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Zen and now

Zen and now

‘My design philosophy is to work from the inside out, with the architecture and people who will be occupying a space, to create homes which are as practical as they are aesthetically pleasing,’ says architectural interior designer Cara Slater-Middlewick of Cara Slater Architectural Design and Decor. The home she shares with her husband Greg and their one-year-old daughter, Isla, on Dunkirk Estate on the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast is a prime example of this belief being put into practice.

She was approached by building contractor Ian McMurchie to assist with the project coordination and planning of the interior spaces of a development. This business relationship transformed into a partnership between Ian and Norman Slater – Cara’s father – to create Saxonwood Luxury Villas, an upmarket 10-unit sectional title development, built by Mac Mac Construction and designed by Metropole Architects. ‘We wanted these homes to be both luxurious and convenient, with every detail geared towards easy living,’ Cara explains.

To achieve this vision, she has ensured that high-end finishes, such as French oak, Hansgrohe taps, balau decking and Caesarstone tops, are simply the finishing touches put to homes that first and foremost are a pleasure to live in. ‘We raised ceiling heights to three metres and doors to 2,4 metres to create a sense of spaciousness, enhanced by lots of glass to bring the outdoors in,’ notes Cara. ‘Expansive, open-plan spaces are wonderful to live in but impractical, unless there is plenty of storage; so each home has a generous scullery and a large courtyard for keeping necessary-but-not-very-attractive items stored out of sight.’



The kitchen’s finishes are luxurious: Cara, who has chosen Caesarstone and French oak, believes that the secret to open-plan living lies in plenty of storage space, and as a result, a generous scullery leads off the kitchen


Mounting the television on a wall flanked by glass doors that can be tucked away completely into recesses in the wall is a smart way of blurring the boundaries between inside and out. The furniture is geared towards comfort as well as style, a must in a family home


Attention to detail, such as these quirky hooks, lends this home personality and interest


In the main bedroom, raw-wood and linen furniture provides texture, while a modern floral fabric for the cushions and minimal white lamps contrast with the classic lines of the headboard, creating a contemporary feel


This thinking extends throughout the Saxonwood homes, each of which has four en-suite bedrooms with at least two-and-a-half cupboards (vented, to ensure they air in this seaside setting) and a walk-in wardrobe in the main bedroom. Small details that make a big difference include a small lip on the shower floors, to prevent doors from touching the bathmat; concealing laundry baskets in the bathroom vanities; and placing plug points within easy reach of the bed.

Using all the available space for living is important to Cara: in her own home, the upstairs landing houses a cosy pyjama lounge and study, instead of being just a dead area. Being eco-aware was also an essential aspect of the process for the team members, who have included in the Saxonwood plans spaces for Jojo water tanks and solar panels.

‘Although the windows are large, we have used the latest EU glass, which assists with insulation and glare,’ adds Cara, who has chosen to live without curtains, to avoid obstructing the view over the adjacent greenbelt (each unit has been thoughtfully designed to ensure the privacy of the homeowner).



The decor in one-year-old Isla’s bedroom will be able to grow along with her


Placing the bath in an alcove surrounded by windows gives the view a starring role. Careful attention to the design and the provision of plenty of storage space make bathing a pleasure


Instead of having an unutilised area on the landing, Cara opened it up to create a pyjama lounge at the top of the stairs, adhering to her philosophy of maximising living spaces in a home. She has chosen to keep furniture neutral and bring in colour and trends through accessories, as with this series of fashionable tropical-foliage fabrics


Timber cladding creates an interesting feature wall while doubling as a headboard in this guest room, one of the home’s four bedrooms, all of which are en suite. A metal trunk makes an appealing bedside table


‘Living close to nature attracted us to Dunkirk,’ she says. Their love of all things organic is evident in the way she and Greg have furnished and decorated their home. ‘I love raw finishes, whether of timber, concrete, silk or steel, and blending classic and contemporary design,’ says Cara, who has kept the larger pieces of furniture neutral, to allow her to bring in trendy elements with accessories, without committing to them for years. ‘I think interiors should be peaceful, with one or two wow elements – such as a statement rug – to create a balance.’

Equally important to the owners, and extending from Cara’s philosophy that people should be the first consideration in terms of the architectural interior design, is the inclusion of sentimental items throughout the home. ‘Our dining room table, from Con Amore, was a wedding gift; and a series of photographs by Lar Rattray depict Cape Vidal where I holidayed as a child, and Malengane, where Greg and I first met,’ she says.

The family spends plenty of time outdoors on the patio, around the swimming pool and at the firepit. Cara notes that another plus of Saxonwood homes is their level gardens. ‘We envisioned this development as one which allows for easy family living and a lock-up-and-go lifestyle, and it is something we are all very proud of,’ she says. ‘My father passed away before it was completed but he certainly has left a legacy at Saxonwood.’



The family spends a lot of time outdoors. All Saxonwood villas have level gardens, an unusual feature in homes in this area. The lounge doors slide away completely to ensure a good flow between indoors and out


In the Zone

Dunkirk Estate in Salt Rock on the KZN North Coast offers residents the best of the bush and beach, with homes nestled among trees in protected greenbelts just two minutes from the seaside. The gated estate has a private beach club with secure parking and a cafe as well as a clubhouse facility that boasts an acclaimed restaurant, Bistro 98, a heated swimming pool, gym and sauna. All residents have unlimited use of these facilities as well as a series of parks and walking trails. Saxonwood Luxury Villas is a 10-home sectional title development within Dunkirk. Each uniquely designed house has four en-suite bedrooms, a study, open-plan living area, scullery, courtyard, double garage, office and pyjama lounge. The houses boast high-end finishes, excellent flow, and ample space both indoors and out setting them apart. For sale direct from developer Cara Slater, 082 495 4388, from R5,999m.



Raw concrete countertops, timber cabinetry and plenty of greenery reflects the family’s love of nature


On the stylish patio, inviting mirrors reflect the garden and ensure that the view is enjoyed from every angle, while geometric patterns on the cushions and vibrant yellow stools are fashionable touches that give the space a contemporary feel


Linking indoors to out works both ways: sliding doors can be tucked into recesses in the wall, while botanical motifs echo the greenery outside


The firepit provides a cosy spot for year-round outdoor living


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Text and production: Candice Botha
Photographs: Lar Rattray


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