A Cork-Covered Retreat in South Africa Is Built Using Mass Timber

A Cork-Covered Retreat in South Africa Is Built Using Mass Timber

Architect Paul Elliott erects an eco-friendly home on family property, implementing sustainable materials and Japanese architectural styles.

Julian Elliott, an architect much inspired by Le Corbusier, designed and built his family home in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1975. Since then, he and his wife, a potter, have passed away and the main house was sold by their son Paul Elliott, also an architect. However, he retained the adjoining plot on which he built a new house.

The new cork-clad, mass-timber house, which Paul envisages as a holiday let or a future home for his children, steps down in three platforms due to the sloping site. It contains three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a library, and a multipurpose room, which opens out onto an outdoor living area.

At the back is a peaceful garden with plants and water features. The new build shares a perimeter wall with the old home and features a graphic by Sengai, a Japanese Buddhist monk. There’s also a covered deck that connects the new home to the old, although each has their own private entrance.

"I like to think that the new addition was influenced by Japanese vernacular architecture and the need to build in a carbon-neutral way," explains Paul. "The new house is of and responds to the Mediterranean ecosphere we live in here in the Cape Town region. It also acknowledges the Cape cottage style of building."

A river runs between the old structure and the new, and parts of the home, such as the floor, roof, and wall panels, had to be lifted over the existing house with a crane due to the site’s tricky topography.

Choosing the right materials was of the essence—mass timber was favored for its carbon-neutral properties and its ease of erection and health benefits. For the cladding, Paul chose cork, a material that is water repellant, UV and mold resistant, and has excellent insulating and acoustic properties.

Shop the Look
The Citizenry Kachari Pillow
Featuring the iconic motifs of the tribes of India’s Nagaland region, this accent pillow brings a well-traveled look to your home.
Kaare Klint Safari Chair
Son and pupil of architect P.V. Jensen Klint, best known as the designer of Grundtvig’s Church in Copenhagen, Kaare Klint went on to become known as one of the forefathers of modern Danish furniture design.
Menu Tribeca Warren Wall Sconce
The Menu Lighting Tribeca Warren Wall Sconce blends urban industrial style and nostalgia with a slender metal arm and an exposed bulb that serves as a minimalistic decorative element.


Last Updated


Get the Pro Newsletter

What’s new in the design world? Stay up to date with our essential dispatches for design professionals.