INFUSED WITH A FAMILY’S LOVE OF LIFE, THIS ALL-WHITE, TRANQUIL VACATION HOME IS A HAPPY AND BEAUTIFUL PLACE
This all-white, countrystyle family home by a river exudes happiness and tranquility.
It’s not hard to see why Nicola Valentine, her husband George, and kids Gina and Christopher escape to their holiday home in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa at every opportunity. “I can’t explain how happy it makes me to walk in the front door. This home feeds my soul and is one hundred percent my happy place. I never get used to it,” Nicola enthuses.
The home is unusual for this popular beach destination, where imposing, ultra-modern houses typically vie for sea views. The Valentine home, in contrast, is a single-level, contemporary country-style house that makes the most of its peaceful river frontage. Nicola loves its location. “The elements are not as harsh as on the seafront and, surrounded by the dense greenery, river and birds, it is supremely tranquil.”
A key element of Nicola’s brief to her architects was that the home had to be really simple without a single iota of fussiness. The result is a contemporary farmhouse-style home with a wonderful sense of space and flow. “Sarah Watermeyer took over from architect Karen Wygers halfway through the design process. She is very clever with space, flow, and feel, and project-managed the build with great precision and attention to detail. It was so un-stressful— the most lovely building process ever,” says Nicola.
The house is constructed with suitably unpretentious materials: corrugated roofing; lofty, exposed-truss ceilings; lots of natural wood trimmings; expansive windows; and floors finished either with glossy, textured concrete, or with Canadian beech floorboards. The pure white finishes create a cohesive backdrop for the Nicola’s crisp, clean interiors. The decor is utterly simple, but at the same time, very comfortable and homey. “I don’t mind kids and dogs everywhere—this is a place for us to relax and live in so everything is loose-covered and washable. The interior is probably under-decorated, but it’s perfect for us,” she says.
One of her favorite things about the home is that the living space is so cohesive. “My kids were seventeen and fourteen when we built, and we wanted a single-level house we could all share. Holidays are about making memories. I didn’t want the teens disappearing into a completely separate kids’ zone. It had to be a very interactive space in which we would all spend time together.”
In truth, the home buzzes with the energy and effervescence of the fabulously active family that lives in it, and the snooker table in the kitchen area is a real gathering point. “Every family member starts the day with some kind of ferocious activity—surfing, bike riding, boating, walking around Robberg,” says Nicola. “And then we retreat home to chill out by the pool or regroup before the next bout of exercise or socializing.”
The front door opens onto a vast vista of green and tranquility. The family is highly sociable, and the U-shaped home is cleverly designed to let you make the most of every holiday minute. The bedroom wings are on either side of the central open-plan living space, so you really can get
away from it all if you’re looking for some downtime. The rest of the house comprises communal, open-plan living spaces.
“You can enclose spaces with the sliding Indian doors, but we seldom do as we love chatting. We fling everything open when we arrive, and it just stays that way,” explains the homeowner. The TV room and kitchen are one large room leading onto the lounge, which also houses the outsized dining table; generous doors can be closed inside and out but are characteristically left wide open. “Even in winter, we prefer to sit outside,” says Nicola. “The view is so good from the verandah that when it’s cold, we just light a fire. In fact, with the doors flung open, indoors and outside feel like one unified space.”
With her down-to-earth touch, warmth, and astonishingly welcoming attitude, Nicola has created a holiday home that has magnetic appeal for everyone. As she says, “This is a fabulously social home. People— cousins, teenagers, friends, relatives, kids, dogs—pop in all the time to retreat from the madness of Plett… this home has changed my lifestyle and given me a retreat. This is where I breathe, refuel, and regroup. It is such a wonderfully happy house.”
Natural textures— pale and deep wood, woven rugs, natural fabrics and simple touches of greenery—add just the right degree of interest and complexity. Get a similar side table from Triboa Bay Living at LRI Design Plaza, and a similar industrial lamp from Urban Abode at CW Home Depot Ortigas.
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