Text Kim Chaloner Styling and photographs Henrique Wilding
Passing through the sleepy hollows on the False Bay coast always evokes a sense of holidays happily spent savouring the salty air, the crunch of sand underfoot and a delicious daily snooze. So it’s little wonder a Cape Town couple were taken with the prospect of having a weekend spot here, close to Boulders Beach with its penguin colony and natural swimming pools. When their 14-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, were little, the couple – a property financier and his stay-at-home wife – loved going down to Bossieskraal near Church Haven, where they’d stay at the old Parks Board cottage at the water’s edge.
Fond memories of those carefree days prompted a prolonged search for a place with a similar ambience. They were looking for ‘a Mediterranean coastal feeling, with a lovely view’. And there were rules: it had to be less than an hour’s drive from Constantia, where they live, not too isolated, and, above all, ‘the water shouldn’t be too cold!’
One Sunday the family drove past a ‘derelict’ house that was for sale on Simon’s Town’s Main Road, and retraced their steps for closer inspection. Trying to ignore the ‘carcinogenic asbestos roof calling out to be replaced,’ they pressed on through the front door into a flood of light entering from the overgrown indigenous garden. The jaw-dropping ocean view was the prized focal point of an otherwise convoluted layout of dusty rooms.
Further investigation revealed that it was part of a deceased estate and that its former residents were an artist and a horticulturist (whose parties, the story goes, were legendary). Recognising its potential, the family put in an offer and sealed the deal – which included a dishevelled array of arty contents – the next day. Although various architects they consulted proposed a radical reconfiguration of the house, the owners were consistently drawn back to its original footprint. They were attracted to well-known Cape decorator Salome Gunter, who resolutely believed such drastic action was uncalled-for.
‘I’ve always liked Salome’s beachy French look,’ says the owner’s wife. Salome took one look and recognised the house’s ‘good bones’. ‘This house is play, play, play!’ exclaims Salome, who looked to the Portugal hideaway of Parisian decorator Jacques Grange for inspiration.
‘This is an exquisite site and garden, and, peculiarly, the wind completely misses it. I discussed with the owners their idea of recreating a vintage family home from yesteryear.’ And so, in July 2009, Salome kicked things off by mapping how them Rorke’s Drift pottery, Rabinowitz ceramics and ikebana posters would fit into a well-thought-out weekender. She slipcovered sofas, gave a weathered outdoor bench a slick of primary blue PVA, and assimilated her signature fabrics – candy stripes and painterly florals – throughout.
For an effect that’s not too shabby, Salome injected sophistication with deep-buttoned sofas and headboards, tub chairs edged in shiny black paint, and transparent chairs alongside a worn wooden dining table. The family visits ‘at least once a month, and then on the odd Sunday for a rest on the couch in the reading room where it’s impossible to stay awake,’ says the owner’s wife.
Here life becomes spontaneous, whatever the season. In summer it’s all about snorkelling and kayaking, while in autumn and winter, when it’s ‘especially beautiful’, they place heaters out on the patio, pull blankets over knees, and ‘watch the always-changing sea.’ For its owners, this is a place where ‘life stands still, and there’s always a feeling of freedom’…
Whale Song Cottage is available to rent from Perfect Hideaways, perfecthideaways.co.za.
Decorator Salome Gunter’s must-haves for easy-living holiday style:
- Properly sealed screed floors, covered with loose rugs next to beds and in seating areas. Washable and natural, sheepskin rugs create a lovely mood.
- Wooden decks for outside areas. Great for barefoot living, they absorb heat and glare, and are wonderfully low-maintenance.
- Preshrunk slipcovers for high-traffic seating. Unfussy French hems and patchwork florals have an informal effect.
- Outdoor fabrics with a high light fastness that are water-resistant and mildew-free.
- Lighting designed to create mood – a lamp next to a sofa or bed creates softness and relaxed ambience so essential for holiday living.
- A library with plenty of interesting books on food, travel and art, and a collection of DVDs for inevitable rainy days.
- A relaxed and user-friendly kitchen with open shelves lined with plates and glassware within easy reach. A dishwasher, conveniently situated for fuss-free packing and unpacking, is non-negotiable!
- Simple, open-plan bathrooms with walk-in showers and plenty of wall space for hooks to hang wet towels, bathrobes and clothes.
Salome Gunter Interiors, 021-762-9512.