Forest Nature Spa at the Barefoot Palace 

The making of the Barefoot Palace

 The Barefoot Palace is at the cutting edge of a new lifestyle choice- off the grid, self sufficient, sustainable living, with all the modern comfort of a luxury home.

 The owners created the Palace as their dream home, knowing it may also expand to other uses in time. In addition to working on other projects, it took two years of intense study and research before the designer and creator of the Barefoot Palace could piece together the different parts of the concept proposal and plans. Learning about many subjects, from passive architecture and building methods to farming and permacultural techniques, the local climate to solar and wind power, and from botany to classical Japanese landscaping, Das Lyon incorporated the results of his findings into this beautiful estate.

 The property has been completely rehabilitated from the previous pine forest intermingled with the Australian black wattle trees. An ongoing process, the environment was cleared of non-indigenous vegetation over a number of years, and the timber used in the construction of the estate. This can be seen in details such as the wooden columns in the koi pool, the lintel over the wood stove, and the timber flooring underfoot. This land rehabilitation process has been carefully performed over time, peeling back the layers so as to avoid irreparable damage or decisions. The result is a magnificent indigenous garden which has never been irrigated, and has mostly come from the original seedbed, which lay dormant under a deep bed of pine needles for almost fifty years. The incredible plant, bird, insect and animal life has flourished under these new conditions and from the sources of water that were created.

 The dams can be seen as seasonal; in times of rainfall the streams that link all the dams and catch surface water from all over the property flow rapidly, pouring water over the falls and filling the dams completely. During a drought the horse and donkeys feed on the rich grass that grows out of the fertile mud of the bottom of the dry dams, fertilising them with their droppings, ready to provide nutrient to the next wet cycle in time. 

Designer Diary Excerpt:

Sunday, 6th June 2010

 "I've been studying and researching thousands of works of architecture- neolithic to ancient to contemporary to futurist- and see little that really inspires or uplifts my senses.

(For the Barefoot Palace), I envision an architecture that exalts the senses, a spiritual dwelling that silently encourages a ritualistic, spiritually cleansing … way of life, leading by example of its' fine, strong, noble, honest structure of grace and timelessness.

Matching … industrialist engineering and economics with lavish detailing, finishes, creature comforts, scale and works of art; the journey of the eye and its carrying body enhances a right sided brain response. An architecture where ones breathing, presence and existence becomes aware of itself and in relation to the space.

Monumental surfaces juxtapose with soft materials and intricate detailing to create a living, working, soul inspiring structure that brings peace, thought, creativity, and tranquility to all within and around Her.

She rests delicately, dipping her toe into the crystal calm dam waters; a finger poised on a huge boulder as a lioness caresses her cub. Her back stands impenetrable, whilst her face basks in the sunlight, and skin opens or closes to embrace or restrain the breeze. Columns from ancient temples embody the craftsmanship ideals of care and love, and the spiritual memory of many years and thousands of beings, seeping the best kind of positive energy into her, synthesising with the new components, infusing vitality and wisdom.

Stretches of colonnaded passageways becoming lengths of ritual, each … step bringing gifts to our senses, and our minds.

On purchasing the land, the owners organised a crew from the local area, cutting trails, pulling out alien trees, and slowly helping to make sense of the bush and forest they had to work with. Firstly, the delivery of a 5000 litre water tank, was organised and the municipality truck come out to fill it for a few thousand Rand, so that there was drinking water on site. The next month, in June 2009, the local tree felling company came in to perform the first major pine tree felling operation, cutting timber that would later be used for construction. The tractor pulled out large pine logs from the bush, to the side of the public dirt road, and those initial tracks eventually evolved to become aspects of the future property. For example the main entrance driveway, waterways, and even final house site were as a result of this work. As quantities of lumber came out of our pine forest, we trucked them to a nearby saw mill for processing- milling, drying in a kiln, and treating to prevent insect borer. Interior timber not used for construction purposes, was left un-treated.

By being able to work on the landscaping with hired help from the local village, the property was developed by hand, over the course of one and a half years, before construction began on the actual house. Once the house was built, most of the gardens, dams, landscaping, guest cottage and outbuildings had been completed, which was a great relief, as the house build had been so trying. 

Designer Comment:

Having worked with interiors for a number of years, I came to understand that for my own house I needed to design all the main practical and aesthetic areas as built in features. Then in theory, all we had to do was furnish, add curtains, and hang some Art on the walls. In our case we had the pleasure of going to Bali, the smoky Indonesian paradise, to shop for our interior items, such as all our carved doors and door frames, characterful window shutters, wooden columns, floor tiles, water features and sculptures.

