The heart behind the internationally known Sabrina Love Foundation, Plettenberg Bay interior designer Suzy Lubner’s home is intricately woven around the story of her family.
WORDS Colleen Blaine PHOTOGRAPHS Vanessa Van Vreden
Seated in a large fuchsia armchair looking out over the ocean at Robberg Beach End, Suzy Lubner chats to South while her daughter Gabriella potters around the kitchen, baking delicious chocolate brownies.
Talking to Suzy is like curling up with a great book on a rainy Sunday – you don’t want it to end. Her warm stories reveal her tremendous passion for life, family, love and meaning. “We always knew that Plettenberg Bay was a place, a space, which we would spend our lives in,” says Suzy.
It was just a matter of time and patience, waiting for the perfect property to come around. Having visited Plett regularly in their early years together, staying at husband Tony’s parents’ house, the couple set about finding the perfect place for their own home.
They were initially drawn to The Crags, mostly because of Suzy’s passion for horses and their combined love of open spaces and nature. However, it didn’t take much to change her mind when Tony discovered a plot of land tucked away in the corner of Robberg beach, framed by the Robberg Nature Reserve. Tony discovered the property while surfing at the famous Wreck surfing spot. As he looked up, he saw a ‘for sale’ sign and knew he had found the place Suzy would love.
They were still living in Johannesburg at the time but started building their new home – a place where they could provide a better environment for their daughter Sabrina, who was suffering from a rare bone disorder. “We wanted to bring Sabrina here so her little lungs could breathe cleaner air, so she could see the sea every day and live the life that we wanted for her. We knew the second we walked into the house that we were finally home and we never wished to be anywhere else again. We knew our other daughters, Emma and Gabriella, would love it too.”
Sadly, less than two years later Sabrina died and their new home offered them shelter through the hardest days of their lives. “I never wanted to leave that house – the house that Sabrina had lived in, the house that held our hearts,” Suzy explains.
However, when the plot in front of theirs became available, the Lubners sold their first Plett home to buyers who would become life-long friends. Their new house boasts an endless sea view and embodies everything the family, including Sabrina, is about.
With a similar layout to the first house, they once again brought in architect Paolo Viotti, who shares a strong respect for this part of the world as well as an awareness of his footprint.
Being an interior designer, Suzy was thrilled to begin designing her new home. She and Tony travelled to Bali, a favourite holiday destination of theirs, to buy as many items as possible to bring Suzy’s unique vision for the house to life.
The house blends into the environment around it, mimicking the colours of a piece of dried bark Suzy found and the surrounding fynbos. She says almost every item in the house has some meaning to her – from the heavy carved Indonesian doors in each room and the eclectic mix of furniture to the coconut palm supporting beams and the sandstone carvings that mirror each other from three places in the home. From the rough marble floor tiles that Suzy says were the “scraggliest we could find” to the volcanic rock tiles around the fireplace, everything in the home contributes to a sense of peace and contentment.
The décor theme is the ‘circle of life’. “It is the same with all the homes I have been lucky enough to work on; they all must have a meaning, a connection to the people who are going to live there, a generosity of spirit.
“I realise many of the places I design and decorate are places the owners yearn to come to, this makes it easier to visualise them. I like to see my work as all about the nurturing of spaces. At the same time everything in the house must have a purpose, a use; nothing is too precious to be used but rather to be enjoyed.”
Suzy’s interior design career started in Johannesburg while she was working for well-known interior designer Stephen Falcke. It was with him that she began to realise her passion for creating beautiful spaces and soon after leaving to have Sabrina, she founded her still very successful design company, Eccentrics.
When asked how often an interior designer redesigns her own home, Suzy says she considers her own space perfect the way it is. “However, I am the eternal gatherer so it becomes more about layering rather than redesigning.”
She has a list too long to mention of favourite and sentimental pieces, but highlights paintings of her daughters; statuettes of girls and angels scattered throughout the home, the reflection pool alongside her office and play room; and the clay footprints of her daughters.
Suzy’s home speaks volumes about her love for family, her kindness and generosity of spirit, and embodies the warmth and peace she exudes.
Eccentrics Interior Design
044 533 0111
The Sabrina Love Foundation
Suzy and Tony Lubner’s daughter Sabrina was born with a rare bone disorder. After she died shortly before her seventh birthday, the couple started the Sabrina Love Foundation, which cares for children with special needs in the Plettenberg Bay area and beyond. One of the foundation’s main charitable events is the annual Sabrina Love Challenge, a multi-sport event that attracts thousands of participants from across the country to Plettenberg Bay, in December. 044 533 3130 www.sabrinalove.co.za