Pringle Bay Home

WORDS Robyn Alexander IMAGES Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes

The recent renovation of an old stone cottage in the picturesque cape coastal village of Pringle Bay is a model for respectful yet innovative updates to seaside holiday homes. 

As in most coastal locations, the ever-changing weather governs most activity here. When the VISI team visited to photograph this Pringle Bay house, our shoot began in peaceful sunshine at low tide, with the sea calm, and breathtakingly clear visibility right across False Bay. Then, as the tide came in and waves began crashing onto the rocks, a rainstorm crossed the bay, washing the crisp vista clean away and instead creating a dramatic, moody outlook.

Accordingly, this home is designed to suit all of these possibilities: it’s equipped with everything that might be required for indoor cocooning, as well as a glazed sea-facing facade that maximises the views no matter the weather conditions. The north-facing glass facade also opens up onto a generous deck, with a new all-natural swimming pool – built in a location-appropriate, raised “plaasdam” style – in the foreground.

It took a while to arrive at this design solution, though, and the owners had seen a few architectural proposals for its renovation come and go before appointing Chris Bakker of GASS Architecture Studios to oversee the project. Among them was a scheme to replace the existing stone cottage with the sort of imposing structure that has unfortunately become ubiquitous in Cape coastal villages, and a proposal to revamp only the interiors. Chris and his team found a third way to solve the architectural conundrum: as he explains, they elected to “maintain the humble character of the low-slung existing cottage, while also updating and freeing up the interior spaces”.

Stone Cottage in Pringle Bay
Even the eco-pool in front of the house enjoys spectacular views.

The premise underlying the design, says Chris, was “to retain the simplicity of the old stone building via a sort of neutral architecture… using an approach that is almost like a ‘non-architecture’”. What this translates to in practice is a genuine lightness of touch combined with a purposefully minimalist approach to the architectural interventions. The resulting renovation cleverly blends support for the requirements of contemporary holiday-makers with the old-fashioned appeal of the traditional stone dwelling.

Entering the property from the street through a slatted wooden gate, you get glimpses of the home through the foliage. It’s a mature garden that includes milkwoods and other species endemic to the Cape coastal thicket that makes up the area’s natural vegetation. The flashes of the facade offer hints of floor-to-ceiling glass, which somewhat unexpectedly turns out to be a sort of envelope or “external gallery”, as Chris puts it. The glass external passageway wraps around and forms a frame for the exterior wall of the pre-existing cottage, focusing attention on the beautiful old stone masonry.

“We decided to shift the movement space outside of the plan,” says Chris, “then added a new master suite on one side.” And movement between the home’s various spaces – which include an open-plan kitchen-dining-living area and two smaller bedrooms (both now en suite), as well as the new master bedroom and bathroom – is certainly facilitated by this “outside corridor”. But there are other evocative effects of this unique, glassed-in part of the house: it is a sort of transitional space and also forms a “second skin” for the building. Whichever descriptive terminology is most apt, however, the results remain both aesthetically pleasing and very practical.

Careful attention has been paid to the renovation of the interiors, too: above-eye-level clerestory windows in the open-plan living area further amplify its levels of natural light, and the compact kitchen has plenty of storage space, integrated major appliances and a discreet side scullery. The two bedrooms situated within the original building now both sport striking picture windows within extra-wide, custom-designed wooden windowsills, which function as window seats and create a suitably bold frame for the arresting vista beyond.

The pleasingly eco- and site-sensitive ethos of this resolutely unpretentious project is encapsulated in the new master bedroom suite, which is placed to “float” slightly above the ground and is reached via a similarly suspended passageway. Taken together, all of this rejuvenated home’s “quiet but contemporary additions”, as Chris describes them, constitute a respectful design approach that is a compelling aesthetic model for coastal renovation.

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