No jetlag, a love of sport and the diverse natural surroundings of the Garden Route were among the many reasons a French couple chose Wilderness to build their dream holiday home – creating a sanctuary quite different from their Paris city lifestyle.
WORDS Athane Scholtz PHOTOGRAPHS Desmond Scholtz
François and Marie Hisquin’s journey to the dunes of Wilderness started with a 2010 World Cup road trip and golf holiday.
“My husband and our son, Thibault, were driving from golf course to golf course between games and were on their way to a semi-final in Port Elizabeth when they came upon Wilderness beach. François immediately thought he would love to have a house here,” says Marie.
In April 2014 the couple saw a house for sale on the internet, which they thought would fit the bill and decided to take a trip to South Africa. “The house was really beautiful and well-situated, but the plot was too small for our needs. There was another house for sale nearby – this time we liked the plot but the house was very old and we decided to knock it down and start from scratch. We kept the original house’s name, Meetsnoere, which refers to an old way of measuring land, and the associated implication that you were fortunate to have been allocated good land,” says Marie.
Local architect Eddie da Silva was briefed to design a house in which all the bedrooms would have an ocean view. “If you opened the front door, I wanted the sea view to take your breath away. You had to be able to eat, sleep and have a shower with a view.”
The Hisquins also expected their outdoor-loving, golf-playing friends to visit often, so the house needed several bedrooms, sitting areas and a long dining room table. A separate downstairs apartment for grown-up children, an office and soundproof media room were also required. Eddie’s design maximises the view long before you get to the front door. At first glance, as you enter from the street, the glass box design allows an almost uninterrupted ocean view through the house. The swimming pool wraps around the house on two sides, extending the blue-green into the blue sea horizon.
The north-south integration of the design also ensures the optimal use of sunlight and warmth often absent in south-facing seaside homes in the region. The flat roof, stark grey walls and accent walls of stone contribute to a contemporary yet earthy design. “I liked that the design let nature in and – while the ocean is the overwhelming first impression – when you start looking around, you see green too, not just blue. On the outdoor patios we incorporated artificial grass to reiterate the garden feel from the front of the house,” says Marie.
When choosing interiors, Marie wanted design elements and décor to be South African. “It made no sense to me to import from overseas when there is so much local and authentic talent. Our family really likes animals and wanted the vibrant culture of Africa to shine through, but understated and with simplicity in mind.”
In contrast to the house’s dark exterior, the interior had to be light, with neutral colours and textured fabrics. “I was in no hurry to decorate the walls – I wanted to live in the house for a while and find the right pieces as I came across them. The house now is like a semi-completed canvas and it is fun to finish it in my own time.”
On her journey to decorate the interior of her home, Marie discovered Wilderness artist Peter Pharoah. The double-volume wall supporting semi-floating stairs detail on the northern side of the house lent itself to an especially large piece that would be visible on first sight. “Peter came to the house to get a feel for the house. I wanted a modern piece in black and white but with bright African colours coming through.” The artist incorporated the greens and blues of sea and grass, and the result is a show-stopping 2,4m x 2,4m painting that has become a favourite signature piece. Pendant lights, with jumbled multi-coloured wiring, create a fun, bird’s nest effect and illuminate the painting at night.
Another favourite feature of the Hisquins is the slate stone wall that leads into the house, creating texture alongside smooth, white-painted walls.
When the house was completed, the family celebrated in style by throwing a party for 50 friends who flew in from Europe for the occasion. “For many, it was a first visit to South Africa or the Garden Route. They all loved the house and the place, and said they would return. The house lets nature in and makes the most of the exceptional South African weather.”
Marie says spending time in their Wilderness home is very different from their lives in Paris. “I love village life. In Paris you have to get dressed up to go to the shops for bread and milk, here you can go barefoot in beachwear. There is a wonderful freedom to living here. When we are here, we spend a lot of time outdoors, walking on the beach and in the forest. This place has everything: mountain, sea, forest, rivers and the semi-desert Karoo.
“People can have a lot to say about safety and security, but I can honestly say I never feel afraid.
“The easy access to George Airport, a 20-minute drive, makes travelling to other places in Southern Africa easy. It is not unthinkable to plan a quick trip to Mozambique or Victoria Falls from here.”
She says as keen golfers their friends were surprised they had not chosen to live on a golf estate, but estate living felt too formal for what they had in mind for a holiday home – “and anyway, golf is not the only thing we do”, says Marie.
“The Wilderness home is our perfect escape. While we don’t do it often enough, it is a jetlag-free overnight trip from Paris to Cape Town, and a quick hop from there to George. While it is mostly a holiday home for us now, I hope when François’ work no longer demands so much time and travel, that we will be able to spend more and more time here. This is truly a wonderful place.”