The Smithers’ are a beautiful family, inside and out: Cliff, Emily and their adorable children Henry and Charlotte exude happiness and warmth that rubs off on you when you have the pleasure of your company.
Emily answers the door of the Smithers abode, with a broad smile. She is barefoot, and her hair is caught up in a lovely scarf. “Cliff is on his way,” she says, pouring water into a scalloped glass. It is not long before Henry and Charlotte scamper into the room: Henry, with his hands jauntily in his pockets and Charlotte wearing pigtails. Cliff arrives a few moments later, and sits down at the wooden dining room table.
The house is light and airy; a stunning blend of modern and homely. The dark grey of the kitchen flows seamlessly into the burnt orange of the floor rug, with pops of fresh greenery lending an element of nature. The use of glass on either side of the living area keeps the space open, and welcoming, spilling out onto a wide expanse of lawn.
“My journey with Simbithi started when it launched, fifteen years ago,” Cliff shares. The founder and director of Union3: a well-established design, construction and development company, was involved with one of Simbithi’s developers, Mark Taylor. “I was assisting with sales, and I suggested to Emily that we come and look at some land here.”
The newlyweds sold their apartment in Morningside and rented in Ilala, while they designed their dream home. Their innate creativity and experience with design and construction served Emily and Cliff well. “We had sat with our plans for long enough,” she winks at Cliff. “And, having been through it with a few clients meant we were familiar with the process.” Their land, tucked just behind the South Gate, was a perfect fit. “Emily wanted forests,” Cliff’s eyes skip around the foliage surrounding their home. “And, Cliff didn’t want to drive over any speed humps,” Emily continues, with a chuckle. “I wanted a modern home with lots of glass, marble in the kitchen and that wallpaper!” She points out the striking monster leaf print at one end of the living area. After a six-month build, the Smithers moved into their home four years ago. And, it has lived up to their expectations. “It’s almost like being tucked in the bush,” Cliff smiles.
Development and design are a passion for Emily, an artist and textile designer, and Cliff. Emily has recently started her own textile and art business; Milk and Honey. “I love the freedom that art gives me. When I teach art classes, I love showing people that there is no right and wrong in art: they do not need to colour in the lines,” she says. For Cliff, designing and developing dream homes is a kind of magic that will not fade. “I think, sometimes, we underestimate the process of bringing a home to life. Most people only ever do it once, and witnessing this is a great privilege I still get great joy out of.”
This year, the couple embarked on a new project: the Freedom Foundation, borne out of their shared passion for education. “We kept wondering how we could make some kind of difference,” Cliff, who was integrally involved in the launch of the Partners for Possibility North Coast circles, shares a proud look with his wife. “Through this, we hope to be able to effect some kind of change.”
The foundation is named for a young man, named Freedom, who Cliff met a few years ago. “He was a whoonga addict,” Emily tells us. “The issue with him was not getting him into rehab; it was more creating a safe space for when he got out of rehab, so he would not relapse.”
The Freedom Foundation was recently blessed with two hectares of land just outside Ballito, which Cliff, Emily and a group of professionals hope to establish a community outreach, where help can be extended to those who need it. Homework spaces, community projects to upskill individuals and counselling are just the first steps. “Everyone we speak to wants to be involved, so we are excited at what this could turn into.”
In the years they have lived on Simbithi, Emily and Cliff have each formed a deep bond with the Estate. Emily, who grew up on a coastal farm with her parents, is grateful to live among the wildlife. “And, I love that I can run a good distance without setting foot on tar. The trails are breathtaking.” For Cliff, Simbithi appeals to his sense of adventure. “I’ve been cruising around every nook and cranny of this estate for the last 15 years,” he grins as he recalls getting his old Golf stuck in sand while showing a property in the early days. “And, after all those years…I’m still not bored. One of Simbithi’s greatest attributes is its magnitude. There’s always something to discover.”