Strand Penthouse

PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo

One of the best things the town of Strand has to offer is its 5km-long False Bay beach. A penthouse on Beach Road with views to the east, north and west takes full advantage of this prime location.

Twelve years ago, Charl and Josene Groenewald bought a modest apartment further down the street from their current address atop Cape Sands, a nine-storey apartment block with an unhindered sea view. “We used it as a holiday home,” says Charl, “and then for our children when they were at university in nearby Stellenbosch. I sat on its little balcony many times staring at this penthouse, which had remained unfinished for years after the rest of the building was completed.”

Eventually, he “nagged” the developer to sell them the penthouse as it was, which was pretty much the bare bones of the structure. “We didn’t know the challenges that would come with building on top of a fully occupied structure. Everything we designed had to either fit into a lift or be hoisted up the side of the building, and we often had to wait for a windless day,” says Josene.

Walking in through the red front door, the first thing that strikes you is the incredible sea view, which can be enjoyed lying in bed, standing in the kitchen or sitting in the lounge. In fact, the apartment gets so much light that one might not notice its black and dark-grey walls, which do a great job of absorbing the light, ensuring it doesn’t overwhelm, and framing the view.

This is one of many remarkable touches. There’s also the mezzanine level the couple added, which extends an en-suite bathroom into a spacious walk-in closet that also easily transforms into a working space. Then there are the concrete baths built into the structure, and what might have been a somewhat drab concrete staircase that is now covered in metal sheeting. Metal lockers replaced wooden closets. Throughout the apartment, there is evidence of the work the couple have put in over the past two years and of Charl’s expertise as an industrial architect.

Charl’s talents extend to being a very good carpenter. “I made that from a cedar tree that was cut down in the Irene cemetery,” he says, pointing to a coffee table. About the benches that accompany the dining table, he says, “These are slabs of timber that we bought, sanded and made into benches. The legs we made using offcuts from the apartment’s I-beams.”

Perhaps the best features of the penthouse are its three balconies, which take up 150 of its 400 square metres. “The balconies are on top of the flats below, so you get more space than you actually need,” says Josene. “That’s what we really love about the flat: We get east, north and west views – from the sunrise over the mountains to sunset over the beach.”

Although currently based in Gauteng, they spend at least a week every month at the apartment, and plan to move down permanently soon. “We’re older now, so we don’t need to be in the hustle and bustle of the city,” she says. “We love the outdoors, so every morning we cycle and jog, which is great with 5km of beach right on our doorstep. We’re also close enough to Cape Town that we can be there in half an hour for a bite at our favourite sushi spot, and we’re close to the Winelands.

“Strand grows on you. We’ve found it to be very cool; it’s like a well-kept secret that we don’t want to tell other Gautengers about.”