Joburger, Mandy Walker’s musings on her family’s wood and corrugated iron beach house are filled with nostalgia. This unpretentious dwelling has been a treasured home away from home her entire life.
Mandy says, ‘I have my own special memories of childhood holidays spent at the lagoon. Here, I learned to row, went diving for pansy shells, met my first love – and saw phosphorescence and fireflies for the first time.’
These days, Mandy’s daughter, India (3), is the fourth generation to be making memories in the blue waters of the Knysna Lagoon.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
The house, which lies in the shadow of the famous Knysna Heads, has a long and rich history. Pat and Joan Burls bought it in 1954 from the well-known Benn family; the house once belonged to an uncle, which is why it’s now affectionately known as Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The timber frame house was built in the early 1900s and is one of the few original homes that still exist on the eastern side of The Heads.
Although the patio area was later enclosed with wood, the exterior walls are made of corrugated iron and the interior walls and ceiling are made of tongue-and-groove wooden panels. The windows are the original sash windows. Today, the house belongs to the Burls’ four children (Sara von Broembsen, Joanna Mc Donald [Mandy's mother], Caroline Marinovich and Martin Burls). Everyone tries to vacation here at least once a year with their children and grandchildren. It is a cherished retreat.
Most of the furniture has lived in the house for generations. The yellowwood dining table and stinkwood sideboard are just the same as they were 50 years ago. Although the kitchen remains largely unchanged, it still functions well. ‘My father installed all the cabinets himself and I painted them green a few years ago. We’d like to enlarge the space to accommodate extra appliances such as a dishwasher – although we’ve often bonded while doing the dishes at the sink, it would make life a little easier though!’ laughs Joanna.
Everyone Takes Care
Whether they’ll ever demolish the house is a question for the next generation, says Joanna. Mandy feels the word ‘demolish’ is perhaps a bit dramatic, but they might enlarge the space.
Fortunately, the plot is 800m². ‘But we’ll always retain a bit of its history along with the new,’ she says. Over the past 100 years, the house has withstood its fair share of gale-force winds and rainstorms. Martin is the one who worries most about the maintenance, says Joanna.
‘The biggest problem is actually also our home’s greatest asset: Its proximity to the lagoon. The front wall of the stoep subsided a few years ago, causing the floor level to drop, but fortunately, Martin was able to fix it,’ says Joanna. ‘Every time we’re here on holiday, everyone does a bit of renovating – usually painting!’
Words: Beatrice Moore-Nöthnagel, Home
Images: Francois Oberholster, Home
Styling: Jana-Marie Hey