We took our plan drawing to Bali, with all the measurements indicated neatly on the computer generated ((CAD) drawings, and a good understanding of what we needed, but with a very open mind to what we would find there. Soon after we had arrived on our first day, we hailed a cab and were careened through numerous enjoined villages, with thousands of incredible sculptures and decor items displayed on either side of the road, blurring our vision as we sped past. The temptation was there to immediately buy all the great things we saw, but my partners' shopping experience suggested that I contain my enthusiasm until we checked the place out more thoroughly. Rightly so, as many of the goods are repeated endlessly throughout the island, made for cultural and religious artefacts that locals and tourists buy alike. Sandstone and teak wood chips fly through the air as natural materials are skilfully hand carved in to objects of beauty and quality.

Questions of sustainability arose about importing pieces from outside the country, and I couldn't call our house environmentally sustainable because of doing exactly that. 

Of course much of the furniture and decor items found in stores all around the world originated in Indonesia, whether you buy it in Cape Town or London, so we simply cut out the middle men, and got in a kind of a holiday to boot. This decision made economical sense to us, as products are cheap over there, but it is not good environmental sense at all, being that we had two 40 foot containers packed full of stuff shipped over to Cape Town and then trucked to us 700 kilometres away; not without incident.

Upon arrival to our farm of a large container truck, wedged down the narrow, local dirt road that gives access to us and that of our neighbours, we were confronted by the challenge of getting our Asian shopping spree out of the truck-bound container, without the pleasure of the fork lift that must have been so helpful in the loading process. Fortunately we had a JCB front end loader on site, digging the foundations for the house, and so, in typically South African style, we used a lot of man power to shove heavy sculptures and crates of flooring tiles on to the upraised bucket of the digger, and along with a couple of us dangerously riding in the bucket with said goods, we bounced them a short distance to our own, rented containers used for storage whilst we built.” 

Barefoot Palace Location:

The last remnant of coastal Afro-montane forest in Western Cape, South Africa, partially zoned as agricultural.


Stand size is a 23.4 Hectare (234,000sq. m) plot with a north facing slope at approx. 220 metres above sea  level with a variable slope gradient. There is a servitude road running through the property for neighbouring farm access, which cuts the property into two sections.

Building Areas:

House area: 289 sq.m

Studio area: 70 sq.m

Covered patio: 160 sq.m

Open patio: 80 sq.m

Size of open plan living space and integrated kitchen: 55 sq.m

Bedrooms: 2

Bathrooms: 2 plus 1 wc.

The house and other buildings are orientated to 330 degrees north north west, for solar, 

passive architectural, and Feng Shui principles.

The main house, studio and garage are nestled in to the land, cut in to the slope to 2 metres depth at the deepest, with a retaining wall on the south and west sides of the cut and flattened area.

There are extensive, uninterrupted, 360 degree views of the surrounding indigenous forest, captured from the inside with appropriate apertures. Facing the house to the north is the beautiful Outeniqua mountain range, with the energetically powerful and majestic Peak Formosa dominating the East view.

The plot was a private pine tree plantation for over forty years prior to our development, covering around 60 to 70% of the property, and had last been harvested of pines at least fifteen years previous. The plantation was cleared and used for timber building material for the property, and can be seen in numerous features, such as the interior timber flooring. This alien tree clearing has been carefully managed toward a fully rehabilitated indigenous forest and fynbos zone adding to the wildlife corridor to the surrounding forest and Tsistikamma Nature reserve that shares one of the property's borders.

Programme: Single storey, family lifestyle home for one couple

Aesthetic Brief: Luxury lodge for two

Schedule: Design period- 2011- 2012

Construction period- 2013

Owner developers: Carmen Clews, Das Lyon

Concept: Das Lyon

Architect: Das Lyon

Project Management: Das Lyon

Landscape Design & Management: Das Lyon

Interior Design: Das Lyon, Carmen Clews

Kitchen Design: Das Lyon


Materials and construction system:

Double walled, plastered and painted, NFX bricks with 32mm polystyrene thermal insulation between.

Galvanised mild steel frame for high level clerestory windows and roofing structure.

Paint finish throughout: B Earth Eco paint in colour 'Marshy Habitat' with B Earth clear glaze over; no lead or heavy metals, and almost zero VOC pollutants.

Double glazed windows and sliding doors with Solar E-View to the north glazing.

Colourbond Aluzinc IBR roof sheets in charcoal grey finish, on galvanised mild steel framework, with painted fibre cement barge boards.

Painted 9mm fibre cement cladding at high level.

Northern Karoo dry stone slate wall cladding in autumn blue finish.

biobox Agama….

Curtains & furnishings: 

Columns & doors: Amatuli, Private Collections, Bali.

