Text Vicki Sleet Styling Tracy Lee Lynch Photographs Micky Hoyle
Bakoven may well be one of Cape Town’s sexiest little beaches but it has never lost its soul. Back in the early 1900s city residents built ramshackle cottages here, which they would populate over summer weekends and holidays, with families and fishing nets, dogs and beach gear in tow. Right up until the early 1980s, the small settlement of charming beach dwellings remained on the down-at-heel side of delightful. As the shacks were handed down to a new mix of owners, so they were fixed up and an air of gentility descended on Bakoven, the sliver of beach named for the ‘Bak Oond’ – an oven-shaped rock through which sea foam bursts like escaping steam in big-wave weather.
‘The thing about Bakoven is that it’s still very real; it’s a beach that’s much used and lived on,’ says Cathy Smit, owner of a fresh, whitewashed house that couldn’t be any closer to the sand and water. ‘We all know each other – at sunset, everyone sits on their front walls or steps, sharing a bottle of wine and catching up.’
Over the years, Cathy, her husband, Mike, and their three children, along with a parade of family and friends, have enjoyed many a lazy weekend and Sunday-lunch gathering here. The couple bought the property in 1997 and after a series of elemental occurrences, from giant storms to a fire, they were in a position to start afresh. So they turned to Pieter Silberbauer of Rustic Homes, an Elgin-based company that specialises in wooden- and brick-and-mortar mix homes – ideal for a place like Bakoven.
‘We didn’t want an architect-designed showpiece and, in fact, the design of the new space was based on the lovely old proportions of the original house,’ says Cathy. ‘We loved that Pieter celebrated little idiosyncrasies and didn’t try to hide them,’ she adds, referring to the upstairs loft-style rooms that had to fit in the roof line to preserve neighbourhood views. A house that refers back to the first build is the result – simply with more sparkle. ‘We scoured old photographs of the place and recreated the original deck, using boulders from the site to build the beautiful stone wall,’ says Cathy.
A lover of bargain finds, the resourceful Cathy did the interiors herself. ‘A well-known interior designer once came up from the beach and had a look, and his advice has always stuck with me – he said that the painting was outside the window and that whatever happened inside shouldn’t compete with it,’ she recalls. Few things were bought new. Cathy sewed the simple slipcovers for couches and chairs, fashioned side tables out of old wine-barrel lids, used hopsack for curtaining and gave her existing furniture a lick of paint.
The Smits periodically rent out their home to guests, who never fail to enthuse about their stay. ‘We’ve had people from all over the world, accustomed to five-star hotels and all the best things, and they always say what we believe: nothing compares to this lifestyle right on the beach.’
Q&A With Rustic Homes’ Peter Silberbauer
Why are Rustic Homes suitable for the South African climate? We use insulation in both the roof and the walls. If the home is on a suspended foundation or a double storey, as in the case of the Smits’ home, we insulate under the floor as well. The result is a cocoon.
What do you love about this home? The way it tucks so snugly into its surroundings. Its scale is deceptive – it’s a four-bedroomed house with a living area on both levels and a study. Not forgetting the three bathrooms,
kitchen, scullery and the dark room!
Tell us about your building process. We offer a turnkey operation from the initial sketch plan through to final handover. Sometimes clients already have an architect involved, with whom we then team up. We enjoy having a strong input from our clients during the design phase. At our factory we prepare all the components so that, once on site, the project moves swiftly. The main structure is erected and clad in the first three weeks – even in rainy weather, we can keep to schedule.
What environments are best suited to Rustic Homes? Our system is versatile and lends itself to creativity, whether we’re dealing with a straightforward flat site or a home on a mountainside, on a dune or over a dam.
Rustic Homes, rustichomes.co.za
This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of House and Leisure.