Words: Anne Schauffer Images: Supplied & Google Maps
Architect Joy Brasler, her husband and their two teenagers moved to Umdloti from Berea about two years ago. “We were in search of some control over our environment and the ideal of a ‘simpler’ life,” says Joy. They grow their own herbs and vegetables in a caged courtyard (for the monkeys), regularly collect mussels, and the boys fish from kayaks. The grandparents live 400m down the road, a mere bike ride for the children.
Joy describes Umdloti as “a village from another time. My husband rides his scooter to the beach, (mussel bag in the footwell, plus kikoi) collects mussels, swims, and breakfasts at Foam – all before work. On perfect days, Umdloti beach is hard to beat, the rocks and tidal pools make for a generally benign sea. On summer evenings, the community collects on South Beach for sundowners.”
“There’s a kind of intimacy in this village, not sure if it’s the constrained size of the footprint, or the type of people who choose Umdloti as their home – you just know there is common ground. There are people who are passionate about the preservation of the conservancy on South Beach, the forest, and the way of life – sort of an old-fashioned idea of ‘neighbourhood’ and the values you would find there, and a genuine concern for the common good.”
Home sweet home
Joy’s home is on Bellamont Road – high above Umdloti’s north side – one of the limited number of double sites with a no-build servitude in front of it, and 180º views of D’Moss and sea, forest behind.
Joy was the architect of course. “Preserving this sense of privacy and expanse was critical to the design. It’s a single-story home which takes advantage of the elevated views, without seeing into neighbouring properties. Dealing with prevailing sea breezes is always an issue living at the sea, so we built the entire home to open on to a central courtyard, which can then be opened entirely forwards on the perfect day.
“We’re set back on the site with a pool which projects forward into an indigenous garden and maintains maximum sight lines of the sea and 100-year-old milkwood trees below. We focussed on limiting our environmental footprint, so the home is a series of pitched roofs interspersed with planted roofs – a kind of collection of agricultural ‘sheds’ set in a rural setting.” Hardscaping is minimal, rainwater is collected for irrigation.
The house is a delight to entertain in, with an open-plan kitchen (which Joy’s husband commands with some skill) and a living room. “We typically use the courtyard and rear pool which is reliably pleasant under a forest of red-stem corkwood (commiphora harveyi), and has views through the living area onto the sea and pool.
“I value the complete sense of privacy, and the endless pageant that is the sea and the setting sun over the frilly casuarinas at the rear of the courtyard.”
Her favourite space? “Perhaps it would be my discrete yoga studio, separate from the house. Doing yoga here with my group is truly inspiring and a source of enormous gratitude.”
Gems in the neighbourhood
The family loves walking through the rear of Bellamont Road: “You pop out through the forest and into big open sugar cane, then down to the lagoon. Walking from Umdloti to Umhlanga at spring low tide is also pretty special – generally not another human or man-made structure in sight. You can happily walk your dogs and swim in the lagoon.”
Tongaat-Hulett allows cycling through the cane lands to the rear of Bellamont Road, or a bit further afield, there’s Hola Trails.
Joy enthuses about Farm to Fork Deli & Butchery. “It’s a tiny little bit of what we wish there could generally be more of in the neighbourhood – sustainably sourced meat, fish and veggies and the loveliest chap who provides really helpful advice when you need pigs trotters to make ramen. We are hoping (and working towards) making more of this possible with the development of Node 5 Sibaya.”
“We love all the restaurants – it’s pretty special in the context of the whole of Durban to be sitting overlooking the sea: at Tasca and Sandbar you can literally sit on the pavement with a great pizza and a 2M beer and watch the sun go down. We treat La Casa Nostra like our own kitchen – they do takeaways, or we sit on their front terrace under an umbrella; always delicious Italian fare. Bel Punto is great for an occasion – the food is superb and they do lovely wine tastings.”
Apparently, there’s a really amazing mussel bed… but Joy’s keeping it under wraps!
“In summer, we love an early trip to the beach for a swim, coffee and a pastei de nata at Foam overlooking the tidal pool. Thereafter, it’s home to deal with the detritus of boarding school life (and teenagers), and preparations for lunch – picking produce from our garden/or Farm to Fork – then cooking, spending a long lazy afternoon in the courtyard with friends, wine, music and chats, with the house completely open, kids in the pool, on the trampoline, or on the astro playing basketball; lighting a fire with the doors all open (just because we can), and settling in for a movie in preparation for an early start Monday.”
- Tasca Pizza: thin-based pizzas, pastas, tapas and light meals
- Sandbar Restaurant & Cocktails: delicious food, wine, cocktails and craft beer
- La Casa Nostra: a little piece of Italy in Umdloti since 1996
- Bel Punto: stylish dining inside and out with excellent views
- Mundo Vida: seafood and bistro fair with 180º views
- Farm to Fork Deli and Butchery
- Gateway Theatre of Shopping
- Whale and dolphin watching
- Safe swimming in the tidal pool