Walking up the ancient stone steps from St James beach, across the deck with it’s picture-perfect blue ocean views and into this charming seaside cottage is like stepping into a painting. Or an artist’s palette. Belonging to talented floral designers, Chris Willemse and Dané Erwee, it’s not surprising that their style is both eclectic and charming – a balm for the soul. There’s a sense of Old World, of time slipped by, a return to the simple beach house memories we had as children. Muted pinks give way to warm greys bordered with citron yellow and walls covered in giant vintage maps of the world. Oil paintings are propped up by shells in bathrooms and a kitchen cupboard is hand veneered in different woods, depicting boat scenes from a harbour.
Three calming bedrooms, each with indoor and outdoor showers, have shuttered windows – perfect for quiet siestas or a good book after hot days on the beach. Moroccan style bathrooms are all cleverly fitted into what was the classic central passageway that once belonged to the original house before it was renovated. Chris and Dané exposed beams and hung model boats from the rafters where they sway gently in shafts of light from the skylights, added humble copper fittings and bold patterned tiles. In the living area, blooming nasturtiums tumble down over an Eastern armoire and ceramics tell a story on the wall. Outside a hot tub with spectacular sea views beckons on the deck and a mass of violet pansies bob in the sea breeze and as the sun sets, there's nothing better than firing up the wood fire to heat the water and sipping sundowners from this mountain side eyrie.
St James gets the morning sun, and dawn is particularly beautiful as the sea lights up in a faded pink that slowly turns the gentlest blue. Behind the cottage, steep steps curve upwards to a narrow garden hugging the hillside – a quiet coffee spot to enjoy in the morning while the village wakes up below. Seagulls swoop across the waves and boubou shrikes greet the day loud and clear, while the early scent of damp fynbos fills the morning air - a smell that is distinctly Cape, yet in this steep, mountainside setting, there's a strong sense of the Amalfi or Cinque Terre – a 'taste of Europe', if you like, yet St James is just half an hour out of Cape Town.