Nestled in the distinctive, boulder-laced coastline of Boulders, just south of Cape Town, Rocamar Villa shares its outlook of aqua waters and pristine white sands with the area’s iconic African penguin colony. Cleverly concealed from the curious eyes of beachgoers by indigenous trees and shrubs, the house is just steps away from the sand.
The journey from beach to villa takes you up through a couple of private alfresco dining spaces, primed for comfort and views. And inside the house, newly raised ceilings and the addition of generous windows and sliding doors have created a calm, light-filled space, with moments of vibrancy and smart design choices conveying an atmosphere of timeless style.
Currently some 50 years old, this beach house was built to mirror the original owner’s Sardinian retreat after they put down roots in South Africa following the Second World War. So, while the property was full of nostalgic charm, the new owners wanted to open the house up to suit an entertainers lifestyle. The structural changes were entrusted to architect Wynand Wilsenach, who masterfully rethought both interior and exterior by raising the ceilings, replacing doors and windows to give rooms choreographed views of the sea and garden, and exploiting the features of the site to create a more dramatic entryway. His vision crafted an open-plan living space that feels wonderfully spacious, yet comfortably contained – and guarantees fantastic views of Boulders Bay cove.
In turn, the challenge for interior designer Andrea Graff was to strike a balance between old-world elegance and creating a beach house that was comfortable, practical and relaxed. Taking her lead from the high beamed ceilings and terrazzo floors, she chose a simple but dramatic all-white palette for the kitchen and casual dining space, which is open-plan to the living area. A striking custom-made Formica table and chairs with clean lines holds court in the dining space, while a subtle touch of whimsy comes in the form of a wall covered with handmade curved tiles in the kitchen.
“I chose off-white to dominate the house, but I also wanted to use soft shades throughout to reference the sea and surrounding greens, without relying on the blues typically used in beach houses,” says Andrea, whose studio custom-designed furnishings to complement the original arched doorways and pay homage to the building’s heritage.
A striking painted wooden relief by South African contemporary artist Sthenjwa Luthuli introduces bold green and glamorous tones of cream, ivory and sand to the living room. “When I showed it to the homeowners they could see my vision for the room with this dramatic piece,” says Andrea. Taking a cue from it, she designed and installed the dusty pink sofa – complete with chic black and white Corian end tables – that now hugs the walls here. This built-in piece, says Andrea, is the triumph of the living room, giving the space a glamorous feel of yesteryear and delivering maximum seating in a relatively small area. It’s complemented by an organically shaped rug and contrasted with centenary issue Wassily chairs, making for what Andrea describes as a mix of furniture and colours that combines to create a beautiful gathering point for the family, without feeling over-designed.
The villa’s bedrooms provided further opportunities to make use of some of the pastoral and sun-bleached shades borrowed from the environment. For the main bedroom, Andrea used soft coral Belgian floor-to-ceiling linen curtains draping from like an old-school Hollywood starlet’s dress, with the room further softened by a subtly patterned quilt. “The main bedroom opens directly onto the living room, so it was important that the rooms have a visual connection,” says Andrea. Referencing the charming quilt that graces the main bedroom, which she had custom made using vintage Tana Lawn fabric by Liberty, Andrea reflects that this is “a house that pushed me to think about details and use old-fashioned techniques while making them new”.
The homeowner’s passion for diving and photography is fully embraced at Rocamar, with bold underwater prints prominently displayed throughout. “My clients are ‘water people’, and using their work in the house connects them to their memories of past travels and the ocean, which is a stone’s throw away,” says Andrea. With two guesthouses for family and friends having been added to the property and set apart from the main house, they will also be able to share this memorable spot with visitors aplenty.
“Everyone on this project was committed to respecting the integrity this property already had and the unique location it is in. We were also given creative freedom that allowed us to exploit its potential. It’s going to age gracefully and timelessly,” says Andrea. With its bright interior, personal touches and quiet embrace of the landscape, the villa is now the perfect retreat at which the family can enjoy this unique slice of the Cape Town coast.
Photographs Greg Cox/Bureaux
Text Lori Cohen
Production Sven Alberding/Bureaux