Bali shipping agents

Special features of note:

The design of the whole property is based on Permacultural design principles from conception. 

Passive architectural design and orientation.

Mono pitch Aluzinc channel roof sheets with 600mm shading overhang to the north face, and timber pergola shade also at the north face to shade hot summer sun. Fully covered patio at studio to encourage a cool interior for technical reasons.

Locally produced clay bricks for the main structure, with galvanised steel frame to the north facing living area, to protect against coastal rusting.

Openable, high clerestory, aluminium framed, double glazed clear safety glass with solarview e-glass coating on the north facing windows to combat solar gain, and allow heat to escape from the high level windows. Built to SABS and AAMSA spec.

Roof windows and passive, clear whirligigs for ventilation.

Underfloor heating from the wood fired kitchen stove, by a roof top, insulated geyser, to the main living space, kitchen and pantry via a hot water/ glycol mix, through underfloor copper piping.

Esse wood burning cooking stove and heating range in the kitchen. WD35 Black.

Fire and water wise- endemic indigenous planting.

Feng shui master was consulted to enhance the energy flow.


SolarWorld Sunmodule Plus photovoltaic solar panels:

9x 255 Watt panels (2295W)

36x 85 Watt panels (3060W) 

Totalling 5355 Watts

Eveready 900 Watt capacity Wind Turbine on 6 metre galvanised steel pole, with stainless steel guy wires for support

Outback 2x 3 KiloWatt invertors equalling 6kW capacity

24x 12Volt, Raylite M-Solar, heavy duty deep cycle tubular batteries in 2V cells, vented, in line and parallel wired. We use our own simple system for collecting distilled water for filling the batteries.

Kohler 15kVa diesel generator on manual start and changeover to charge batteries and run the whole 6kVa power system when solar is down.

BioRock biogas waste digestion system is fed back in to the house to gas hobs for cooking, using an appointed cooking hob with valves tuned for methane use. The biogas digester treats black water and is in turn treated in to grey water by a following filtration tank. This is in turn, further filtered by a natural reed bed polishing system.

2x 11kW Bosch LPG (gas) geysers for hot water.

Direct LPG for cooking to a hob separate from the biogas.



3x 10,000 litre Jojo rotation moulded plastic rain water catchment tanks off the studio roof for drinking. All out-buildings have rain water tanks collecting from the roofs- normally 5000 litre plastic tanks.

90,000 litre underground brick reservoir, sealed with fibreglass. This rain water is used for pool filling and summer irrigation.

Underground borehole with a capacity of approx. 800 litres per hour from a depth of 120 metres.

Approx. 500,000 litres of water stored on man made, contour clay dams, linked by key line water courses and filled with rain water alone.

Water saving 'Geberit' toilet system and high pressure, low volume taps and shower heads.

Heat-lagged hot water pipes.

Filtration x2 carbon filters 



Esse WD wood burning cooking stove and heating range with boiler in the kitchen gives a radiant space heating output of between 3 to 5 kilowatts per hour (kW/h). Linked to an underfloor hearing system via a 200 litre insulated geyser on the flat roof above the Esse in a closed system. This wood burning unit has a log burning efficiency of around 75%.


Roof garden of x square metres planted with indigenous planting over material layers consisting of, from top to bottom, soil, stone chips, grey biddum root barrier, plastic dimple sheeting, heat sealed rubber matting, waterproof paint, on to water proofed concrete roof slab.

Ecological paints with low % VOC and no toxic metals.

32mm thermal insulation to external walls, floors and ceilings.

110x22mm untreated pine timber flooring milled from pine trees cleared during construction and environmental rehabilitation.

Treated pine timber for decorative and structural columns and other carpentry detailing milled from the property's trees.

Selected Material Quantities:

Foundation rebar steel: 7.71 ton

Galvanised slab, roof, and beam steel: 5 ton

7500 bricks of which 2000 are 'non fire plaster bricks', 2500 are 'NFX', and 1500 are 'Autumn Face', locally made clay earth bricks

Brick paving for driveway and parking area: 20,000 Plum Pavers


Main Contractor: Das Lyon

Main builder: AB Builders

Structural engineers: Scope Engineering

Electrician: Clintons Electrical

Gas installer: GasJac

Plumbing: Wayne Rickson

Painters: Olly’s Painting

Kitchen and bathroom supply: Rulan Projects

Bathroom fittings supplier: PIPS Plett

Underfloor heating: Wayne Rickson

Solar provider: Knysna Tyre and Batteries

Wood stove: Esse UK

Glazing supplier: Alufix PE with Origin/ Primador

Audio & TV system: Plett Audio

Koi and swimming pools: Dragonfly pools

Plant nursery: Redford Nurseries