WORDS Annette Klinger PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes PHOTOS Dook
Perched on a rocky promontory in the sought-after seaside town of Plettenberg Bay, a curvaceous concrete residence echoes the hard and soft lines of its ever-changing vista.
“You know, I’ve been practising Tai Chi for 30 years, and in it, we say, ‘Stand like a mountain, flow like a river,’” says architect Paul Oosthuizen. Yes, he’s passionate about the Chinese martial art, but in this particular instance, he’s using the Tai Chi principle to illustrate his motivation behind the design of a very special beachfront property.
Receding into a thicket of milkwood trees on a rocky outcrop that runs down into the Keurbooms estuary in Plettenberg Bay, the house in question is undeniably sculptural, with an interplay of curved and angular lines, and the raw materiality of a concrete finish.
“The concrete plays on the edge of that seemingly impossible fusion of soft and hard,” says Paul. “You want to be threatened by it because of its industrial, cold persona, but the way it’s been used here, those lines, it’s really seductive.”
There were also practical considerations behind Paul’s decision to use off- shutter concrete during construction. “What happens in a number of places is that the wall becomes the roof through a curve, so you don’t work with too many elements. It’s as if you’ve carved the building out of something,” says Paul. “There’s an honesty to off-shutter concrete – it’s saying, ‘This is real.’”
The brief from Paul’s clients was for a home that would be able to comfortably accommodate a multi-generational family, and would maximise the pristine beauty of the north-facing site, from which you can observe the estuary and its tides. To create a harmonious flow from the interior to the exterior, Paul worked closely with landscape designer Bruce Beyer, who established a lush, tropical garden that blends in seamlessly with the indigenous flora surrounding the property. “Because of the tree line and the surrounding houses, I wanted the main living area to float on a level where you could just look out over the greenbelt,” explains Paul. “We established the solarium at the perfect height for the views; this became the hub from which the rest of the house unfolded.”
So as not to take away from the bedrooms’ views, Paul decided to elevate them above the solarium by way of an imposing porte-cochère. And to not detract from neighbours’ views, he designed the bedroom roofs to undulate downwards. “The curves aren’t just frivolous design – although I do love to bend concrete,” says Paul, who designed the intricate shuttering, and tasked Cape Island Construction with moulding and pouring the components.
To juxtapose the industrial aesthetic of the concrete, Paul introduced several artisanal elements to the building – most prominently,white stone panels with hand-carved frangipani flowers (a nod to the original trees on the property), which he commissioned to a stone mason in Bali; and a wooden front door with scalloped indentations hand-carved by a local carpenter. Continuing the frangipani theme, stylised patterns of the original white stone panel design were CNC-cut into Corian, a hardy polymer material usually used for countertops, to create screen doors for the bedrooms.
Suzy Lubner of Eccentrics Interior Design was tasked with designing an interior that would stand up to the gravitas of the architectural design, yet be liveable and welcoming. “The clients wanted me to soften the exquisite bespoke structure Paul had designed for them, and create a gentle, practical interior that was easy-living, layered, uncluttered and elegant,” says Suzy. “We used a lot of natural oak throughout the house. I used neutral, sandy tones and textures, encompassing the palette of the ever-changing views from the lagoon and river mouth to Lookout Beach, and beyond to Formosa Peak.”
The undisputed heart of the home is the kitchen, executed by Patrick Reid, where the family love to gather around the oversized island – often to cook whatever they’ve pulled from the lagoon or ocean that day.
Whenever Paul, who also happens to be a Plettenberg Bay local, visits the property, one of his favourite things to do is to go to the solarium, slide both glass walls away and stand in the open air, taking in his surrounds. The view is never the same – but the experience is always thrilling.