The joy of this house is that it frequently allows us to reconnect as a family,’ says Genevieve Dalton of the sleek, low-slung weekend residence that she and her family escape to whenever possible. Set right on the beach amid the pristine Zimbali resort and nature reserve in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province, the property has come to represent the things that the Dalton family hold dear in life – namely, family time, solitude, privacy and nature. The secluded ocean-front site is part of an eco-estate, so sustainability was a fundamental part of the brief to architect Joy Brasler and interior designer Michele Throssell. ‘We wanted the home to be as sustainable as possible, both inside and out,’ explains Joy of the home’s eco features, which include water recycling, heat pumps, roof gardens and bio-diverse plantings.
The Daltons cite Joy’s cerebral approach to design as a major drawcard. ‘She’s often more subtle and almost always more clever than the norm,’ says Genevieve. Indeed, Joy’s decision to excavate and berth the house into the rear of the site, so that the two-storey building is experienced as a single floor, not only defines the design but immediately sets the house apart from others on the estate. ‘It’s in stark contrast to the general approach where bigger – and higher – is generally considered better,’ says Genevieve.
The main focus for both the design and interiors was to mimic the landscape wherever possible through earthy textures, patterned screens, bold wallpapers, large expanses of mirror, bodies of water, and landscaping. ‘Genevieve has impeccable taste and a strong idea of what she does and doesn’t like, but the common thread is always comfort, functionality, a place for everything, and the family home as a sanctuary,’ says designer Michele. ‘It’s less about large-scale entertaining than the opportunity to engage in proper parenting.’
The result is a layered living environment where shaded screens give sun protection, security and ventilation, while glazed doors that disappear into the walls lead out to the back courtyards and a secluded garden environment. The interior space is similarly divided into ‘courtyards’ for living, working and cooking. The clever, yet casual definition of these areas by a floor-to-ceiling wall unit, a staircase, a fireplace or a wall of cupboards precludes the need for a single wall. Meanwhile, Michele’s introduction of a 50s modernist touch has brought a dynamism to the minimalist architectural lines. ‘I wanted to dial-up the colour of the surrounding landscape and vegetation,’ she says. ‘Adding soft, greeny greys and washed-out finishes was integral to the whole feel. The idea is that, with time, the house will become invisible as the vegetation grows up around it.’
For the Daltons, the home represents a necessary weekend ritual. ‘Our daughters love coming here too – it’s a total disconnect from all the noise of our everday life. Most importantly, when they need to escape into their own space, they have multiple options in which to exercise that right,’ laughs Genevieve. ‘Every time we return, I am amazed at how the trees and plants have grown,’ she adds. ‘The changes are a reminder to embrace the time trap that this house offers us when we are here, because life continues – even here.’