Garden Route Artist's Home

Text Leigh Robertson Styling Sven Alberding, Julian McGowan Photographs Mark Williams 'This was once a house famous for its parties’, reminisces Garden Route artist Beatrix Bosch, a spirited, thoroughly unconventional septuagenarian who has been crafting her eye-popping artworks from colourfully dyed exotic skins since 1969. Stepping inside her wondrous home, set atop the dunes of Wilderness like nothing less than a modernist sandcastle (complete with whorled towers and a lush rooftop garden planted with succulents), you would be forgiven for feeling as if you’d just done the time warp; the clock set somewhere in the 1970s. And this before even taking a peek in the downstairs bathroom, wallpapered with a Beardsley-esque tableau of paisley-spangled nymphets, offset by a wall of luminous yellow bottle-glass. You can well imagine the bohemian crowd of fellow artists and intellectuals who frequented these parties, many staying on for days and finding a space to sleep wherever they could, as Beatrix recalls. This home she shared with her late husband, Bossie, an anthropologist, for 40 years (he passed away last year) was the first dwelling to be built on the now densely populated dune. ‘Everyone thought we were mad to build here,’ Beatrix muses. But then, Beatrix has always been well ahead of her time. She designed the house herself, with an architect friend merely assisting with the more technical aspect of the plans. A hybrid of angles and curves, it’s earthy and organic, the colour of wet sand, and reveals hints of the inspiration Beatrix took from her favourite house of all time, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water. The couple practically built the entire place too, ‘pouring concrete and laying the brick floors – so much work went into it!’ And over the years, as their needs changed, ‘the house continued to grow under my hands’. She even constructed the impressively sturdy wooden walkway and steps leading down to the beach, from which so much flotsam and jetsam – sculptural driftwood and coils of maritime rope – has found its way into the courtyard and garden. Once dramatically exposed to the whole town, the structure is now mostly concealed behind swathes of subtropical foliage, which perfectly suits Beatrix. ‘I wanted my beach house to be completely self-contained, open but private, with beautiful views – and never to be affected by whatever was built around it,’ she says. And having watched over every development that’s taken place over the decades, it’s not surprising the couple was fondly nicknamed ‘the duke and duchess of the dune’. Inside, there’s barely a gap on the walls that’s not covered by one of Beatrix’s massive hangings (the best known adorns the foyer of Pretoria’s State Theatre), documenting her progression as an artist, which has seen her exhibit extensively in SA and the United States. The house is also filled with a sensational collection of sculptures and ceramics, most notably by her close friend, the late Esias Bosch, considered the father of South African ceramics. In the living area, a dividing wall featuring alcoves of various sizes was designed by Beatrix specifically to house some favourite pieces. ‘I wanted it to be sculptural in its own right,’ she says. Bossie, a talented carpenter, made much of the gleaming wooden furniture, using local timber, while his wife industriously fashioned leather ottomans, patchwork-leather chair coverings and cushions, and crocheted bedcovers and light shades, to lend further texture and warmth to their home. Amidst all of this are iconic pieces such as Beatrix’s prized collection of original Eames Lounge Chairs – she has ‘a thing for chairs’. Just another hint at how very progressive this extraordinary South African artist really is. Beatrix's Home Truths In the early years in Wilderness we had the dune all to ourselves (the developer only sold one stand a year), and the cats and dogs had the run of it. It was wonderful! This year it’s all about work, work and more work – I’m running the last 100 metres in my life, but I’m planning one last exhibition. There are already enough pieces to fill a gallery four times over… I take inspiration from the leather itself: its shape and colours and imperfections. The design takes shape from these. I choose the skins that no-one else wants, the spoiled pieces. I’ve always kept myself busy, whether crocheting and knitting or reading – whatever novels I can get my hands on at the kilo bookshop, though I have a soft spot for science fiction. Other women might go and buy a new dress… I buy chairs. I’ve always done a lot of entertaining – I used to think that having 60 people over was almost too few for this house. I have never been one to rely on recipes – I normally just throw things together, but one of my favourites is chef Marlene van der Westhuizen’s recipe for venison in chocolate. I’ve known Marlene since she was born, and she has one of my pieces, ‘Keeper of the Rainbow’, hanging in her Food Studio in Cape Town. This article was originally featured in the April 2011 issue of House and Leisure