Revamp House #1 - Coastal Cool

From an abandoned, ramshackle shell to an idyllic retreat, this Misty Cliffs coastal abode has taken on a brand new persona.

Greg Cox
Charl Edwards & Storm Ross

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When Greg McFarlane first happened upon this neglected house in Misty Cliffs outside Cape Town, it was a warren of terraces, overgrown creepers and indigenous plants. Having been ravaged by fire and left virtually derelict, it needed a keen eye and creative vision for its true potential to be realised.

‘I’ve been visiting the area for more than a decade – and I consider Misty Cliffs one of my very happy places,’ says Greg. ‘It was while working on a house across the road that this all-but-abandoned property caught my eye.’ 

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An art director by profession, and an architecture and design aficionado by passion, Greg is au fait with buying, renovating and selling properties. A builder who was assisting him on his project at the time mentioned that the property was on the market. ‘I fell in love with the story of the home – you could tell from its design and layout that the previous owners had put a lot of thought into it, but there it stood, devastated by fire and uninhabited. The possibility of breathing new life into it excited me greatly.’ 

He took transfer of the land early in 2019 and immediately set to work on resurrecting the space. ‘Sadly, because the house had fallen foul of vandals and opportunistic thieves, most of the electrics and metal had been stripped. It took me a month to sort that out and get the council to restore water and power,’ he explains. 

Coastal Cool | House and Leisure

Originally the house encompassed one bedroom, a bathroom and an office. ‘I initially bought the building with the romantic notion of living in it, but I knew if I wanted to maximise its resale potential in the future, I would have to incorporate two more bedrooms, and at least one en-suite bathroom,’ he says.

‘There were areas that had to be removed and rebuilt, I had to install a kitchen, and because I subdivided the property, I had to ensure that the two were completely separate and that each erf had its own municipal connections.’

‘Because the house had been reclassified as a ruin, it was a big risk,’ Greg continues. ‘Friends and family thought I was crazy – firstly for wanting to move to Misty Cliffs, and secondly, to tackle such a big project on my own. But I wasn’t discouraged,’ he smiles.  

Coastal Cool | House and LeisureCoastal Cool | House and Leisure

It’s evident that following his heart was the right choice. ‘The entire energy here has shifted. I came at this project with a lot of love and fought hard to remain within the initial concept. I have stayed sympathetic to the indoor-outdoor feeling of the house, both with the indigenous garden and the addition of the kitchen. The small square table has become a beacon for late-night stories and people’s vulnerability.

The courtyard is now used daily to bake pizza or read, with the sound of the ocean softened by the cavernous living space.’ 

Describing his home so poetically, it’s clear that Greg poured his soul into the space. When asked what his favourite spot in the house is, he says, ‘I spend most of my time at the kitchen table – it has become my work desk as well as a place for friends to meet. That, and the courtyard; when the sea is raging on the front deck, the courtyard is enveloped by the mountain and provides a safe, muted space in which to enjoy a book or a cup of tea.’

Coastal Cool | House and Leisure

Both the house design and the interiors were, for the most part, a one-person project. ‘The interiors are a unique collection of furniture, accumulated over time – one or two pieces newly acquired. The idea was to strip back my usual cluttered styling, so that the main focus is the panoramic views.’

As with the house, Greg enjoys breathing new life into forgotten or neglected things, a fact that is evident in unusual yet beautiful objects throughout the space. ‘The art is a collection of pieces I love, some bought directly from artist friends – I get bored very quickly, so it is very important for me to have works that constantly offer up a new story or a different perspective, depending on the day, or the light.’

Moving away from the city was a conscious decision for Greg: ‘I needed space and time to gear up and decide what I wanted the second half of my life to look like. Misty Cliffs has done that for me. Within the wild, tumultuous environment that this coast is known for, I have found serenity, peace and contentment.

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Scarborough beach provides twice-daily grounding and meditation sessions – with an obligatory swim for me and my dogs, Baine and Maya. I love the fact that kids and dogs wander the streets.’

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