This KwaZulu-Natal home is in complete equilibrium
The contemporary design of this two-storey residence in Umdloti, KwaZulu-Natal, was developed around the view of the Indian Ocean, with a protected courtyard built on the inland side for the swimming pool. ‘Neutral finishes in both hard and soft furnishings and a base palette of black and ivory combined with timber, industrial cement and charcoal powder-coated steelwork create a harmonious scheme that links indoor and outdoor spaces,’ says Ruth Duke of Ruth Duke Interior Design, who created the interiors. The outdoor sofa, black butterfly chairs and concrete coffee table are all from Weylandts.
In a house with an ordinary layout consisting of standard plastered walls, you can do what you like with the decor. But when the architectural design is striking and powerful, ensuring that the furnishings work in harmony is essential. In this Umdloti home, architect George Elphick of Elphick Proome Architects worked with the topography of the site to create a two-storey residence that responds to both the climate and the context. He paid no mind to traditional square and rectangular geometries, and instead allowed for interesting configurations of space, with walls built on the diagonal and rooms with unusual footprints. ‘The living areas are upstairs – resulting in extensive elevated views of the sea – and private zones are created with courtyards and screens,’ Elphick says. ‘The house opens to the east and the west, protecting the swimming pool from the wind and assisting with cross-ventilation that makes air conditioning unnecessary.’
Wanting a change from the traditional style of their previous home, the owners brought only a few pieces of furniture and their artwork to this new abode. ‘We were excited about living in a more contemporary space,’ they say. ‘Our children are adults and although they still each have a bedroom here, they study and work away from home, so it was time to downsize – to the seaside.’ The house is one of two pairs of semi-detached, flat-roofed homes on the site. ‘Delivering this kind of density is what we need to be looking at for urban areas, especially as it makes the provision of security more practical,’ says Elphick, who designed perforated aluminium screens integrated into the sliding doors, which lead outdoors from the bedrooms. They function as security screens and allow air to circulate through holes laid out in modern geometric patterns – adding to the exterior and proving that secure and stylish aren’t mutually exclusive.
Ruth Duke of Ruth Duke Interior Design has created interiors that complement the off-shutter concrete walls, terrazzo floors and pale oak cabinetry to form spaces that are contemporary and comfortable. ‘It was so easy to work with this beautifully designed home,’ she says. ‘It has a strong industrial look and great modern finishes. The owners were emphatic that the furnishings shouldn’t look “cookie-cutter” and wanted all contents sourced from many independent South African designers. Pieces by Tonic, Egg Designs, Koop, LIM, Umoya Design and Guideline MNF all work together to create a timeless aesthetic.’
The colour scheme – a combination of soft greys, dirty blues, ivory slubby linens and raw, natural textures – was informed by the setting. ‘The owners wanted a neutral look and we agreed that the interior palette needed to connect to the hues of the ocean and foliage outside,’ says Duke. ‘I added brass accents and precious-stone finishes – such as black-and-white marble and onyx, and leather elements in black and Gucci tan – as a textural contrast to the linens and cottons. I always add black and white in striped, graphic, bold presentations because these tones ground, freshen and energise an overall colour scheme.’
The upstairs living area is expansive and designed to be lived in. ‘The doors can open on both sides, creating an indoor-outdoor flow that’s perfect for entertaining, and we love taking in the views from the front veranda or gathering around the kitchen island,’ the owners say. Downstairs, a cosy TV lounge and well-appointed study area open onto a courtyard that continues the indoor-outdoor layout evident throughout the house. Both are compact and demonstrate that considered design can make smaller rooms seem more spacious. ‘Ruth thought about our needs very carefully,’ say the owners. ‘She spent time getting to know each of us and was able to create spaces to suit us all, custom-designing many pieces of furniture and fixtures. This is most obvious in the bedrooms, where the interiors suit each occupant perfectly.’ The residence is filled with the family’s collection of artworks, many by their son, and photographs by one of the owners. They have been reframed in simple box frames to bring them up to date, allowing them to fit in with this new scheme, and provide pops of colour and an essential personal touch that transforms a house into a home.