To listen to tree expert Dag Willems recount the story of what it took to plant the olive tree that gives The Olive Tree Villa its name, is to marvel at the multiple hurdles successfully overcome that led to that moment. The limited manoeuvrability of the five-ton tree and the restricted mobility of the mobile crane necessary to airlift it into its heroic courtyard position are just a few of the challenges faced. And yet there was never any question as to the olive tree’s necessity. The owners of the villa, Karin König and Fred de Beer, insisted that, like the zinc-clad bridge that straddles the home’s central courtyard and joins its two pavilions, the olive tree be present for all that it represents – peace, harmony and, on a personal level, Karin and Fred’s union.
From the outset, the couple were specific as to the architectural approach of the villa, which was to house both their quarters as well as luxury accommodation of a quality not previously experienced in the sleepy seaside village of Yzerfontein, an hour’s drive from Cape Town. Inspired by their shared appreciation of the indoor-outdoor architecture of favourite holiday spot Ko Samui in Thailand, it immediately became a non-negotiable requirement that the building invite the outdoors in. Of equal importance was that efforts be taken to camouflage the property within the coastline’s rugged terrain.
The couple enlisted architect Gavin Maddock. Gavin, who has a practice in both South Africa and Australia, regularly designs from the inside out, keeping the home’s interior spaces and finishes central to his conceptualisation before moving outwards. ‘In defining The Olive Tree Villa’s aesthetic, I presented the architecture and interiors holistically, with the external spaces part of that solution,’ says Gavin. For him the courtyard – positioned behind and raised higher than the sea-facing interiors so as to maximise its use during the windy season, and ensure uninterrupted ocean views – was to be the heart of the home. To connect it with every last corner of the villa, as well as the surrounding grey-green scrub, a bespoke charcoal colour in Cemcrete was agreed upon for use on all the walls and floors, both inside and out. Its application varied, depending on the surface, but the overall effect is one of seamlessness, giving the structure a monolithic appearance.
Such a dark colour has an immediate cocooning effect. Its richness and dense complexity, paired with a décor palette of burnt mineral and deep marine tones, dark bedroom linens and mottled velvets, are enveloping, encouraging guests to bunker down. Sinking into the texturally rich, oversized armchairs and sofas, handpicked by Sumari Krige of La Grange Interiors, whom Karin had previously worked with on another project, exemplifies the indulgence and serenity the owners encourage guests to enjoy. ‘I want couples to experience comfort and luxury as if in a hotel suite, to take a bubble bath overlooking the ocean, or to walk the few steps down to the unspoilt beach,’ says Karin. ‘It was my desire to create an environment in which one can recharge, take a moment, and just be.’
To this end, Sumari’s input was invaluable. Her extensive experience decorating local and international boutique accommodation meant she was perfectly positioned not only to create a luxurious, layered décor scheme, but also to guide Karin when choosing specialists to custom-design many of the finer luxuries, like the villa’s bespoke crockery created by ceramicist Mervyn Gers.
Gavin’s pairing of immaculately finished timber joinery with marble, most prevalent in the kitchen cabinetry and around the wood-burning fireplaces, is an example on a larger scale of this same attention to detail. In the bedroom and bathroom of the ‘penthouse’ suite, the sophistication of such materials serves to soften the impact of a coarse off-shutter concrete wall, seemingly suspended above the floor, thanks to architectural ingenuity. In the accompanying living space, almost double volume in height, floor-to-ceiling glass walls slide open in varying configurations to allow for uninterrupted ocean views and to welcome the terrace in. Its private plunge pool, elevated to allow for views of the beach and the occasional passing ostrich, hugs the upper west corner of the building, afforded privacy by a timber screen.
Where timber is used for privacy and filtering the sunlight in both upstairs suites, zinc cladding, on the exterior of the bridge connecting the pavilions, is used for much the same purposes. In contrast to the welcome volumes of sunshine that stream into the penthouse living space and warm its palette of aquatic greens and greys, the natural light that illuminates the walkway is more controlled. As Gavin explains: ‘Slithers of glass are arranged in a manner that adds a dynamic to the space, allowing shards of light to play against the floor and opposite wall.’ What results is an ever-changing dance of sunlight, not unlike that created by light streaming through the wild camphor trees lining the peripheral wall of the courtyard below. And like the textured and desaturated colours of the wild camphor’s’ foliage, so too will the zinc cladding merge with its environment as it ages and acquires patina.
Harmony and a shared desire to ensure luxury of a level new in the village unite all aspects of this villa. From Sumari’s choice of graphic patterns and furnishings that mirror the moods of the sea beyond to Gavin’s inherent understanding of how to invite the outdoors in by pairing tone and texture with crafted interior finishes, what’s immediately obvious at The Olive Tree Villa is the mutual respect and admiration across all disciplines. This same respect characterises Karin and Fred’s decision-making. Design, décor, interiors and architecture surround a tree that epitomises everything their seamless pairings represent.
Text and styling by Martin Jacobs
Photography by Karl Rogers