THE DUNE HOUSE

By Sally Rutherford | Styling Sven Alberding | Photography Greg Cox

This uber-cool and thoroughly contemporary beach house celebrates its position on the banks of Plettenberg Bay’s Keurbooms Lagoon in the best way possible. Warmed from the outside by the balmy Plett sun and from within by the vibrant energy of the family that lives here, the home is a seaside sanctuary of the highest order.

Despite its very sleek modern lines, the Dune House – with its weathered wood cladding, organic textures and nude palette – merges effortlessly with the flow of the natural dune landscape it occupies. From this vantage point, the home gracefully embraces both the outside environment and the warm family life it fosters. Built to replace their original tiny fisherman’s cottage, this holiday house is the perfect evocation of the family’s relaxed and sociable lifestyle. The secret? The owners – David and Jeanne Pfaff – have holidayed in this precise spot for over 40 years, which means that they knew intimately every mood and whim of the home’s tidal lagoon-front site. 

‘We knew exactly the sun, weather and wind conditions right here, and designed our home for the elements,’ say the couple, who worked with a team including Boyd and Geordi Ferguson of Cécile & Boyd’s to create the house of their dreams. Central to the design was integrating the home with the dune on which it sits. This borders the pristine tidal Keurbooms Lagoon, the only barrier between the home and Plett’s world-renowned Lookout Beach beyond and long views over the bay to the Robberg Peninsula. “All we told Boyd was that the home had to feel as though it had emerged out of the dune and weathered as it sat there”, they say. “It makes us so happy to see that it is ageing nicely into its surroundings”.

No holiday here is complete without the entire family – including Andrew (21) and Alexa (20), both university students, and 16-year-old Gigi, as well as one labrador, two spaniels and Jeanne’s beloved pug – plus a generous dollop of friends of all ages. They make the most of the home’s capacity to embrace and absorb all the residents, whether they be two people or 200. “Over summer we fill the house with family and friends from overseas, but it is a very Zen space so year-round the two of us head there alone and treat it as a spa space. It‘s a feel-good home, whether full or almost empty, and has an amazing calmness – this house comforts you,” explains Jeanne. 

The clever design means the home can sleep up to 18 people in total comfort and privacy. “We were living in England when we built it and needed a space to come home to and in which to entertain all the lovely people who were so generous and kind to us in England,” Jeanne says. “We also needed a home that, one day, could easily be filled with our children and their children, in a way that would allow us to be together but not on top of one another”.

The result? Five king-sized double bedrooms, two designed with bedroom pods off them for families, as well as a spacious bunk room that sleeps four. Each bedroom has a gorgeous, spa-like bathroom leading out to a heavenly open-air shower space.

A similar modular approach has given the interior extraordinary flow and flexibility. The open-plan kitchen, dining area and glamorous ‘grown-up’ sitting room upstairs flow out onto the expansive veranda and then to a wooden bridge leading to the firepit area on the dune at the water’s edge. At sunset this is the spot to soak up the evening sights and sounds, feet buried in the sun-warmed beach sand while the sun sets in the west over mountains and the moon rises in the east over the sea.

With offspring as gregarious as their parents, it makes perfect sense that Jeanne and David made provisions for beach parties with what they so aptly call the ‘Ibiza Lounge’, which spills out onto the pool deck complete with hot tub. This sleek and sexy space embodies the essence of the Spanish rave island: serene and lazy summer beach days turn effortlessly into star-spangled party nights. “The kids can have 50 friends up to teen hi-jinks downstairs while we entertain upstairs in peace,” says Jeanne (who is just as likely to be joining in the Ibiza Lounge fun herself ). 

During the day the toys on the water’s edge – waterskis, tube, surfboards, kayaks – are a clear indication of what keeps this water-loving family happily occupied. For après-beach, the lounge is kitted out with all the mod-cons, including a large white deli bar, integrated fridges and Nespresso machine; while an enormous cinema room with big-screen TV, a leather day bed and generous sofas entice you to lie down and chill out. "You can just park there for the entire day," says Jeanne, "or cool off in the pool. It is a very relaxed space, and the kids come in from the beach – sandy feet and all – and make themselves at home for the day".  

The contemporary design of the Dune House reflects David’s passion for the genre, and he worked very closely with Boyd Ferguson right from concept stage through the painstaking planning processes to achieve this happy-go-lucky home. "We first approached Cécile & Boyd’s out of the blue and they were too busy to take on our project. But we sent them the plans anyway as I knew they’d be tempted," says David. "Boyd is so good with space. He made some fundamental tweaks to the design that enhanced it no end. Little things – like which way doors opened and subtle adjustment to spaces – added huge value". 

The couple credits both Boyd and Geordi with interpreting their brief so successfully. "We knew what we wanted: it had to be very natural, earthy, simple, peaceful, uncluttered but homely, and (of course) very contemporary. We included a lot of pictures in our brief in terms of what we liked and disliked. Boyd and Geordi got it spot on first time, and enhanced our initiative even further with such good ideas and beautiful results,’ says David. “We were in England when the house was first completed. One of the best surprises ever was walking in for the first time and seeing it all done to perfection". 

The central spine of the house is timber clad – revealed in the headboards behind the beds – with stone floors that feel surprisingly soft underfoot and timber cladding and decks outside. The interiors are without exception airy, uncluttered and very serene. The entire home is flooded with light, with vast windows positioned to make the best of the beautiful views in every direction and verandahs integrated into the home to allow in masses of light. A neutral palette complements the clean, contemporary interiors, with real interest added by the touch-me organic textures and nature-inspired details. The result is that Dune House feels totally earthed and, at the same time, very light. 

Adding to the homely atmosphere is the furniture, sourced by Cécile & Boyd’s and from local manufacturers. Much of the artwork is by Jeanne herself, who is working towards an exhibition later this year. The only splashes of bright colour that punctuate the space are the massed family photographs, all taken over the years here in Plett and displayed in a glorious celebration of good times. "This home has given us an amazing family time," says Jeanne. “We never fail to leave here without feeling utterly restored and just plain happy". Who could ask for anything more?