PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Ami Kapilevich
Built on what is probably the most perfect plot in Yzerfontein on the West Coast, this incredible beach house actually magnifies the effects of its beautiful surroundings.
There is a discourse in fine art theory that postulates a particular notion of the sublime. From what I understand, in this academic sense, the sublime is achieved when a work of art conveys the transcendental, infinite vastness of nature or the cosmos. Horizons that stretch beyond the picture frame. Valleys and vistas that seem to widen into the distance. The greatness of the outdoors. Angel song.
I was reminded of this as I stood on the edge of this beach house with the Atlantic Ocean roiling below. The house is internally terraced in such a way that there is a deliberate abruptness to the threshold between abode and nature. There’s no stoep or wall, so the dunes and beach and sea are are suddenly and literally at your feet.
The effect is stunning, hypnotic and meditative – in that order. It is as if the frame of walls and ceiling somehow magnifies the view. And more than magnified, it is animated. It leaps into the home.
As your ego disappears into the horizon, an ascetic bliss descends and your breathing begins to move to the rhythm of the surf.
The effect is sublime.
The main living area is divided by large sliding doors into two sections, with a courtyard on one side and the beach on the other, so you can adjust the space depending on the weather. In winter you can create a large indoor area that includes the courtyard veranda. In summer you can remove every wall between the courtyard and the dunes, and feel as if you are standing amid the dunes and strandveld vegetation as birds fly through the living room.
The house, named To the Moon and Back, is located at the very end of the southernmost beach road in Yzerfontein, bordering on Tygerfontein, a private nature reserve with pristine strandveld vegetation. The owners fell in love with “the best-kept secret of the West Coast” after attending an auction in town. As soon as this plot became available, they snapped it up.
Darryl Croome Architects, which the owners had worked with twice before, designed the house and Bou-Hardi from Moorreesburg was the main building contractor. “We had a clear and definite idea of what we wanted,” say the owners. “We are property developers by trade, so we are not the easiest customers. We told the architects exactly what we had in mind, but we always appreciate what Darryl brings. He surprises us with ideas that exceed our expectations.”
The interior courtyard is based on an indigenous convention, according to the owners. Most of the fisher-man’s cottages around here have sheltered areas, they say, making this a contemporary interpretation of a West Coast theme.
In the courtyard, two southern masked weavers are noisily building nests in a picture-perfect tree. This is part of their mating ritual – and if a female weaver does not approve of the male’s nest, she will destroy it. But if their immediate surroundings are anything to go by, these males’ nests should be safe.