Along the Thamalakane River, 12 kilometres from Maun is a sanctuary under tall camel thorn trees. It’s an authentic earth home that’s perfectly in sync with nature, off the grid and off the radar. The closest human neighbour is 2km away, but elephants may trim the trees and hippos do snort lazily in the river right at the edge of the property.
Otto House is set in evocative old Africa surroundings, but the house itself is also as gently African as can be. Just earth and elements of raw wood, sand and metal were used to create this unusual, comfortable bush home for a couple or singleton inspired by living lightly. When an interior decorator and an architect specialising in rammed earth buildings team up, the result will certainly be evocative – and so it is.
Completed in 2013, Otto House is completely off the grid (but with a backup grid power option) and runs on solar power and borehole water. It was created using 27 layers of local sand, compacted to create thick rammed earth walls. All through the day the house gently changes colour from soft pink to warm muted yellow as light plays with the sand walls – they’re thoroughly alive and ever-changing.
Outside, the surrounding camel thorn trees cast reflections in the moat and pool alongside the house, and which are easily replenished with water solar pumped from the borehole and back out into the river. These are not just water features though, but natural air-conditioning at its very best, with vents directing cooled air off the water into the house and ceiling ducts allowing warm air to escape. So on point and environmentally sensitive is this house, that it won the AfriSam-SAIA Award for sustainable architecture in 2016. It’s also a massively popular Air B&B, with a near 100% occupancy rate.
Otto House is actually two dwellings linked by a walkway. The main house has a bedroom and bathroom – and al fesco shower – along with a lounge and kitchen. The one-bedroom en-suite guest bedroom is quite separate from the main house, affording full privacy for everyone in residence. Throughout are clean lines and simple, enchanting furnishings all free-standing. Floors are cool white screed concrete, there’s a copper washbowl and an elegant wooden four-poster bed – all embueing simplicity and ease of living. So there’s plenty of time to light a fire in the garden firepit, kick back on a comfy deck couch and watch the sunset – as Africa winds down for the day and hippos gently submerge in the river, reminding you its all theirs.