Six cottages on a perfect spot

FW reader Peter has found the perfect spot in the Karoo to build six cottages. He asks Jonno to assist with the design.

Six cottages on a perfect spot
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Hi Jonno
Years ago, I saw an article of yours showing readers how to construct a cottage using local on-site materials (sand, stone, and so forth), poles and shutter board. I kept the article because I knew that one day, I would be able to follow its advice. After looking for a suitable property for many years, I have finally found a perfect spot in the Karoo, where I am looking to create a small development consisting of six separate cottages along a dry watercourse. The spot has a blend of thorns, mountain and typical Karoo veld.

I would really like very rustic cottages with high-pitched corrugated roofs in the centre and low-pitched roofs covering open verandas surrounding the central structure. A protected lapa must be attached to the cottages, which must be simple, with each having three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a large farm kitchen with a built-in kaggel wood stove. Water and power should be solar- or wind-generated.

My niece and I spent a few holidays at a camp in Kenya, where they used the same method of construction but with mud plaster and a type of thatch. I would like to finish the cottages off in natural stone found in abundance here, either using the round stones found in river beds or the shale-type stones that typical Karoo kraals are built from.

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The windows and doors would then be naturally framed using this method. Relatively little skill would be needed as I would like to use unskilled labour for the project.
Kind regards

Hi Peter
Thanks for the detailed description of your proposed cottages and the subsequent phone chat. Here is a conceptual layout with a frontal elevation to show mainly the roof styling. I’m not sure if you intended the roof ‘top-hat’, to cover from the periphery of the outer walls and then have a wrap-around veranda with a lower pitch added. If so, the roof would work out very expensive, with all the extra space and materials.

The roof I’ve shown has that ‘top-hat’ central to the slightly rectangular house shape (see dot-dash lines on floor plan). The central roof is pitched at 45°, with the surrounding low-pitch at about 7½°. As can be imagined, a dozen or more roof styles can be applied to this layout, but I think this would look unique and also blend in with the environment. Regarding the wall-finishes and keeping it rustic, using the river boulders at focal points and not on all the main walls would make the house look very ‘busy’ and regulated.

Doing the rockwork in random patches, but particularly at plinth level, would give it a more rustic look. The spaces in between the random rock patches could be rough-plaster or bag-washed with a pigmented waterproof cement wash (silicone additive). The rest of the layout sketch is self-explanatory.

Ideally, the layout should face north so as to have the living-in, living-out areas on the west – the sun-going-down side. If facing south, the plan could be flipped left to right to take advantage of the views and sunlight. The last time I passed through Laingsburg was just after the ‘big flood’ had destroyed half the town.

Let me know what your thoughts are.