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Open Seas

A dreamy seaside cottage in a Cape village with a candy-coloured interior and a sweeping ocean-facing deck strikes the perfect balance between fun and functionality.

The new owners of this beach cottage tucked into the mountain above the seaside village of St James in South Africa, knew that the house needed vision and TLC. However, the charming features and breezy lifestyle it promised was precisely the kind of project floral designers and Dané Erwee and Chris Willemse had been aching to get their hands on. “We held out for a decade to find a property that had uninterrupted views,” explains Dané, one half of the creative team behind Cape Town’s floral and event company OKASIE. A game-changing deck was added to capture the prized views and add liveability and space to the footprint, but internally space was still a premium. In a bold but brilliant move to solve this, they reconfigured the interior by slotting bathrooms into what was an unnecessary passage hallway, says Dané.  

The row of three bathrooms that now separate the bedrooms from the living area save immense space. Embracing the quirky design decision, they upcycled sash windows, installing them above the bathroom doors to invite light in and inject a touch of whimsy. The walls were washed with Cretestone tinted with pigment into warm pink, olive green and soft blue. Moroccan tiles in the bathrooms in complementary shades make for a fun threshold between the bathrooms and the living area. 

The playful use of paint extends into the kitchen and living area, where peach and watermelon tones blush from highlighted walls, window reveals and the fireplace,  and a minty hue extends from floors to the exposed wooden ceiling. “I wanted the house to be quite eccentric. A bit of Mediterranean, a bit Capri, and very colourful,” says Dané. 

Loose pieces of marble were cut for the windowsills to add more colour and a layered effect. Floors were kept simple in a muted concrete screed, and in keeping with Dané’s objective to reuse as much of the demolished material as possible, the original pine floors were repurposed to box out the roof space. “It gives the feeling of being cocooned in these beautiful colours,” says Dané, who says when choosing furnishings, they also wanted pieces to be “light and fun”. Repurposing furniture and unique finds for their event business is the ultimate enabler, Dané confesses, and many of the items that now live in the cottage are lifted from their catalogue of creations.

The philosophy extends to the kitchen, where most cabinets and cupboards doors are made from repurposed shutters or screens, and fabricated by Dane’s brother Theunis. Shelves are open (a practical decision to beat the moisture-heavy sea air) and display treasured pieces that give the cottage an authentic feel and keep it true to its roots. “I’m a bit of a kid still,” laughs Dané, “I like things dreamy and fun.” 

Most of the doors and windows were too weather beaten to be salvaged, however. With the passage reassigned and the entrance door closed, they opened up the front of the cottage, adding a sweep of double-glazed glass and shifting the entrance. The kitchen and dining area now flow onto a deck that delivers outside dining, comfortable spots for siestas and unwavering views of the Indian Ocean. Filtered light comes from the budget-friendly wood batten used to create the pergola. 

With the combination of the lush garden setting, stone terraces topped with chalky, white paint and airiness of the expansive deck space, you can’t help be mentally transported to the Mediterranean. “It’s always been about the view for us. The cottage is wonderful, but its purpose is to be a periscope through which we can enjoy the sea,” says Dané. 

While the cottage needed work, the garden surrounding it was derelict and had to be extensively restored. There were a series of stone walls made from the granite of the mountain slopes the property was built on, but the majority were partially collapsed on the house. Dané explains that walls had to be reinforced, rebuilt and the rubble-filled soil rehabilitated. “We filled the garden with indigenous plants so it needs little maintenance now. But there are also plants like hydrangeas tucked amongst them – greenery and flowers that do so well in the climate and we love to work with.” 

The lounge was predominantly furnished with upcycled and reimagined pieces created for the cottage owners’ events business. The cushion was fashioned out of an old tapestry, and the coffee table from a pallet. “You can’t help keeping some of the gems yourself,” says Dané. “You know you will never find anything like them in a furniture shop.” 

Table, Warhams Woodstock; stone topped dining table, vintage find; green cane chairs, Block & Chisel; cabinet, Weylandts; pendant light, Koöperasie Stories; sofa, recovered vintage find; coffee table, OKASIE; stool, Ikea; rattan chairs and rug, both second hand workshop; collection of plates on wall, Antoceramics; painting, vintage find

A guest suite at the back of the cottage designed for kids is one of Dane’s favourite rooms, he confesses. “It doesn’t have a sea view, but it’s the quietest room to cocoon in and read,” he says. Stocked with vintage children’s books and a string of suspended toy ships in the adjoining bathroom, it offers a “mystical” escape.

Photographs Warren Heath/Bureaux

Text Lori Cohen/Bureaux

Production Sven Alberding/Bureaux