THE WHITEWASHED BRUTALIST BOX LOOKS LIKE A WORK OF CLAY
against the bucolic backdrop of noordhoek. For architects saskia Vermeiren and Matthew Beatty, this was the objective: anything but a conventional beach house. ‘The idea was that we wanted it to resemble a sculpture in the landscape,’ Matthew recalls, and the roughly textured, Le corbusier-throwback façade lends the home a distinctly earthen quality, as if it were a ceramic just plucked from the kiln.
despite its chiselled good looks, however, this is truly a family home and every inch of the rambling 2 000-square-metre property is well trodden by the clan of avid surfers, as six-year-old raphael races between the garden and play area, and two-year-old Freya toddles to the living room. ‘We want our children playing out in the wild, unstructured landscape,’ saskia insists, and when they’re not at the beach or hiking, the outdoors-loving family are able to open up the windows and doors and usher the landscape in. ‘our buildings are always very connected to their site,’ states Matthew, referring to the kind of projects the husband-and wife team tackle at their boutique cape Town firm, Beatty Vermeiren. so when it came to plotting out their family base, they sought to sew the
rugged surrounds of noordhoek into the very fabric of the structure. ‘We love the wildness of the area,’ Matthew explains. ‘You feel like you can escape completely the moment you get out on the mountain or coast.’
embracing the untamed, Matthew and saskia devised a thoroughly modernist cubic form, opting for precise angles and a raw aesthetic. ‘We focus on handmade buildings, which incorporate natural materials,’ says saskia. and in keeping with the ‘handmade’ theme, the pair served as both architects and contractors on site, effectively building the structure with their own hands. craft is at the essence of the design, and they scoured the cape for materials that would complement their approach, from the load-bearing brick – a handmade, low-fire cube with a reclaimed look – to the slender steel frames that slice the windows into rectilinear facets, casting an angular shadow throughout the interior.
The pervasive natural motifs extend to the artwork, and inside, bleached walls function as a canvas for their collection, peppered with pieces by saskia’s father,
Jan, a notable south african artist. The pair find themselves drawn to artwork with a defined patina such as the series that Jan drew on Lokta paper from nepal. ‘We like the juxtaposition of raw, african texture with this Bauhaus-style clean-lined building,’ says saskia, and tactility is expressed in applications such as rough linen, raffia and ceramics. ‘We have access to such amazing materials so we really want to work within the african idiom,’ says saskia. In keeping with their penchant
for the modernist school, the couple also opted to fill the interiors with midcentury furniture classics by pioneers such as Marcel Breuer and charles and ray eames.
Voluminous proportions and swathes of glass let light wash the interior, and by manipulating perspective through a series of structural openings and closings, the couple were able to connect the spaces visually. ‘You can stand on the top floor and see what’s going on in the lounge,’ says Matthew, ‘and you can sit in the lounge and see what’s going on in the study’ – handy when keeping an eye on raphael and Freya. The downstairs living area is perhaps where you’re best treated to the sense of loftiness with a glass cut-out that really emphasises the indoor-outdoor feel. upstairs, the use of cross ventilation encourages the breeze to move through the rooms, eliminating the need for air-conditioning, while the nearby greenery casts dappled sunshine inside. ‘We have these beautiful trees on the one side of the building,’ saskia explains, ‘and we wanted the bedrooms to open into the canopy of leaves so they almost feel like treehouses.’
‘You can’t talk about a home without talking about the people who live in it,’ Matthew elaborates and, for this home, it needed to be flexible enough for the family to grow and evolve. ‘We wanted something that both reflects our lifestyle and was calming,’ he muses. ‘In an interesting way, this house is a physical manifestation of myself and saskia’s relationship – it’s about family and it’s about design.’ Beatty Vermeiren beattyvermeiren.com
clockwise, from top the dining room table was bought on auction and is surrounded by original robin day chairs; a reading corner in the home is filled with mid-century furniture; the stairs are off-shutter concrete clad in siberian larch. the balustrades are also larch; matthew and saskia drew inspiration from raphael’s drawings to design his bed opposite page, clockwise, from top left a portrait of saskia and matthew’s son, raphael, by saskia’s father, Jan, hangs in the main bedroom; the kitchen features honed carrara marble and another artwork by saskia’s father; saskia, matthew, raphael and freya
clockwise a yellow throw from country road adds colour to freya’s bedroom; the master bathroom; an outdoor shower area is perfect for rinsing off post-surf