Tranquil Riverfront Home

This streamlined, contemporary, farmhouse-style holiday home is set on the banks of the tranquil Piesang River. The open-plan central living space flows out to the expansive
covered veranda and deck via generous stacking doors, and is flanked on either side by bedroom wings. Nicola Valentine keeps a totally “open house,” and the home is usually filled to the brim with hordes of hyperactive teenagers. “The spaces work well whether the house is brimming with kids and noisy teenagers or you are there for a solo escape,” she says.

One of Valentine’s favorite things about the home is that the living space is so cohesive. “My kids were 17 and 14 when we built it, and we wanted a single-level house we could all share,” she says. 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.”

“I can’t explain how happy it makes me to walk in the front door,” shares the homeowner, Nicola Valentine. “This home feeds my soul and is 100 percent my happy place. I never get used to it.” It’s not hard to see why she and her family escape to their holiday home at every opportunity.

Plettenberg Bay’s striking beaches and lagoons offer plenty of opportunities to catch a wave or head out for a spot of stand-up paddling.

The fresh-air shower leading from the master bathroom suite is perfect for washing the sand from feet after an early-morning surf.

Complying with Plettenberg Bay’s very strict environmental-impact regulations proved the biggest challenge. “It took two years to get all the permissions to build the house, and another two years to get permission to build the bridge to get to the house,” the homeowner explains. “We could only access it by going through the next-door property – luckily it belongs to my brother, Mark.”

The house is constructed with suitably unpretentious materials: corrugated Chromadek roofing; lofty, exposed-truss ceilings; lots of natural wood trimmings; expansive windows; and floors finished either with glossy whitescreed concrete or with Canadian beech floorboards. The pure white finishes create a cohesive backdrop for Valentine’s crisp, clean interiors. The decor is utterly simple, while simultaneously very comfortable and homey. “I don’t mind kids and dogs everywhere,” she says. “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.”

The lofty living/dining space flows via outsized Indian doors into the TV room and kitchen to form a spacious open-plan communal living area. Simplicity is Valentine’s guiding principle: The comfy, loose-covered sofa and armchairs just beg for someone to put their feet up. Natural textures – wood, woven rugs, natural fabrics and simple touches of greenery – add just the right degree of interest and complexity. Most of the furniture came from Amatuli and Weylandts, while a few of Valentine’s favorite pieces were brought from her Johannesburg home. Industrial-style pendant lamps and raw steel I-beams reflect the contemporary lines of the architecture. The pale Canadian beech floorboards add an element of barefoot luxury.

A contemporary, farmhouse-style home, the residence has a wonderful sense of space and flow. “Sarah Watermeyer took over from architect Karen Wygers halfway through the design process,” Valentine recalls. “She is very clever with space, flow and feel, and projectmanaged the build with great precision and attention to detail. It was so unstressful – the loveliest building process ever.”

Highly sociable, the family takes advantage of the cleverly designed U-shaped home, which allows them to make the most of every holiday minute. The rest of the house comprises communal, open-plan living spaces. Furthermore, the home buzzes with the energy and effervescence of the active family that lives in it; the snooker table in the kitchen area is a real gathering point.

The snooker table is a great gathering point and is a magnet for the children and their
friends. Stacking windows fold back to connect the indoors with yet another supremely inviting sitting area on the veranda outside.

Nearly all meals are taken at the long dining table on the covered veranda overlooking the pool deck. The industrial-style steel chairs are appropriately swimsuit-friendly. Ceiling fans keep the space cool in summer, while in winter a roaring fire wards off the chill.

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,” she tells. “The view is so good from the veranda 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.”

The bath in the master suite is surrounded on three sides with glass. Surrounded outside with a hedge for privacy, it has magnificent mountain views and is one of Valentine’s favorite spaces.

A hint of gray provides subtle color in the daughter’s bedroom. As she often has friends over, it made sense to furnish the room with two double beds. The white PS Cabinet is from Ikea, the rug is from @home and the table lights are from Woolworths, which has two double beds. A collage of photographs taken by Valentine captures happy memories.

The home boasts three fireplaces: a Morso in the living room and the TV area, as well as a fireplace on the covered veranda outside. “Much to my husband’s horror, I even light them in summer: A flickering fire, a glass of wine and some great music make me very happy indeed!” she shares.

With her down-to-earth touch, warmth and astonishingly welcoming attitude, Valentine has created a holiday home that has magnetic appeal for everyone. As she says, “This is a fabulously social home. People pop in all the time to retreat from the madness of Plett; most of them have the gate code and breeze in and out for a gin and tonic or a dip in the pool. 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.”

Photography courtesy of Warren Heath.

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