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Show House: A House named Veldhuis

Apr 25, 2018 | Beautiful Spaces

For Raymond Smith and Lien Botha, their house in the Overstrand town of Betty’s Bay is their sanctuary

We fell in love with Betty’s Bay twice. The first time was in 2003, when we bought a plot and Raymond designed a house reminiscent of a farmhouse by the sea. The initial idea was to negotiate work and play between Cape Town and Betty’s Bay, but we never reckoned with the way in which this place would settle under our skins. In time, and with Raymond having evolved his architectural philosophy towards design within the broader built environment context, we bought a second piece of land, this time exchanging sea views for a green belt. The building foundation was laid during the winter of 2015. I was the neurotic partner of a man well-seasoned in the trials and tribulations of the design and construction process. Raymond kept the boat afloat, and before Christmas of that year we were able to welcome back creatures who’d found shelter in our previous garden.

Raymond believes a successful building should embody a sense of its purpose, place and tectonics. In this instance, the design drivers were as follows: low maintenance, grid-supported self-reliance in terms of water and energy, wheelchair-friendly, security-wise and within our budget. The house has a quiet, unpretentious aesthetic; it is reminiscent of veldhuise, worker cottages that used to be a feature on the edge of South African towns. Built in the form of two barns, it is anchored on a soil-raft foundation level with the fynbos and parallel to a stream that forms a boundary with Brodie Link Nature Reserve, integrating the structure with the landscape.

The exterior walls have four types of finishes: splatter-dash concrete, Zincalume roof cladding, pine shiplap cladding and red brick. Inside, the clay-brick walls are variously sealed, bagged, painted and washed. The floors are cement concrete and treated South African pine. Light filters through the house like patterns in a kaleidoscope. Our furniture is eclectic – some items we bought, some we swapped and others we inherited. We have a soft spot for odd chairs, like a jacaranda riempie chair carved by an ancestor who was a prisoner of war on the island of St Helena.

The garden is indigenous and water-wise, with species such as agapanthus, aloes and proteas ensuring seasonal food for the birds. The blossoming of the keurbome in the four corners of the garden is heralded by bumblebees and sunbirds. On the east side we have established two greenhouses and in the process discovered that carrots and strawberries thrive in the nutrient-poor, acidic sand.

On a Saturday afternoon, two years since we moved into Veldhuis, as I’m writing this and Raymond is deciphering hieroglyphs in preparation for a conference in Egypt, I look up from the computer screen and see the sandstone cliff face of Voorberg, part of the Kogelberg range. A slight north-westerly wind, our winter wind, is moving through the leaves of a water-berry tree. Birds have already carried the deep-purple fruit to their nests.

Lien Botha is an artist, curator and writer.

Raymond Smith is an architectural and heritage practitioner.


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