Hout Bay Treehouse

WORDS Michaela Stehr PHOTOS Cameron Gouws, David Savage

A creative couple decided to build a home that reflects their love of nature and the outdoors through its location, materials and size.

Married couple Lorien and David Byrne decided to downscale after the lockdown, realising that such a large space was unnecessary and expensive to maintain. “We had the vision to reduce the size of the property footprint and be closer to nature so we didn’t have to travel 30-45 minutes to be in the mountains or at the ocean. We wanted to simplify life, reduce all the maintenance, and increase time to be in nature and take long trips exploring the outdoors with our dog, Jack,” explains Video Editor, Lorien Byrne.

When looking for a new house, it took approximately a year for the couple to settle on a location, with deciding factors being proximity to nature, both sea and mountains, as well as traffic and distance into the city. After looking for a long time and not finding what they were searching for, they stumbled across a plot with a dishevelled wooden house. The sound of the sea, the abundance of trees and the fact that it is one house away from the river made them fall in love with the environment. This resulted in a collaboration project, resulting in Jack’s Treehouse, a minimal, contemporary eco-home that provides a sense of calm to its inhabitants.

READ MORE: Treehouse-inspired Constantia Home

“We had never intended to build, but now that we had this plot, David wanted to live in something unique. He came across Scandinavian eco-cabins and tiny homes. The concept of designing for function and form fascinated him. Minimal clean lines, uncluttered and modern but still warm and full of light,” Lorien elaborates. “After seeing some of his chosen references on Pinterest, my interest was piqued and we began choosing our favourite reference images on which to base our build. A friend recommended Simon Mountford from Kube Architecture based on the aesthetic vision we had. Simon invited us to his home, and we fell in love with the style. He was excited about working with us on this project and he and David aligned on the design and aesthetic.”

When asked about maintaining a minimal living space the couple explained that part of the complexity of living in a minimal, modern home is keeping to the theme. They constantly kept ruthlessly removing things that did not fit with the aesthetic. They also recommend ensuring every item you include has a reason to be there. “We decided to stick with the interior furnishings in wood, black, white and charcoal, reducing the colour palette, keeping the feeling earthy and industrial.”

Inside Jack's Treehouse in Hout Bay

Building a home from scratch while running a family and individual jobs is no easy task, so the couple enlisted Kennaird Barrett and Adam Hansen from KS Concepts for the project. The process came with both highs and lows for the couple. A top tip from David is to never build during lockdown, with one of the main challenges for the build being Covid. “Fortunately, we had a great team on our side. We presented the idea to Kennaird and he was excited but apprehensive. He knew we had a small budget and it was looking like a complex build,” explains David. “Covid caused a massive issue and we ended up paying a lot more for materials than we had hoped. Kennaird called us one day to say that the price of aluminium was going up 25% in the next week and we needed to put the money together for ALL the doors and windows ASAP.”

The home puts a large emphasis on natural light and indoor/outdoor flow. Simon Mountford and Keagan van Rooyen from Kube had the idea to have the view extend all the way through the house by aligning the bedroom entrances and exits, with the balcony and stacking doors. The indoor/outdoor flow and the pitched roof maximise the view of the mountains on both sides of the property. Natural wood and stone are accentuated alongside the contrast of black modern features. The house is mainly built out of wood to keep with the Scandinavian look and feel. They wanted an interior pine-cladded finish but changed their minds when the engineers recommended the OSB for structural integrity. The architect said that the OSB could be a great overall finish for the interior instead of the pine cladding on the walls and ISO board on the ceilings.

“Building a house is not for the faint-hearted,” says Lorien. “It comes with massive complexity and mountains of small details that need to be thought out. Without the right team helping us problem solve, it could have been an absolute nightmare. The success of our outcome is so heavily weighted on who we hired to do the architecture and the build. Simon and Kennaird really made our dream a reality.” 

The team has recently listed ‘Jack’s Treehouse’ with the location agency Amazing Spaces – where it can be hired for both local and international film and magazine shoots.

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