Tamsin's Windswept Dune Cottage

Green Tour from the Archives

Name: Tamsin Corcoran-Brennan
Location: Tana River Delta, Kenya
Size: Several hundred square feet
Years lived in: Two years

When your property sits high atop windswept sand dunes, overlooking a lazy river and deserted beach, why block the view with walls? This open-fronted "dune cottage" — built from driftwood and cooled by Indian Ocean breezes — is as wild and unique as the surrounding landscape.

The cottage lies at the delta of Kenya's Tana River, the only wetland of its kind in Eastern Africa and a protected area owned and managed by the local Kenyan community. Conservation is paramount, and Tamsin and her collaborators are working closely with the community to set aside over 150,000 acres of conservancy around the property. The local residents are proud to share their little corner of paradise with the property's residents and lucky renters.

During renovations, Tamsin preserved the cottage's rugged charm and added a softer, beachy chic. Working around the twisting, 20-foot driftwood pillars, she added wood floors, plush cushions and treasures from the sea. Old pieces of dhow, washed up on the shore, serve as end tables for the large driftwood bed. Strands of shells dangle behind the headboard. In the light-filled bathrooms, sun plays off the deep orange sinks, hand-blown out of recycled glass by Nairobi’s Kitengela studios. Everywhere, the glass sparkles – in delicate turquoise goblets, in deep sea-green orbs that drip from the roof, in bottles of shampoo and bowls of shells.

Re-Nest Survey

Our style: It’s a "castaway" style, best enjoyed in bare feet.

Inspiration: The spectacular surroundings. Nearly every element of the cottage — starting with the driftwood, of course — is tied back to the sea. Each month, a new set of shells washes up on shore and is incorporated into the décor.

Favorite Element: Being able to enjoy the sunrise from the bed.

Biggest Challenge: There are plenty of challenges that come with working in such a remote place, like baboons breaking the water pipes to get at the fresh water!

What Friends Say: It's such a nice retreat from Nairobi, a perfect place to re-charge. They never want to leave.

Proudest DIY: Nearly everything is DIY; the joke is that if you want a new table, go down to the beach with a chainsaw. It's hard to choose, but the driftwood wine rack is a favorite element.

Thanks, Tamsin!

(Images: Liz Vidyarthi. Originally published 2010-02-25)