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nautical home

An old naval cottage in Simon’s Town

Text Catherine Kowalski Styling Kate Boswell Photographs Warren Heath

Despite being only 40 kilometres outside of Cape Town, Simon’s Town feels a world away. Locals here boast a beach full of penguins as neighbours; ice-cream toting visitors pay their respects to a statue of Able Seaman Just Nuisance, the only dog to have been enlisted in the Royal Navy; and shops wear names such as At Ease Books and Stationery, a fond reference to the town’s naval heritage. Unsurprisingly, Simon’s Town is a popular location for holiday homes.

One couple to have made this spot their weekend getaway is Australian Anthony Meyer, a spatial designer, and Englishman Brian Rodford, who helps run the charitable organisation Chain Foundation Uganda. The pair first moved to South Africa eight years ago. ‘We had a rule that we’d never go to the same place twice,’ explains Anthony. ‘After our fourth visit to SA we realised we should move here.’ While living in Constantia they spotted the 1910 naval cottage in Simon’s Town, part of a quaint terrace, ‘on a misty night out visiting friends two years ago,’ explains Anthony. They immediately saw the space’s potential. ‘We wanted an easy home, with unobstructed views, that we could use on weekends,’ he says.

With the purchase completed they set about opening up poky rooms and passages and raising doorways to 2.7 metres using the original moulded architraves to help retain a sense of provenance. ‘The best thing about this house is the Victorian volumes enhanced by its modern light atmosphere,’ says Brian. Now Nina Simone or Kühnel’s Viola da Gamba Sonatas & Partitas, which form the soundtrack to a perfect weekend for Anthony and Brian, can easily be heard from the living room that faces the ocean, throughout the central kitchen and dining area, out onto the courtyard and all the way to the main bedroom at the back of the house.

While open and airy the space may be, exposed it isn’t. The heart of the home is the central decked courtyard; surrounded on all sides this spot is private enough for an outdoor shower, yet still receives plenty of sunshine, which is allowed into the home through large glass doors – even the bath enjoys a slice, placed as it is in front of a tall window.

And when it comes to the decor and finishes, Anthony and Brian have got the style-comfort ratio perfectly balanced. All lights are connected to a computerised system – one button switches on all the lamps and immediately sets the mood of the space. French wallpaper dresses the walls of the living

room, which is also home to one of the cottage’s four original fireplaces, while Hans Wegner’s Wishbone chairs gather around the kitchen table. Clever joinery designed to look like a sideboard conceals under counter grocery cupboards, a dishwasher and a fridge, masking the domestic realities of the kitchen, allowing this area to blend seamlessly with the surrounding living space.

Weekends here are all about relaxing and recharging. The couple’s dogs – Sally, a border collie, Michael, ‘an Obs special’, and Lucy, a pug cross – are always on the guest list. And while quieter weekends may mean the only visitors are the occasional foraging baboons, the downstairs guest bedroom, with its original exposed beams, makes hosting friends an easy, and regular, affair.

As perfectly suited to their lives as it is, it’s hard to believe that this 100-year-old cottage on the southernmost tip of Africa was a chance find by an Australian and an Englishman.

 

Anthony and Brian’s Home Truths

I like Simon’s Town because it has a working harbour which brings its own unique beauty yet it remains tranquil (Brian); of its historical quaintness and neighbourly vibe (Anthony).

My favourite place in Simon’s Town is the beach in the early evening for running the dogs (Anthony).

For me, summer is about long home-cooked suppers with friends on warm evenings (Brian); early-morning light, and ice-cold beers at the end of the day (Anthony).

My best thing about this house is its great volume, tranquillity and beautiful views (Anthony).

On Sundays I love to go to early mass and enjoy a lazy breakfast followed by a long local walk with the dogs (Brian).

One useful piece of advice I was given was, secure your bins from our beautiful local baboons (Brian).

My aesthetic is informed by Anthony’s vast collection of international style and design magazines (Brian); international travel (Anthony).

My definition of style is obvious though understated quality (Brian); simplicity and honest quality whether modern or more traditional (Anthony).

The shop I love the most is Neal’s Yard Dairy in Soho, London (Brian); Hahn in Amsterdam for exquisite ceramics (Anthony).

Best thing about summer is no more relentless rain (Brian).

The most exciting project I’ve worked on was a concept store in Shaftesbury Avenue in London’s West End (Brian); the sympathetic modernisation of a 17th-century canal house in Amsterdam (Anthony).

My pet design hate is dead animals or their parts adorning walls and floors (Brian); cold, stark lighting (Anthony).

 

This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of House and Leisure.