A holiday 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 needs 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. Designer Kim Stephen, who lives and works in London, and the owner Anthea Newbury are long-time friends and shared a vision for the design ethos of the beachside home.
A lot of thought went into creating spaces for everyone – from the study to escape to when the house is noisy and a pool room for the owners’ teenage sons to spend time in, to generous bedrooms that could convert easily to accommodate friends and family – a key element of successful holiday living.
Kim and Anthea set out on what would become a two-year adventure, travelling together and sourcing pieces from around South Africa – Cape Town, Johannesburg and Plettenberg Bay – that encapsulated their vision. Anthea and her husband Anton wanted a look that could be nutshelled as ‘boho/eclectic’ and needed someone to bring it to life when they brought Kim on board. ‘They knew what they were looking for and I felt I could do justice to their lifestyle,’ explains Kim. ‘I was also excited to leave my own aesthetic behind and go along on the journey of realising their creative vision.’
This included steering clear of coastal clichés. ‘We did not want a typical beach house – you know, blue and white with whitewashed wood. Nothing “shabby chic”,’ Anthea says. ‘And yet, we also didn’t want an ultra modern, balanced or set decor. Instead, we aimed for an almost unplanned, thrown-together feel.’ Somewhere in the middle, they found a style vibe that was both sophisticated and relaxed. ‘It is a family home, but our boys are in their late teens now, so we could afford to up the glamour factor a bit. We were very aware of comfort without compromising on style,’ explains Anthea.
Loosely inspired by dream destinations on the Mediterranean, and Ibiza in particular, the idea was to fill the space with interesting finds and beautiful artwork, against a strong white and natural palette to create a curated feel. Anthea’s vision from the beginning was interesting, layered and offbeat. Not too balanced, nor too decorated.
Colour too, needed a bit of compromise. ‘I like a lot of it, my husband less so, so we had to find a happy medium,’ she explains. As a designer, Kim is known for her jewel-box use of colour, so between the three of them, a clever and democratic approach was established. As a result, most colour is seen in the artwork: where the rest of the decor has a breezy, white base with blue and black accents, the pieces pop in kaleidoscopic colour – a smart and sophisticated solution that creates a thread of art running throughout the house and highlights it as a feature.
‘One of our greatest passions is collecting art,’ points out Anthea. And though the selection might appear unexpected, the pieces, which range from oils to installations, were carefully selected to enhance each space – either by adding colour or by throwing off the balance in a room.
While the owners and designers wanted to draw on the incredible location as inspiration – something the property as a whole does (the garden was planned as an extension of the dune) - they wanted to avoid anything too rustic. Natural textures were important in order to create a home that felt comfortable in its surroundings and the decor scheme features wood, raffia and basketry prominently. Kim 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 aesthetic: this complementary partnership undoubtedly ensured that they kept to the brief. ‘We were each other’s counterpoints – I sometimes tempered Anthea’s wilder ideas but she also stretched my creativity, as this house is non-conformist in many ways,’ comments Kim.
This collaborative approach has resulted in a cocooning base that is balanced with a sense of drama, all of which is perfectly in sync with the family’s need for easy elegance – playful, but perfectly appointed.
The owner Anthea Newbury worked with long-time friend, London-based designer Kim Stephen to achieve the design vision of this beachside home she shares with her husband Anton.
The home The coastal property, which sits on the Garden Route seaside stretch in Plettenberg Bay, South Africa, features a boho aesthetic with an eclectic and comfortable style.
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Styling by Sven Alberding/BUREAUX / Images by Warren Heath