Rock Star Beach House
There is something about the idea of a beach house that tugs at the soul. And perhaps there is nowhere more poetic than the Western Cape’s coastline with its startling beauty: rugged mountains, dramatic seas and beaches of such wilderness that you imagine they have always been there, since the beginning of time.
Driving along the winding coastal road, you see the house long before you reach it. While comfortable in its nature-reserve surroundings, there is an undeniable James Bond wow factor. Set on its own north-facing peninsula among the dunes of the small village of Rooi Els, this marvel of design takes the beach-house genre to new territories.
Park inside the garage set under the dunes, walk across the giant, floating granite slabs and your anticipation mounts until you’re standing at the entrance, astounded. Glass on all four sides, with automated shutters that close at the touch of a keypad – the entire house opens up onto the deck. The surrounding landscape isn’t a separate element but becomes part of the house: an expanse of sky, the sea stretching into the distance, with the mountains standing firm beside you and hazily sketched on the horizon.
Architect George Elphick and the owner, friends for many years, had big ideas right from the get-go. And like all great ideas, theirs came to life over a good lunch. Armed with a pen and a paper napkin, they drew up a sketch that was just the beginning of a four-year project. ‘We wanted to create a building that captured a unique holiday experience, embracing its remarkable location,’ says Elphick.
Mission accomplished; this house is certainly unique. Looking out across the kaleidoscopic waters of False Bay, with not a neighbour in sight, the property is flanked by the ocean on three sides. It’s not unusual during whale season to see Southern Right whales from both sides of the house.
In all elements of the design, simplicity is king. Maintaining a minimal environmental footprint was a key consideration. ‘That’s why the house floats above the site rather than being embedded in it,’ notes its architect. He’s right; there is an airiness to the design. Not a single brick was used, and the steel structure – an unusual choice for a beach house – was chosen to ‘generate lightness’.
The simple interiors – ash wood, plenty of glass, screed floors – are the perfect partner for the setting. After all, with this kind of beauty on your doorstep why have any distractions?
The entertainment room, wine cellar, gym and sauna are all placed downstairs; upstairs there are no diversions. It’s the ultimate, Zenlike space for summer downtime. ‘Engaging in this level of minimalism is not usual with clients,’ admits Elphick.
Like a character from sci-fi flick The Matrix, the interior has space-altering powers. The owner, who spent a year studying architecture, lived in Japan and was inspired by the modular design of tatami mats and shoji screens that enable spaces to be linked and separated. One moment the entire house is an extended open space; the next, screens slide forward to break up the room into separate sections of living area and four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom.
Thanks to the ‘slender banana’ design of the roof, Hangklip Mountain is visible from any interior space. ‘That’s why the roof is shaped like that,’ says Elphick. ‘It’s lifting its “skirt” towards the mountains.’ The design pièce de résistance is the automated shutters that wrap around the house. They swing up to a 90-degree angle, offering shade and uninterrupted views; when down, they lock to provide security – meaning you can lie in bed with all the doors open, feel the sea breeze, listen to the waves and be secure at the same time.
Elphick’s favourite part of the design is the intangible. ‘It’s the space rather than the thing,’ he explains. ‘When the building is completely open and all the screens are hidden away – that for me is the tour de force of the design.’
He admits that it could be difficult to live in a building with this level of openness full time but this home is not for day-to-day life. ‘It’s geared around the vision of a beautiful hot Cape summer with everything open and naturally ventilated. Then it’s like sitting underneath an umbrella on the beach.’ For those magical summer days, it’s a truly remarkable single-space beach house.
Due to its nature reserve location, the house was intended to be a gentle presence rather than a grand statement. Steel – an unusual choice for a beach house – was used for the main structure, one of the reasons being that the building has large cantilevered decks and needed a very light roof. To protect the steel from the elements (this isn’t called the Cape of Storms for nothing) a unique galvanising and coating technique was used – the first time ever attempted in South Africa. ‘It was a risk but it paid off!’ says the architect
The deck is a dreamy place to lie back and soak up the in-your-face grandeur of the natural surroundings. The colour palette of the house reflects the natural tones of the nature reserve – a man-made extension of the landscape
The main bedroom and bathroom: a combination of glass, ash wood and ocean views. Apart from the sanitaryware, everything in the house is bespoke. The bathrooms are automated and run off a specific keypad: there are no taps or light switches and the loo has automatic lights
To view this property online, visit the Acquire Africa website on acquireafrica.com. Asking price is R60 million.