South African Beach House

  • On the shores of a lagoon in South Africa’s Plettenberg Bay, this family home has truly earned its title as “The Ark”, providing the perfect break away for a surf-obsessed family. Combining sustainable materials with easy, modern living, it takes the concept of ‘beach shack’ to a whole new level.

    DESIGN Tessa van Schaik & Luke Brown | PHOTOGRAPHY Warren Heath

    Designed by Tessa van Schaik of The Planet Thing alongside architect Luke Brown, the concrete structure was softened and enhanced with timber. Tessa confesses she is passionate about the use of sustainable timber in architecture, and the resulting hunt for material was fruitful, with beautiful Oregan pine discovered at a nearby demolition site, and a combination of South African pine used for the floors and iroco for the balconies. Tessa also used slatted wood elements on the outer facades of the house – in part to meet the brief of a “surfer shack”, but also to infuse the south-facing property with as much light as possible.

    The light-filled space, with peekaboo views of the garden and the seafront as one walks through the house. The stackable wall of glass, which allows in the light and optimises views, dominates the main living area, on the second floor. With the kitchen, sitting area and dining table given equal priority, it a space created to enjoy meals and one another’s company.

    With the family’s day spent indulging in their various passions of SUP (stand up paddling), surfing, taking their boat up river and fishing, meals bring them together. “Instead of inside-outside living, we wanted meals to draw everyone to one place,” says Jan. With the kitchen and barbeque deck behind it, Jan and her husband Mike can be part of the action while cooking meals.

    The design also handled Mike’s single, simple request to “have space to put my surfboards”, while the garage doubles as a kid’s den with bunks flanking the walls, a ping pong table and enough space for friends of Nick (20), Chris (17) and Ali (15) to hang out. Just like name the house has inherited, there’s enough place for everyone and everything.

    This piece originally appeared in est magazine issue 29. Read the entire magazine online here.


    A modern take on the traditional timber seaside abode.

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