Swakopmund Beach House

PHOTOS Martin Bosman

Architect Deidré de Waal’s “beach shack” is her refuge and the fulfilment of a lifelong dream.

Acquiring my beachfront stand in Swakopmund came down to luck and good timing. I received a phone call from a local estate agent, telling me that one of her properties had become available after a deal fell through. Her computer database had crashed and she had lost all her contacts, but she remembered that I was always looking at beachfront erven and so she asked if I would like to have a look at the plot. As luck would have it, I was travelling to Oranjemund via Swakopmund that week, so we agreed to meet up. I remember the day so vividly: a bright sunny day, a slight breeze, and the sea just lying there like a big blue dam. I was sold.

I had no idea how I would pay for the property, but I had to have it. I had just started my own practice, but I told myself that if the bank were prepared to grant me a loan, I would take it as a good sign. The sale went through, but five years passed before we were finally in a position to build the house in 2010.

I reckon I have salt water in my veins! I always knew I would live on the coast at some stage. And when I met my now husband Martin Bosman, an architectural designer, and he felt the same way, it was a done deal. Martin and I met while the house was under construction, which was a good way of getting to know each other, as we survived a house build very early in the relationship.

I am not style-driven. When it comes to design, I am a pragmatist. I look at the lay of the land, what is appropriate and what is available. Martin and I wanted the house to look like a beach shack. I wanted it to be on stilts from the start. This had nothing to do with being prepared for rising seas and global warming; I just wanted a house on stilts on the beach. We also wanted it to look as if it had been there forever.

The clapboard cladding and shutters are influenced by typical West Coast architecture. I love working with corrugated sheeting, timber, stone and cladding. And where flooring is concerned, natural stone, polished concrete and vinyl are top of my list.

What I love most about this house is its lack of pretence. It is a home you can walk into with wet, sandy feet without worrying about getting the floors dirty. The way it has been planned means it never feels crowded, even when friends and family occupy all the rooms over a December holiday. And when we are there on our own, we occupy only the main living space. One of my pet hates is walking down a passage past dark, empty “guest bedrooms” en route to the main bedroom. This house does not even have a passage!

Swakopmund has a charm that one does not find every day. The high-tide mark is virtually on our doorstep. In fact, thanks to changes in sea levels, at spring tide water sometimes even runs underneath the house. (Luckily the stilts on which the house is perched prevent any damage from occurring.) This is a harsh environment. The corrosive qualities of the sea, the sand and the wind mean home maintenance is a regular exercise. We have daily mist; a wet, salty south-westerly wind that eats away anything in its path; and the occasional hot, sandy winds from the desert. But all of these things make it the place we love.