houses, Indoor / Outdoor

Natural Calling

Text Vicki Sleet Styling Jeanne Botes Photographs Mark Williams We live beyond the crystal curtain, people in Kommetjie live behind the lentil curtain and those who live in Scarborough– they’re behind the tie-dye curtain,’ laughs Sarah Wright, who, with her husband Sebastian van Greunen, made the move ‘down south’ to Noordhoek nearly five years ago. Most people who live in this part of the Cape Peninsula do so to be close to nature, and Sebastian and Sarah and their daughter, India, are no exception. Here, sprawling tree-lined properties are a given and many people have at least some semblance of a vegetable garden. The couple’s move from Observatory in Cape Town was a natural progression for them. ‘Both of us grew up in pretty rural surrounds so although we loved Obs we couldn’t imagine having a family there,’ says Sarah. When the couple first came across the property they fell in love with its potential, but both agreed it wasn’t something that they could live in immediately. Luckily Sebastian’s a talented architect. Although he is more likely to be found drawing up plans for large builds (he was part of the Cape Town International Convention Centre design team) he loves nothing better than getting his hands dirty and finding solutions for smaller spaces, especially when it’s his own. The house as it stands today is the result of a two-phase renovation project. The first phase involved the addition of a bedroom and bathroom to the original structure and, because Sarah gave birth soon after they moved in, that was all they did for a while. The next, fairly recent, phase involved the addition of a second wing, which includes the living room (‘where we spend most of our time’), bedrooms for the couple and for India, Sarah’s craft room and an upstairs office for Sebastian. A mere 15 minutes’ walk from the beach or Noordhoek common, Sarah and Sebastian beam as they describe what they love most about living here. ‘The best time is early in the morning, especially if it’s still,’ says Sarah, the early bird in the family, who spends the dawn hour drawing and ‘making’ with India.
‘You can smell the salt off the sea, you can hear the waves, the light is beautiful and there are different kinds of bird calls at different times of the year.’
For Sebastian, the idea that the common is used by the residents of Noordhoek ‘for everything from birthday parties to Halloween and dog walking’ underpins the very thing that has made their move so worthwhile. ‘It sounds clichéd but things feel very real here,’ he explains, ‘and we’ve been struck by the sense of community; the kids on our street run and play between one another’s houses and we’ve become very good friends with our neighbours, who helped us to settle in.’ When it comes to the interiors, it’s clear the couple have an eye for design and art – classic collectables like Tom Vac chairs by Ron Arad sit comfortably with a collage of work by local contemporary artists such as Conrad Botes, Tracy Lee Lynch and Frank van Reenen. Theirs is a happy mix of comfort and style. ‘You can’t be too precious when you have children, but one day I’d really love to have a custom-made Casamento couch,’ says Sarah wistfully. Their home was designed with the outdoors in mind (‘it was the garden that sold us’) so it’s no surprise the family spends as much time as possible pottering around in their private world or enjoying the company of friends who have ventured over the mountain for a visit. ‘We know it seems far for our friends who live in Cape Town, which is why we love it when they come for the whole weekend,’ says Sebastian. ‘We eat together, spend time chilling and do as little as possible … and even though we love going into town to get a hit of what’s happening, we’re always so happy to come home.’

Sarah and Sebastian's Home Truths

We’re hoping that this summer our vegetable garden will yield snail-free lettuce, spinach, tomatoes and basil. My first impression on seeing the house was, could we live in this ramshackle cottage as it is? (Sarah) Renovation project! (Sebastian) The next project we have in mind is a dedicated art and creative space for children (Sarah); a garage and workshop (Sebastian). Something that not many people know about Noordhoek is that there’s no postman or streetlights. My most treasured item in our home is an old teapot I found while trawling second-hand shops (Sarah); my design books and art collection (Sebastian). Our favourite breakfast spot in Noordhoek is Café Roux … we always have the Eggs Benedict. On Sunday mornings you’ll find us walking the dogs on the beach or on the common.   Sebastian van Greunen, 3rdface Architecture, 083-278-3680,   This article originally appeared in the October 2010 issue of House and Leisure.