21 Nov
The Bird house in uMdloti.

Graeme and Kerstin Bird live in uMdloti with their two young sons. Their home and lifestyle speaks truth to the rumour that life at uMdloti is akin to being on holiday, only permanently

story anne schauffer pictures sally chance

When the Bird family decided to move north, it was a given that it would be right on the coast. Graeme’s a surfer and ocean lover, and as one of the founders of Poison City, Durban’s home-grown craft brew label – currently quenching the world’s thirst for the fabulous flipside of Durban – he deftly arranges his work-and-play schedule around the tides.

The Birds scoured the coastline until they came across this property. Embedded in the green slopes of uMdloti village, on the quieter, residential south side, it offered them an idyllic lifestyle and never-ending kaleidoscope of weather, seasons, tides, whales, dolphins and, of course, surfers. Once having stepped into the living areas and seen the vast expanse of the ocean through the towering glass doors and panels, Kerstin knew no other home would speak to them in quite the same way. They bought it.

Who wouldn’t want their daily life to feel like a holiday? Not the Birds, and their home is living proof that it’s achievable, for everything is geared up for what the rest of the world considers as vacation gear. The garage is lined with surf and boogie boards, fishing rods, umbrellas, beach chairs … holiday paraphenalia, clearly in daily use. The beach is a two-minute walk away – the dogs reach it a little quicker – so whether you’re a swimmer, surfer, fisherman or stroller, you can almost touch the sand and sea from the house.

The triple-storey home was designed by architect Melanie Robertson. Contemporary, unfussy lines, airy double-volume spaces and a seamless fluidity, indoors to out, are the hallmarks of the property; but there are other less overt hideaway spaces. Graeme and Kerstin’s vast bedroom – integrating a wide-open shower and bathroom – is the sole room on the third floor and almost uninterrupted, leading out on to an expansive deck towards the horizon. But tucked away out of the weather on the western side is a secluded wooden deck – not only is it a little nook, a haven, but the backdrop is the dense, lush uMdloti coastal bush. The local community diligently guards its conservancy status, and the indigenous bush which weaves its way along the coastline is home to astonishing birdlife. For Kerstin, this is her sun-filled and sheltered hideaway, right in the bush, which she loves.

The home is immensely spacious and filled with light, and the Birds have taken care not to clutter the space. Crafted and bespoke tables or storage units, carefully selected artwork and single items of stand-alone furniture all ensure the space isn’t robbed of flow or blocked by obstacles. Herringbone parquet flooring throughout the home warms the rooms with its rich, reflected, darker colours and design. Wood, white and grey is the overriding tonal theme, but always flanked by multiple shades of living greenery, little and large, planter boxes inside and a green and growing staghorn wall outside.

The kitchen is an integral part of the living areas, perfectly positioned and elevated so the chef not only enjoys panoramic views while conjuring up meals, but is in full contact with family and friends at the poolside, indoor or outdoor dining area, or in the lounge. All unsightly “kitchenalia” is tucked away in a pantry, so the clean, cool, cooking space doesn’t dominate.

Kirsten loves art, and she has a few wonderfully quirky ceramic pieces, paintings – almost exclusively by local artists – and customised furniture and light-fittings by designer and sculptor Xavier Clarisse. Her intriguing Frieda Kahlo piece hanging alongside the stairway between the TV lounge and their bedroom, is masterful.

As much as this home is well designed for a family, it’s a gilt-edged invitation for entertaining. The magnetic, 180° ocean sights and sounds are too good not to share. Just add a few cases of Durban Poison Cannabis Lager – the newcomer to Graeme’s craft beer range, one which is igniting parties worldwide – and this uMdloti party is on.

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