Scarborough House

WORDS Kerryn Fischer PRODUCTION Luanne Toms PHOTOS Elsa Young

After buying it sight unseen in the Western Cape coastal village of Scarborough, this home’s owner not only effected an extensive refurbishment, but also found herself personally transformed by living here.

“I thought I was a city girl – until I spent lockdown in Scarborough,” says South African film director Nicole Ackermann. That this small coastal village just outside Cape Point Nature Reserve in Cape Town is now her home was as much a surprise to her as it was to her family and friends. A place of wild winds and brutally cold water, its untamed beauty is not for everyone – yet it struck a chord with the globe-trotting Nicole the moment she arrived. “My time here changed my outlook and values significantly. Up until then, I was more outwardly seeking for inspiration; now I realise the value of looking inwards more.”

When the world returned to “normal”, Nicole found herself back in Los Angeles for work, but regularly trawling property websites in the hopes of finding a home in Scarborough. “It was quite a revelation that, although living here wasn’t necessarily what I had envisaged for myself, it was what I desperately craved.” So when this house came up for sale, her family were sent to check it out. “I remember my sister sending me a video that she took outside the back kitchen door,” says Nicole with a smile. “Hearing the cicadas and the sound of the ocean made me incredibly emotional; it was like a homecoming. Just like that, it was a done deal – I literally bought it unseen.”

Scarborough House
The main house and back cottage are connected via a cactus garden and courtyard that Nicole installed when she bought the house.

When she was finally able to see the house in person, she had no regrets. “The high-volume arched windows were what initially caught my attention, and they were even better in reality, as the house had been so beautifully designed around them,” she says. As a whole, the home has four bedrooms, but it can be split into three separate units. The main house has its own entrance and two en suite bedrooms, as well as a living, dining and kitchen area; while the cottage that leads off the back courtyard is a single dwelling with its own kitchen, en suite bathroom and entrance. The basement of the house is where you’ll find the laundry, a studio, and another guest bedroom with its own entrance. “There are also two container rooms that I currently use as storage space but that are earmarked for a cinema,” says Nicole.

Although Nicole’s plans were initially for a fairly superficial refurbishment, once she started, she realised broad strokes were required. Structurally, the biggest change was the relocation of the original kitchen to the other side of the living area. “I’m not a cook but I love entertaining, and so I wanted an area where you could read and lounge and take in the incredible views.” Today, an L-shaped built-in banquette deep enough to sleep on wraps around the dining table, while the kitchen has direct access to the back dining area and another terrace.

All the bathrooms were replaced and the floors sanded and repainted, while outdoors, a pool, a Jacuzzi and a deck were installed, along with an entirely new cactus and succulent garden. “I’ve worked a lot in Mexico and found Frida Kahlo’s house hugely inspirational, hence the cactus garden – and my love of skulls and crystals too!” The original house was white, but Nicole’s desire for it to complement the environment called for something drastic – all black. “I find black very soothing, and I love how the house now reads against the mountain. It’s unobtrusive, and any greenery you put against it just pops.’

Nicole started off with an interior designer but ended up completing the project on her own. “I wanted to create a series of neutral, luxe spaces that felt good to be in, but also comfortable and connected to the outdoors.” A calm yet sophisticated palette of stone, linen, leather and wood is the perfect canvas for a life punctuated by music evenings, film club, family gatherings and days at the pool. With views from every room, and mountain walks in Baskloof Private Fynbos Nature Reserve just two minutes from her back door, it’s a dream lifestyle. “Scarborough has a legacy of wild expression and cultural rebellion that I felt drawn to, and a creative community that has become my tribe.”

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