wooded bliss

PHOTOS David Ross PORTRAIT Dook WORDS Hannelie Diedericks PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes

A simple house, a river at your door to take you to the sea: the perfect recipe for holidaying ever after. Relaxing on the tucked-away wooden deck overlooking the Piesang River, it’s hard to believe that you’re in the heart of Plettenberg Bay.

Now and then a canoe glides past to the sea, but otherwise there is no sign of man or beast. The reed-laced river and the mountain beyond provide complete protection from the madding crowd.

The extraordinary seclusion of this site inspired Mark and Christine Valentine to build their own private getaway. For years they’d rented houses in the district, but when they found this spot they knew it had to become their permanent holiday home. In the middle of chaotic December the house remains quiet and private, even though it is within convenient walking distance from the nearest shops. Inspired by the wooden chalets that are a feature of the nearby Keurbooms River, they opted for a prefabricated timber house, which they could be sure would be ready for their next December holiday. The only criteria were that it had to be inexpensive, unvarnished and completed in time.

The house was completed within three months by Tusker Construction. Christine made a lightning trip one weekend to choose the finishes and Mark is convinced that it’s the cheapest house in Plettenberg Bay.

As owners of Amatuli Fine Art in Johannesburg, Mark and Christine spend their days surrounded by beautiful things tracked down all over Africa. Their holiday house is a much plainer environment, but here and there an Amatuli find catches your eye. “It’s a relief to come here where there are so few things that demand atten- tion,” says Christine. “Everything’s simple and low maintenance.”

The entrance leads you straight into the kitchen, which tells you at once that you’re in a relaxing, welcoming house. The atmosphere is summed up by the sign at the front door, which used to hang outside The Barbershop, the Valentines’ former shop in Plettenberg Bay: “Don’t rush”, it warns. All over the house, photographs in weathered frames tell stories of holidays with friends and family who have fallen under the spell of this modest wooden structure.

From the outside the house does not appear large, but with three bedrooms, three bathrooms and two attic rooms, the kids can be packed in. There are also two outside showers with a view over the river and the mountains. And the main bedroom with its en-suite bathroom was built on a year ago.

Paul Oosthuizen of Paul Oosthuizen Architects was responsible for this extension. “We wanted to create a feeling of solidarity,” he explains. “The stonework we used anchors this little wooden catalogue house in its setting and makes the space look more dynamic.

“There was a general lack of privacy and space and we also felt we could make better use of existing space. The wooden deck was very small, so we extended it considerably, even to the back of the house.”
For a beach house, where practical finishes are vital, the combination of stone and wooden walls and corrugated-iron roof works superbly. The wooden floors and interior walls have been painted white to create a feeling of light and coolness.

The stairs to the attic rooms were originally in the middle of the living area, making it very busy, so Paul moved them outside. The space is now open and peaceful and the children can get to their rooms without traipsing sand through the whole house. The passage that leads to the new bedroom was originally the bathroom. This has also reduced traffic and affords a pleasant view of the stone wall of the new wing – an excellent backdrop for African art.

The high ceiling in the main bedroom has a circle of skylights, allowing the midday sun to fall on white linen, family photographs (in old frames from Amatuli Fine Art) and the built-in cement head and foot of the bed. The en-suite bathroom is small but the bath in the bay window and the outside shower overlooking the Piesang River make it appear much larger.

If you feel inclined to wet your feet, but are too lazy to go to the beach, the deck has a swimming pool where you can cool off in style. Two deck chairs from Mali and sculptures from Venda complete the picture. Mark says the place seems to inspire impromptu parties. “It’s not unusual for the bottle store to have to make daily deliveries for sundowners on the deck! This is simply our little bit of heaven on earth.”

• Tusker Construction 044 382 6999
• Paul Oosthuizen 044 534 8020
• Amatuli Fine Art 011 440 5065