Striking just the right balance between a Mediterranean and Moorish aesthetic, Yvonne O’Brien’s dream home, situated in an older part of Plettenberg Bay, is a manifestation of ideas and inspirations collected over the years.
O’Brien got her start in the interior design business years ago as an apprentice to luxury interiors and homeware designer Nina Campbell in London and has gone on to establish herself as a reputable interior designer with 25 years of experience and, more recently, as the founder of furniture importers The Private House Company.
Major renovations were done to transform the space, which had been neglected and was falling apart. For this project, O’Brien enlisted the help of architect Menno Meniez, whose work can be seen throughout Plettenberg and of which she has been a long-time fan. ‘It had always been my dream to work with Meniez. Every time I saw a house I liked, I knew it was him,’ she says, describing Menez as an old-school architect who will sharpen his pencil and sketch directly onto the wall.
While many would have demolished the dilapidated house, the architect worked within budget and within the original framework of the home’s design, allowing the family to renovate conservatively and to work innovatively with its original charm. Some of the big changes to the structure included breaking down walls to make one big open-plan space with a main bedroom upstairs and an open-plan kitchen and living area below. One of the architectural challenges was reworking the foundations and the entire upstairs area is built in wood to keep the structure of the house light.
The home’s interior is dressed in a beachy palette – an ode to O’Brien’s love for all things blue. ‘I have been coming to Plettenberg Bay since the age of 17,’ she says. ‘The flooring was on sale because it was the wrong colour. I thought I would paint it white, but when I saw it, it was the colour of beach sand. It was perfect.’
Each room is filled with a signature casual sophistication with pieces sourced from The Private House Company. There is also continuity between spaces with built-in furniture pieces, day beds instead of sofas and white slipcovers in easily washable toweling material. Photographs by David Ballam of scenes from Mozambique adorn the walls alongside blue and white Matisse prints collected over the years. ‘I do not like anything too overdressed and I prefer lines that are classic, yet contemporary at the same time,’ says O’Brien.
Her travels, another source of O’Brien’s inspiration, are evident in some of the pieces on display in the home. Blue Ikat cushions in the living area were bought several years ago from Madeline Weinrib in New York and are juxtaposed with cloth from North Africa draped across the chairs. Outside on the patio, where she loves to entertain friends and family, are woven pendants imported from Belgium, which give the space a textured feel.
“The home’s interior is dressed in a beachy palette – an ode to its owner’s love of all things blue”