Paternoster Cottage

Photos Greg Cox Production Etienne Hanekom Words Alma Viviers

Architect Johann Slee and his wife René peeled away the layers of time to reveal the true colours of a humble fisherman’s cottage in the small West Coast hamlet of Paternoster.

This three-roomed fisherman’s cottage in Kliprug sits above the main beach, atop a large boulder, where it weathers Atlantic storms and presides over the daily comings-and-goings of the fishing boats.

When the Slee family were looking for a weekend getaway where they could enjoy an ocean view, it was the distinctive character and authenticity of Paternoster that resonated with them. Situated just an hour-and-a-half’s drive from their Stellenbosch residence, the slow-paced village offered the Slees a perfect respite.

Johann and René bought a plot across from the derelict cottage for their new weekend home but then decided to take the building under their wing to use as a spill-over cottage. They set to work renovating it, conscious of retaining its character. Johann tackled the more architectural aspects, while René took care of the interior.

Besides giving it a fresh coat of white paint and brand-new shutters, Johann enclosed a small courtyard with gum-pole latticework to create a buffer between the street and the front door. Here, beach towels and swimwear are hung out to dry and freshly caught fish can be cleaned. On the beach side, a stoep that runs the length of the house was added. Again, Johann used the gum-pole latticework, combined here with a simple pulley system to create flexible screens that act as sunshades but can also be closed up completely. The stoep becomes the ultimate outdoor room with generous chairs and day beds that beg for naps in the dappled afternoon sunlight.

Inside the cottage, layers of dirt and grime were stripped away to reveal a colourful history layered on the walls. Instead of covering it up, Johann and René decided to keep the mottled walls as a backdrop to the cosy interior. 

René’s deft touch at arranging vintage and antique store finds intermingled with heirlooms gives the cottage an eclectic and rustic comfort. “You can play with things that wouldn’t necessarily work in your normal home because they may be too rustic or cottagey. Here, they work, because it can be more relaxed.”

It’s the mix of unusual colours, antique furniture and Johann’s art that makes this holiday home what it is: a characterful, cosy and welcoming place to unwind and soak up all the charm of the Cape’s magnificent West Coast.   

An edited version of the article published in VISI 56.

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