A 9-Foot-Tall Outdoor Fireplace Has All the Neighbors Talking About This Container Home

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Lucy Beard and Leigh Lisk’s property in the quiet coastal village of Scarborough in South Africa had always been intended for play. When the couple, who are the owners of Hope Distillery, bought the plot back in February 2018, it held a tennis court. Now, five years later, there is a 65-foot-long lap pool accompanied by a 1,400-square-foot guesthouse that’s made for entertaining. (Beard and Lisk’s main house is located just down the road.) “The pool was something Leigh had always dreamed of having, but the funny thing is I use it more than he does,” shares Beard. 

The waist-deep water, which is the place everyone ends up after a “lunch party” (its dark lining allows it to warm up quickly), was easily the couple’s biggest splurge, but it was one they were comfortable making. They saved up for it early on by deciding to nix their plans for a custom home build and instead go with a two-bedroom container house crafted from lightweight steel. 

woman watering plants
pool next to house
Outdoor Chairs and Sofa, Mon Exteriors.
modern black house
The couple chose not to have steps to allow two people to swim laps at the same time. Outdoor Chair, Mon Exteriors.

To prevent the interior from feeling too boxy, they worked with builder Dean Westmore to add oversize windows and doors and loft the living room ceiling with an I-beam. Cost-effective oriented strand-board flooring added a much-needed layer of warmth underfoot. The material—literal strands of trees adhered together—is traditionally used for internal walls that are then clad in drywall or plastered, but Beard wanted it out in the open. “We sealed it with the kind of sealant used on yachts, and so far it’s standing up well to wear and tear,” she shares. 

modern kitchen with wood floors
The artwork in the kitchen is by Kasia Stefanczyk, who the couple was introduced to by their Hope gin label designer, Michael Tymbios. “He invited us to her first exhibition in Cape Town and we immediately fell in love with her work,” says Beard. Dining Table, Bench, and Lamp, LIM; Chairs, Pezula Interiors.

The kitchen and closet cabinetry came with the container house, which they loved as is. “The island is perfect for laying out platters of food for everyone to help themselves to,” says Beard, while a wardrobe is cleverly combined with the bathroom sink to ensure the shower was as spacious as possible. Introducing curved furniture, like the curved galvanized steel dining bench by local Cape Town maker LIM, again helped break up all the harsh 90-degree angles.

modern black kitchen
closet with a sink
bed with black credenza behind it
The collection of shoes that used to adorn the stairs of Lisk and Beard’s London apartment and distillery tasting room before ending up in the spare bedroom.

Unlike the container home, the landscape was one big blank canvas. Beard stuck with indigenous greenery and grouped like species together for dramatic effect: Snake plants line the swimming pool; aloe trees add height; and a mix of ghost aloes and carissa macrocarpa, otherwise known as the “num num bush,” offers some texture. 

outdoor fireplace
Chairs, Harry Goemans Garden Center.

The pool might be the place to be during the daytime, but the outdoor fireplace is the hub in the evening. Beard’s brief to the builder was simple: Make it as tall as possible. The brick structure ended up approximately 9 feet high, extending beyond the privacy fence. Naturally, the neighbors got curious. “We’ve had lots of people just knocking on the door and asking to have a look,” admits Beard. “It’s one of those houses that looks intriguing but doesn’t give too much away from the street, so everyone is desperate to get inside.”

The Goods

Sesto Lounge Chairs (Set of 2), Mon Exteriors ($2,500)

Poise Oval Mirror, Burke Decor ($275)

Square Modern Wall Address Plaque, Pottery Barn ($119)

The MMOHO Bench, LIM ($2,575)

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.