A Happy Homecoming
Home South Africa|September 2021
With sustainability in their DNA, a Kommetjie couple brought a modern edge to passive design in their off-the-grid home.
Marian van Wyk

WHO LIVES HERE? Charrisse Johnston and Ian Macduff, Oscar the British Shorthair cat, and Winston the Chow Chow

WHERE Kommetjie, Western Cape

SIZE 195m2

“We wanted to be able to open up to the outdoors as much as possible. So, the entire corner of the lounge opens onto the garden with stacking sliding glass doors,” says Charrisse. “Unfortunately, Winston decided that we’d planted too many sour figs and that his guard dog duties required a path to the fence.”

Scatter cushions by Inyoni Art; ceiling fan by Solent

A bright coral and green tallboy immediately catches the eye when Charrisse Johnston and Ian Macduff’s front door swings open. But, as it turns out, this is by far the boldest décor statement in an otherwise muted neutral palette.

The couple built their off-the-grid home last year on one of two neighboring plots that Ian bought in 2007. The plots form an ‘L’ and their house is on the long leg, 40m from the beach. As Charrisse puts it, their vacant beachfront plot “serves as Winston’s personal dog park”.

For Ian, the move to Kommetjie has been a homecoming; he has been surfing the village’s waves since he was a teenager. As an architect, he worked around the world – Hong Kong, Sydney, London, Bulgaria – before moving to Los Angeles where he and Charrisse met and got married while working for the same architectural firm. Charrisse, a former Wall Street executive who turned to interior design, is also a past chair of the American Society of Interior Designers.

Since settling in Cape Town, the pair continues to collaborate at their studioSALT practice. With two architects living under one roof, every design detail is a carefully considered, and often well-argued, decision.

“Well, in theory, the scope was divided very cleanly,” Ian explains. “I design the structures and layout the main interior spaces, while Charrisse designs all the interiors. In reality, of course, we are both opinionated and passionate – and used to being in charge!”

With its 360º view of the ocean and mountains, the roof deck is Ian’s favourite spot. Clickloc polycarbonate panels allow for natural light on the staircase inside.

Chairs from Ikea

The décor tells the story of Ian and Charrisse’s lives from before they met to their time spent together in Los Angeles, and their move to Kommetjie. The colorful tallboy was bought in Macau on China’s southern coast and the dining chairs and oak table are from the couple’s LA home. The limited print of American activist Kathleen Cleaver is by Tyrone Drake.

Jacaranda seed pod chandelier by African Queen Studio

The pivot front door was made from a massive century-old yellowwood structural beam charred in a fire. On the top shelf is the fin from Ian’s first surfboard, a gift from his uncle Henry Enslin.

Floor finished with Cemcrete Colour Hardener in House Blend; porcupine quill pendant by Lidi Ada Naturals; front door and shoe rack custom made by Christo’s Southern Creations; towels from Summah

The holes in the exposed concrete are from the steel ties that held the formwork together and are also seen on the exterior. They were left unfilled as Ian believes that concrete is a self-finishing material and he likes to display the construction details. The raised bookshelf creates more floor space in the narrow TV room.

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