House Tour: Trouthaven In South Africa

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28 February 2023

Reading Time: 7 minutes

A breezy pod cabin in South Africa’s remote Breede Valley combines dramatic views with pared-down interiors in an untouched landscape.

An untouched piece of land on the edge of a fruit and wine farm, overlooking a trout-heavy stream, is something special. It called for smart thinking and sensitive design choices to limit its visual impact on the environment. 

Floor-to-ceiling views and a prefabricated build that ticked comfort and affordability boxes were the simple brief given to architect Nikita van Zyl of ModHDesign, who collaborated with interior designer Kim Spyron of Oooh Interior Design on the project.

Kim was a regular camper at Trouthaven Farm, she relished the opportunity to bring her vision to the venture and took up the challenge. ‘My family enjoys spending weekends on the farm. I loved the idea of a simple pod structure that could be placed in the environment to maximise views, and prioritise privacy,’ says Kim. ‘From the moment you drive up to the pod, you have a sense that this is your little pocket of nature. Every angle, movement or position presents you with a magnificent view. ‘It radiates tranquility, ease and a sense of connection’, says Kim.   

‘Made of lightweight steel, the laser-cut structures allow for total accuracy so they canbe delivered on-site, flat-packed and installed in six weeks’, explains Dean Westmoreof Space Agency who built the Spaas Podular cabin. The 60sqm pod, with two bedrooms and en-suite bathrooms, was designed as a laid-back getaway with a ‘cabin feel’.

Presented with a petite footprint, Kim says that working with a small space required her to approach design carefully to ensure ‘everything had its place’. This functional approach had to be balanced with an ethereal one, ensuring the cabin felt connected to the context of the landscape around it. ‘It was very important that the layout, furniture and other elements worked together to give it substance. I wanted to balance the hard black steel outer structure with a strong connection to nature internally,’ she says. 

In short, she was led by ‘how it made her feel’ when designing the interior. ‘Perched on a mountain, it feels very airy and fresh, and I took this as my inspiration,’ she explains. ‘I set out to incorporate the element of air with my choice of materials and objects, which meant I was naturally drawn to neutral shades.’

The feeling of lightness and sense of expansiveness was also achieved with a playful approach to storage and fitted furniture. Recessed shelves were left exposed, and cabinets are wall-mounted, so they don’t touch the floors, for example. ‘We took this philosophy right through the design from choosing sheer curtains to a perforated coffee table and laser-cut chair,’ she says. 

Having to work very hard with the space available, the living space is centralised, with a combined kitchen and lounge, and a fireplace that multitasks as a barbeque. Storage and functional spaces were kept to the perimeter where possible to retain easy flow. ‘The challenge was to provide sufficient storage and functional space in the kitchen without hindering the seating space. We needed a simple, flexible way of integrating the two.  I intended to make it feel calm, airy and clutter-free,’ says Kim. 

A solution was to provide versatile seating configurations. Lightweight chairs can be shifted with ease towards kitchen conversations, or nearer the fireplace for a cozy nightcap. The hero of the space is a hanging chair that creates a ‘special spot’, and was installed to have a specific line of sight down the valley. ‘It can allow you to feel contained and private. But you can also swing one way to enjoy the view and swing back to participate in kitchen chatter,’ says Kim.  

The light timber cladding inside dominates the cabin, and Kim says they chose to embrace this feature and use the palette of the wood to make it part of the aesthetic. Anything added needed to blend or complement it, which led her to selecting blonde and neutral fabrics and woven elements, for example. Small concessions to glamour were made by choosing a white kitchen counter embedded with recycled glass fragments, and a bronze and marble coffee table. 

Compromises naturally had to be made because the cabin is small, but Kim seized this as an opportunity to treat the deck that leads from the kitchen/lounge as an additional room. A sail was installed above the dining table to shield it from the sun at the peak heat of the day. The small, kite-like structure attached to the perforated pergola is strategically placed and angled, so it doesn’t hinder the deck’s openness or sunset views.  

