; to enjoy privacy and connectedness, surrounded by incredible beauty,’ she says wistfully. ‘It’s a very, very special place. I hope that this home will always be a linchpin for families’. It certainly has been for the McGowans