WORDS Michaela Stehr PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Mark Serra
A 100% off-the-grid eco-cabin offers respite from city life for its Cape Town owners and guests, as well as panoramic Montagu mountain views for switching off completely.
The landscape and the environment were the key design generators from the client’s brief,” say Miguel Ferreira-da-Silva and Andrew Payne of Migs + Drew about the build of the new Caracal Cabin. “Owners Samantha and William Rupert Mellor had identified a potential cabin site on the farm that they loved, which offered privacy from the existing Cabine du Cap accommodation, along with dramatic, jaw-dropping views. Once we saw it, we were sold.”
Intending to build from sustainably farmed wood that doesn’t come from natural forests or contribute to deforestation, the team consulted with Seamus Harcourt-Wood of Rare Woods before settling on Siberian larch for the majority of the exterior. “The lower portion of the dwelling is clad entirely in stone, all of which was collected on the site, by hand,” says William. “The work was spread across the property, to leave minimal impact on the landscape. This also allows the building to ‘disappear’ into the landscape.”
A natural saddle in the ridge profile of the koppie, characterised by beautiful rock formations, offered an almost flat platform for the main timber box that houses the living area and kitchen unit. This is the base for incredible valley views to the west and sweeping, almost 270-degree, views towards the northeast. “We designed the form to follow the axis of the ridge, with the building tapering as the koppie tapers, and the roofline descending as the koppie ridgeline descends, thus separating the main suite and living area from Suite 2 and the subterranean Suite 3 and bunk room,” explain the architects.
“We were able to not only preserve the most beautiful rock outcrops and vegetation but also to amplify the experience of bringing them into the design.” Each bedroom suite has a unique framed view, tailored to its place within the composition – and, at the same time, completely private. The pool positioning helped to determine the placement of the cabin, hovering over the edge of a cliff with a striking view of the valley below, and clad in local stone for an unobtrusive impact on the surrounding landscape. As a result, you can expect to spot rich birdlife, including a resident pair of Pale Chanting Goshawks, as well as rhebok, klipspringer, jackal and baboon from your bedroom.
“Our favourite feature is the timber cladding, which wraps around the entire cabin building, inside and out, like a skin,” explain the architects. “The consistency of the single material and colour unifies the building, lending a sense of quiet and calm to the eye and the soul that’s reminiscent of every cosseting cabin childhood dream. The subtle differences in detailing between floor, ceiling, internal wall and external wall applications, as well as the shadow lines at junctions, remind us that this is not a rustic cabin but a more considered one, with attention paid to every detail.”
Inside, the decor has a contemporary bush feel that pays homage to the natural environment. It allows for some statement pieces, including the leather sofa, the trunk with a hidden TV and the live-edge wooden dining table. Some pieces were custom-made; others were finds that the family had restored. They then filled the gaps via their own furniture export company, Malawi Cane.
The core of the Caracal Cabin experience is one of being simply but luxuriously cocooned in a pared-back, beautiful timber box, in a breathtaking natural environment that evokes a sense of calm, contemplation and wonder.