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Prized Panorama

Top Billing featured home in Benguela Cove

Prized Panorama
Elegant estate living that celebrates the singular beauty of a rare site

story Natalie Boruvka
photos Angie Lázaro

Do you want to live among the vineyards, the lavender fields, the olive groves, in a nature reserve with free-roaming buck or at the lagoon’s edge? The alluring question posed on Benguela Cove’s website makes clear the extraordinarily diverse range of landscape that characterises this picturesque coastal wine estate. Fronted by the Bot River Lagoon and straddling two hills that form the spine of the Kogelberg Biosphere, each of the 124 freehold plots has been positioned to offer a unique experience of the 120 hectares of precious natural landscape. And, though the plot sizes range from 1 600 square metres to 3 900, sensitive site-mapping ensures that homes built are sympathetic in scale, unlike the monolithic structures that so often beset modern-day housing estates.

For the owners of this contemporary showstopper, the 5km of pristine lagoon frontage sold them. Their previous home in Port Elizabeth was a grand old mansion circa 1874, so stylistically the old and the new were vastly removed. 'We wanted to retain the gracious spaces they were used to,' explains architect Haydn Ellis, 'but remove the fuss of Victoriana and offer them a sophisticated "barefoot" lifestyle.'
More specifically, the home had to be in keeping with the estate’s strict design parameters which focus on protecting the natural aesthetic of the development.

As far as possible, the architectural language strives to achieve harmonious integration by appearing ‘born from’ the landscape rather than ‘manufactured’. Any obvious evidence of man-made is neatly circumvented: solar panels are discreetly located behind parapet walls. The house is a strictly linear composition of primary and secondary elements that hug the natural slope, thereby optimising the lines of view and minimising the visual impact on the site. Large expanses of glass invite panoramic views across the lagoon and foster a visual link between the vineyards and the internal living spaces. What results is an ever-changing vista of colour and texture that opens up to the house on all sides. Another important design prescription encourages the inclusion of natural vegetation into the internal living spaces. This idea manifests by means of courtyards or ‘lung gardens’ that, when open, provide cooling, passive ventilation and offer areas of green sheltered from the prevailing winds.

A further organic dimension is introduced into the interior by the curved forms 
of sweeping staircases and interior balconies that soften the tight linearity of the exterior. Identified by the owners as ‘a storyboard with which you can’t go wrong’, the palette is a blanket of crisp white with traces of soft greys, beach sand, mother-of-pearl and bleached wood. Light reflecting off the varying surface planes plays a dynamic role in activating the interior landscape. It is of such a complementary nature that Amazing Spaces, a premium location scout company, has it on their books as a multimedia hot spot for film and still shoots. Into the calmness, quirky furniture and explosions of colour have been injected to give the home a fun and lived-in feel. 'It is an exceptional gallery-like home, a light-filled shell,' says Haydn, 
'in which objects and art as well as breathtaking views are framed.'

It’s hard to tell whether the architecture elevates the beauty of the landscape or vice versa, but perhaps the point is that when the partnership is one of respect and integrity, then a noteworthy synergy results.

Ellis & Associates 021-422-2824,
Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate 021-671-5417,

Top Billing featured home in Benguela Cove Hermanus

Decor Details:

Located in the Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate outside Hermanus – with undisturbed views across Arabella to the Houw Hoek Mountain – the contemporary vision by architect Haydn Ellis of Ellis & Associates is complemented by a swimming-pool design by Clark Pools of Somerset West (021-852-5163,

The construction of the staircase and banister was expertly executed by Chepet Engineering (021-552-5346). The Perspex Egg Chair in the background is from Chair Crazy (021-465-1910, The sculptures are by the owner.

Porcelain ‘shoal’ fish light fitting designed and manufactured by the owner. Monster Club chairs, sofa and reindeer (sustainably farmed in Scandinavia) fur from Wunders (021-447-5233, Giant Anglepoise lamp ( and all other lighting from Lights by Linea (021-511-6116, Elephant painting by Ed Bredenkamp (028-312-4988).

The strictly rectilinear configuration of the architecture is softened by curved elements that include sweeping staircases and galleries. The estate’s design guidelines encouraged expanses of window that would introduce views of the lagoon into the interior. Bar stools and dining chairs are from Chair Crazy. Artwork is by the owner. The kitchen cabinetry and dining furniture were designed by the architect, Haydn Ellis.

The home was designed by architect Haydn Ellis and the landscaping was by Chris Hepburn-Brown (082-897-0538), in keeping with strict regulations to conserve the environmentally sensitive indigenous site.
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