John Searle and his friends, Gary and Peter
WHERE Greyton, Overberg, Western Cape
A few years ago, Capetonian John Searle
and his friends Gary and Peter started
dreaming about a shared country home
– a space where they could, as John
puts it, “get some perspective and hear
So the three friends, all of whom are self-employed, set out to find the perfect spot, viewing numerous houses in various small towns within easy driving distance from Cape Town. However, two years slipped past without that ‘this is it!’ moment.
That finally happened in 2012. “We spent a weekend in Greyton and realised that the town ticked almost all of our boxes,” John explains. After all, it was only one-and-a-half hours’ drive from the city. But once again, none of the available houses appealed to them, and with each of them running their own business, they weren’t up for a major renovation.
“Then the agent remembered this house, but said that it wasn’t in a typical Greyton style and might not appeal to us. But when we walked in the front door, we immediately fell in love with it – we knew that ‘this was the one’,” says John.
CO-OWNERSHIP WITHOUT CONFLICT
Two’s company, three’s a crowd – and all the more so when each of the three owners has a life partner. John explains how they make their visits work: “We keep an online Google Docs schedule so we can see whose turn it is to have the house; each owner goes every third weekend. The big holidays – Christmas, Easter and long weekends – also revolve. This keeps things fair.
“Co-ownership means we all share the running costs of the house and a local cleaner comes in during the week. The reality is that it wouldn’t be feasible to go every weekend, nor would we want to. Without shared ownership the house would have been locked up on some weekends; this way, one of the owners is there every weekend (every third week and weekend is ours and this works perfectly for us). We share the meals between guests so everyone gets a chance to contribute; we try to minimise wastage and reinvent our leftovers for the next day,” says John.
A closed-combustion fireplace in the main bedroom takes the nip out of cold winter nights. “You can sit in bed with a cup of coffee and gaze at the mountains and garden. It’s good for the soul,” says John. Knit blanket from Weylandts
Conflicting décor opinions were avoided by sticking to a straightforward agreement: keep things simple.
“Luckily, we all have a preference for soft, comfortable fabrics with gentle greens and earth tones that complement the home’s palette and garden. We’ve been friends for a long time, so there’s plenty of mutual respect. It also helped that we bought the house with most of the furniture and the palette already established.
“After all, it’s a weekend home and one shouldn’t be too precious. The house is pet-friendly but only Peter has three Jack Russells; however, guests often bring theirs for the weekend. We also want to be able to put our feet up and get comfy, so we’ve chosen hard-wearing fabrics that can be cleaned easily,” says John.
The en-suite next to the main bedroom features a shower with a simple country feel; it’s separated from the bath by a partial wall. High ceilings in the bedrooms add to the farmhouse feel. The second bedroom (second picture) also has French doors opening up onto the garden.
ON THE ARCHITECTURE
Designed by Cape Town architect Wynand Wilsenach, the house may not be the typical thatched-roof Greyton cottage with a picket fence, yet it has all the country charm of an old farmhouse with its pitched roof, timber shutters and an enormous hearth with traditional klompie bricks.
“A house in a classic farm-style setting should be simple, clean and unpretentious – and respect its immediate surroundings,” says Wynand. “People go there over weekends, so it must also be easy to maintain. We used our specialist gutter brackets here, so the house has no fascias. This adds to the country charm, but a contemporary, fresh feel is also important. High ceilings as well as tall doors and windows enhance the connection with blue skies and nature.
“The extreme Greyton climate – very hot summers and very cold winters – must also be taken into consideration. It’s important to allow for sunlight in winter, hence the north-facing living areas and bedrooms. The modern steel pergola and courtyard provide shelter from the wind and sun. In summer, shutters and traditional smaller window sizes keep the interior much cooler. The sliding timber shutters with inward-opening doors also provide security.”
The style of the house reminded John of a French country home. “The layout was perfect with a seamless flow between various interior and exterior entertainment areas, so we made no structural changes,” he explains. Weekends are centred around shared meals and relaxing in the beautiful garden. “We built a braai on the back stoep to match the architecture, as well as a pool with an undercover deck and a small shed for storing outdoor cushions. Our landscaper friend Herman Nel redesigned the garden, complete with a herb garden, to enhance its country charm.
“It does tend to be a bit cold in winter due to the concrete screeded floors and large open spaces. But then we generally keep a fire going day and night and we dress up warmly. We always remind our guests to bring their slippers and tracksuit pants when they visit in the chilly months!” John adds.
Herman Nel designed the wild garden under the oak trees for relaxing. The daybeds are popular for morning snoozes on hot summer days. Cushions from Skinny laMinx; iron daybeds from The Kelim & Décor Shop
A garden for lazy days
The owners gave Herman free rein to redesign the garden. “He did a fantastic job and we were privileged to already have tall trees here,” says John, indicating the three equal parts of the garden.
“On the left (viewed from the house), a herb garden, undercover pool deck and pool area form a unit. The lawn is in the middle and on the right-hand side is a wild garden under the trees,” he explains.
“Herman spent some time at the house, considering the space and the prevailing light, wind and shade at different times of day. We love the fact that in the morning we can lie on the daybeds in the shade under the oak trees and in the afternoon the shade moves to the gazebo area next to the pool.
“We also enjoy the big lawn; it’s a great place for kids to play cricket and soccer or just run around and have fun.”