Rustic and refined elements casually hang out in a South African vacation home, making it easy to relax.
A coastal home decorated by two close friends gains a refreshingly cliché-free feel through a craft-inspired aesthetic,
one-off finds, and colorful artwork.
This photo: Geared entirely around entertaining, the pool patio is set up for socializing, eating, and lounging. Opposite: An all-white envelope gives the house a feeling of freshness and serves as the perfect foil for natural textures, such as those reflected by a wood sculpture and the furnishings in the great-room.
A vacation home poses a very particular challenge to a designer. It must be all things to all people. An oasis of calm, a beacon of fun, a showcase for signature style—it needs to tick all the boxes but not at the expense of any single one. This kind of task requires a cohesive team and a clear vision, and this particular beach house in Plettenberg Bay—one of the most popular and sought-after spots on South Africa’s Garden Route coastal stretch—had both.
Two longtime friends, designer Kim Stephen and owner Anthea Newbury, set out on what would become a two-year adventure, traveling together and picking up pieces that fit their vision organically as they found them. Anthea and her husband, Anton, knew they wanted a home that felt “boho and eclectic,” and they wanted to steer clear of coastal clichés. “We did not want a typical ‘beach house’—you know, blue and white with whitewashed wood,” Anthea says. “We wanted to avoid anything shabby chic, and yet we also didn’t want ultra modern or set decor, but rather an almost unplanned, thrown-together feel.”
Loosely inspired by destinations like the Mediterranean in general and Ibiza in particular, the idea was to fill spaces with interesting finds and beautiful artwork, set against the backdrop of a strong white and natural palette. But the question of color, and how much should be used, required a bit of compromise. “I like a lot of it, my husband less so, so we had to find a happy medium,” Anthea says. Stephen is known for her jewel-box use of color, so among the three of them, a clever and democratic approach was found: color through art.
“One of our greatest passions is collecting art,” Anthea says. And though the selections might appear unexpected, the pieces, which range from oils to installations, were carefully curated to enhance each space—either by adding color or by throwing a room a little off balance.
Natural textures temper the vivid hues, and with the garden planned as an extension of the beach dune, those textures were inevitable in order to create a home comfortable in its surroundings. Wood, raffia, and basketry feature prominently. Stephen and Anthea were each other’s monitors here, and put each other right if either strayed slightly off, or too far into beach-house territory, always pulling it back to the boho brief.
“We were each other’s counterpoints—I sometimes tempered Anthea’s wilder ideas but she also stretched my creativity, as this house is nonconformist in many ways,”
Stephen says. Her approach that their cocooning base needs to balance high drama with soothing whites was in sync with the family’s need for easy elegance—playful, but perfectly appointed.
“We strove for comfort without compromising on style.”
—HOMEOWNER ANTHEA NEWBURY
“I love the juxtaposition of sophistication and folly.”
—DESIGNER KIM STEPHEN
This photo: Soft textures in shades of white make this guest suite an ideal summer escape. Opposite left: Furry throws add textural interest to easy-breezy white slipcovered seating and white linens in a guest suite. “In my projects, you’ll always find playful elements in elegant surroundings,” Stephen says. “Fun is one of the core aspects of this house—and one that makes it incredibly unique.” Opposite right: With white walls, floors, and ceilings, this bath has an ethereal quality that’s grounded simply by a wood sliding shutter door and a wood towel ladder.