The pergola, which the sail attaches to, forms part of the cabin’s structure and was added to break up the blocky feel of a modular build, says Dean. Instead of leaving the deck unroofed, the pergola also gives it a sense of context as an outside room. ‘It gives it a feeling of permanency, but you can still look up see the sky,’ says Kim. 

The deck, which features a hanging day bed and heated circular pool, is home to el fresco dining and dreamy afternoon naps. It’s all about living inside and outside seamlessly, says Kim. ‘When we thought about the design we kept in mind the flow of the day and how we wanted to experience and journey through from morning to evening. We imagined someone sitting on the deck with their feet dangling into the pool, or children swimming while you are reading on the daybed,’ she says. 

With the natural focus falling on the lounge, kitchen and deck, Kim says it was important that the bedrooms and bathrooms weren’t considered an afterthought. They work equally hard to maximise the use of space. 

As a weekend getaway, generous cupboard space wasn’t required. Instead of built-in cupboards, Kim chose to use one wall of the bedroom as a hybrid living space with a basin setup combined with black steel shelving for clothing. Shifting the basin into the bedrooms also allowed them to keep the bathrooms clutter-free. 

Here too, Kim explains, she went to great lengths to source items that would speak to the philosophy of airiness while adding personality. Quirky cloud-shapes mirrors wrap around the shelving in the bedroom, capturing a glimpse of the views visible through a wall of glass and reflecting them. Above the basin is a further strip of windows that inject mountain and sky views. 

The bathrooms, which contain a shower and toilet, are bolted on to each side of the cabin, and separated from the bedrooms with tracked barn sliding doors. Kim chose to treat these units differently to the central modular pod they are attached to. Instead of cladding Kim chose marble tiles for the walls. ‘We wanted some movement in the tiles, so the bathroom didn’t feel too sterile. We landed on a white marble tile with mushroomy tone in veins,’ says Kim. 

Showering is of course optional when there is a coil-heated circular pool which can be fire-heated at night. Cladded in raw wood, it is absorbed into its surroundings and sits level with the deck, so the view is unencumbered. ‘Everything we did internally and externally had thought put into it how it would contribute to pulling the environment into the space again,’ says Kim.

Indigenous plants that occur naturally in the landscape were embraced and planted to create privacy. Combined with the black steel exterior of the pod, the property is absorbed into the environment. Interior designer Kim Spyron and her son Silas are pictured.

The Breede Valley views can be best enjoyed on the deck, which was added to the pod to facilitate laidback al fresco dining. It was designed as more of an external room, than an addition, and also features a daybed and sunken pool. 

A floating daybed sits alongside the outside dining table and pool on the deck. ‘When we thought about this space we considered how one would choose to spend their day here. Someone can be at the table looking at the views, another reading on the daybed, while the kids play in the pool,’ she says. Floating daybed, custom by Caneworld cushions; Oooh Interiors.  

Kim chose furnishings that encouraged the flow of air and light, such as a hanging rattan chair, and a perforated chair and coffee table. Kim also designed the kitchen. Kim commissioned a stylish sleeper couch to be made, so the cabin can expand to accommodate visitors. 

Silas relaxes in the custom-built pool, designed used a wood-heated coil system.

A rattan hanging chair is the hero of the combined kitchen and lounge. ‘It’s such a fun addition,’ says Kim. ‘You can swing one way to enjoy the view and swing back to participate in kitchen chatter,’ she says. Recessed shelving in the lounge creates storage opportunities, without intruding on the limited space of the living area. 

The pendant lamp was chosen for its streamlined silhouette. Kim installed hooks protruding from the wall so that if the beds are split for visitors into two singles, the light can be shifted to service them. It eliminated the need for bedside tables with lamps, she explains. The main bedroom viewed from the outside of the pod cabin. Indigenous vegetation was chosen and planted to enhance privacy and connect the building to the environment.    

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