Of all the wild bits of Atlantic coastline running along the Cape Peninsula, the unspoilt stretch of Scarborough is perhaps the most idyllic. Surging milkwood forests border broad beaches, home to Cape clawless otters and crayfish, and frequented by happy bands of kite-surfers.
The holiday house Ingrid and Mark Corbett bought there a year ago is only about half an hour from their home in Hout Bay. Yet Ingrid says when she and Mark, and their three young boys arrive at their stone-clad, light-filled cottage in the Scarborough fynbos, it feels as if they’re a million miles away from the city.
The village is in a conservation area, and home to locals who are so eco-aware they’re likely to knock on your door after sunset and tell you to turn off some of your lights. It’s a community that has said no to street lighting specifically so they can see the Milky Way.
‘Coming here at the weekend you really feel as if you’re on holiday,’ says Ingrid. ‘We’ve made a concerted effort to go back to basics in this house. There’s no DStv, no computer, no video games allowed. Instead, we packed the place with loads of board games, books and art supplies. We wanted to be able to unwind without deadlines in a fun, relaxed space devoid of rules other than the
ones we’ve scrawled on the kitchen wall.’ ‘Rules’, that is, which are more to do with morning lie-ins, daily bike rides and long walks on the beach.
More than just a diligent mom, Ingrid is also a savvy designer with a knack for putting unusual ideas together in deliciously irresistible combinations. A former magazine editor, she also opened a small decor business called Quirky.Me, which has a shop at The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. With a penchant for ‘off the wall’ stuff, she’s fearless when it comes to colour, or mixing patterns and prints. ‘When decorating, I always circle around one or two key colours that work in the space, then add accents, and find that in this way even the craziest schemes somehow hang together.’
Many of the products in the shop are based on Ingrid’s ideas. ‘I love working with local design talent,’ she says. ‘We have so much of it in this country.’ Fresh South African designs pop up all over the house, from Jared Odell’s brilliant blue steel-and-birch chair to Paula van Niekerk’s brightly coloured pinboard with mirror, which incorporates coat hooks and a clever magnetic shelf.
Designs like these bring a vivid burst of creativity into this essentially earthy holiday environment, adding another element to the nuances of nature that fill the house and blend so harmoniously with the surroundings – the seagrass rugs on the SA pine floors, bamboo and wooden blinds on the windows, inlaid reeds on all the closet doors, the woven cane of the Malawian tub chairs.
The living area of this L-shaped house is open plan and double volume. Interior walls throughout are off-white, and light floods in through the high windows and stacking doors that open onto the wraparound balau deck. ‘It’s a house that feels grounded and very much part of its environment,’ says Ingrid. ‘Such an immense amount of thought was given to every detail of its construction. Even the slab of wood used for the kitchen counter was left raw along the edge, just as it was shaped by nature.’
A pine stairway leads to a loft with exposed pine beams under a soaring ceiling. It’s an ideal bedroom for the two older boys, Josh, eight, and Sam, six. The youngest, Eli, nearly two, has a bedroom next to his parents’ room downstairs. These lively indoor spaces, along with the house’s wild fynbos garden, make House Rule number four, ‘Play hide-and-seek’, one its young occupants will happily adhere to. quirkyme.com
Originally published in HL December 2012.