Arranged to perfectly capture the beach views, the Beachyhead house in South Africa‘s Pletternberg Bay, is a beautiful single residence home. The house has undergone a huge renovation under the watchful eye of leading architectural firm SAOTA.
The home owners went to SAOTA with the dream of turning the original building into a relaxing yet elegant holiday home, responding to the site’s landscape and especially the beautiful views over the coastline.
Some of the main requirements for the home included making sure it was cozy and intimate for when there are only one or two of them in the house, yet open and welcoming enough to be suitable for entertaining guests. Striking the balance between these two things was a fun challenge.
Another important aspect was of course making sure that the views didn’t get lost behind the walls. Zoning parameters created certain restrictions, while the sunlight and prevailing wind directions were important for the building design.
What are the design inspirations for the home?
SAOTA: We work across the globe, and the starting point is always the context. In this case the site is just extraordinary, every element of the architecture relates to some aspect of the site. From the historic maps, we learned that years ago there was just a sand dune here, surrounded by indigenous planting. This information determined the height restriction and allowed the south of the building to be higher, where the top of the dune used to be. The split in the building became an obvious solution but finishing the building in the exact same color and texture of the beach and slicing through the building in an organic way was directly inspired by this dune.
Before the project started there was already a building on the site; a large, dark brick construction that really stood out in the space. It didn’t fully connect with the site, ignoring a lot of the topographical features and limiting the indigenous landscape only to the lowest part of the site.
But now, I think you can agree, the building with its different levels and playful use of materials feels perfect for the spot.
Views from the house were as important as views of the house. Through focusing on the context and location of the site, the project was driven through a holistic narrative. The striking construction balances with shape and levels, and there are beautiful details both inside and out.
Interiors were designed by award-winning team Cécile & Boyd. From calming blues and smooth warm tones in the living room, there are striking interior designs that compliment the architecture.
The staircase is a treat. The steps seem to be held in place with suspension cables. At the right time of day, the northern light streams through the ceiling skylight, animating the shadows along the curved wall and bouncing off the stainless steel cables.
Views from the bedrooms are a treat, as waking up in the morning is a great time to catch marine animals in the bay. The timber shutters reduce the glare, and provide screening even with open windows.
Of course, one of the great things about the house is the scenery! Ensuring unobstructed views does provide some challenges in design. Some of the columns were integral to the building support, even though ideally a panoramic view was desired.
What was the biggest challenge executing this project?
SAOTA: Most of our projects require some clever engineering to avoid columns. Columns invariably interrupt the serenity of an unobstructed view to the horizon. This is also why the window frames slide outside of the envelope of the building. The main living space measures just under 16 meters by 7.7 meters, completely unobstructed by internal columns. This required innovative solutions to optimize the structural solution.
The owners are thrilled with their new home. One of their favorite things about it is how seamlessly they can entertain family and guests, moving from the northern courtyard garden around the pizza oven, or to the terrace towards the east watching the dolphins in the bay. For sunset, it’s enjoyable to sit out at the tip of the terrace to watch the last rays of light dance over the water, or enjoy evenings at the fire pit by the beach.
For the Beachyhead home, the unobstructed views are a delight. As light streams through, shadows play along the walls throughout the day. The rooms flow smoothly, but with sumptuously warm and soothing interiors that make the home feel calming and friendly. It’s hard to choose our favorite bit!
*This interview has been edited for clarity and length.