Text Deborah Louw Styling Kate Boswell Photographs Anton Robert
Sometimes a house fits so seamlessly into its environment – so authentically reflecting its colours, textures and mood – that it quite simply couldn’t be located anywhere else. This is the feeling created by the West Coast holiday home of Cape Town-based Pedro and Renée De Sambento, designed not only to melt into its surroundings but also to mirror the quiet, astringent beauty of this particular reach of coastline.
What the couple had in mind several years ago when they began scouring the Western Cape for a weekend spot was a tranquil place where they could relax, far (in atmosphere rather than distance) from their demanding city lives. A wrong turn led them into the seclusion of Dwarskersbos and a ‘For Sale’ sign on a plot at the end of a track. By the following day their impulsive offer had been accepted and work on the house began. ‘We had no idea what it would entail,’ says Pedro. Apart from building restrictions governing permissible materials and paint treatments, there were questions of height, levels and density. Pedro was keen for the house to be as eco-friendly as possible and to make the most of its north-easterly orientation and uninterrupted sea views. And so the couple enlisted the help of architect Marco Bezzoli, whose thoughtful contribution was crucial to the evolution of what was a complex project, and builder Willie Liebenberg.
The finished product, with its look of casual comfort, belies the amount of passion and effort involved. The accommodation is generous but simple: an open-plan living area (comprising lounge and kitchen) occupies most of the ground floor, which is shared by the master bedroom suite. A staircase leads to two en-suite bedrooms on the upper floor. There’s a swimming pool and – for long summer days and relaxed entertaining – a huge deck. The house is snug in winter, thanks to solar-powered underfloor heating, and idyllic in summer. ‘And the sunsets over the ocean are breathtaking,’ says Renée.
The furniture and accessories are a harmonious mix of locally sourced and imported pieces. Offsetting the Cemcrete flooring throughout are plentiful timber features that echo the driftwood on the shore: currywood, giant slabs of Namibian oak given to Pedro by a friend who found them in a warehouse where they’d languished for some 80 years, myrtle trees from Sedgefield… Most of the large wooden items – the kitchen counter, the balustrades, the massive oak dining table on the deck – were made by local Velddrif wonder- craftsman Johan Zwarts, while much of the living-room furniture was spotted on a trip to Bali and shipped back to South Africa.
Every aspect of the decor was scrupulously overseen by Renée, a make-up artist with a professional’s eye for aesthetic detail. To offset the dramatic wooden theme, she sourced gossamer-delicate light fittings from The African Queen Studio, a McGregor-based collective, and from Cape Town’s Nap Living. She’s a fan of all things Country Road (‘they love me there’), from the bed linen and soft furnishings to the photo frames. In keeping with the palette of the outdoors, she dressed everything inside in only sand, blue and white hues. ‘I bought up every white picture frame Country Road had in stock. Pedro received a lot of frames for his birthday…’
The couple’s daughter Sanchia, three, loves to frolic undaunted in the icy Atlantic, but for the less hardy there is an above-ground swimming pool, flanked by the riet-covered deck, and a discreet outside shower attached to a wall feature crafted from local stone.
The sum of these disparate parts is a home without ostentation, where mod-con comforts are abundant yet unobtrusive, and space, light and a stark beauty flourish – much like the West Coast itself…
RENÉE’S HOME TRUTHS
My favourite place in summer is on the deck, cuddling in the cocoon chair with Sanchia, watching the sunset. I’d describe my decorating style as organic, simple and functional. I relax by baking with Sanchia. I’m inspired by travelling; my most exciting holiday ever was exploring New York City for the first time. Next up is a birthday gift from my husband: a 10-day trip with my sister to Paris and Rome later this month. My favourite colour is duck-egg blue. My best design advice is, less is definitely more. My pet design hate is over-design and clutter. A few of my favourite things are my black-and-white prints by photographer Johan Wilke. My most treasured item is our extensive collection of family portraits. A holiday for me is relaxing with lots of good food, wine and great company. My top summer entertaining tip is to have plenty of icy cocktails and tapas on hand. Our favourite holiday destination, apart from this home, is Mozambique.
This article was originally featured in the November 2011 issue of House and Leisure.