South Africa's Finest Decor Magazine

Castle in the Sky

A contemporary French chateau-style home in Llandudno achieves epic design and architectural proportions

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April 11, 2017

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Castle in the Sky
Castle in the Sky

The idea of achieving a golden mean between the elements of classic design and contemporary decorating is, for many, an architectural golden fleece. Yet, after the Homeric seven-year development of an inhospitable beachfront site into a modernist masterpiece, it appears that some legends do come true.

‘From the start we knew that we didn’t want a typical beach house,’ say the owners. ‘That would have been too obvious. We wanted it to be something controversial.’ The land in question was a craggy protrusion of granite with a fynbos stubble and an austere disposition. It would take two years of Wile E Coyote-like levels of tenacity and dynamite, setting off controlled explosions to blast 14 metres into the solid rock face, to create space for the proposed structure. Architect Keith Mason’s mandate was clear: create a chic city residence metres from the ocean.

Casual outdoor seating looks onto the pool

The lushly planted garden still retains a formal structure

‘The site is on the front-line, with nothing obstructing the view. It has the feel of a private island,’ say the owners. Built using imported French limestone, the 1 300-square-metre, three-level home is an ode to subtle luxury. ‘The house is designed around a central bronze staircase that links all the main spaces. The rooms are arranged along axial lines, extending into each other to create vistas,’ says Keith. ‘The simplicity of the plan creates a building that is easily understood and a lifestyle that mirrors this clear and uncluttered special approach.’ From the lilac-tinctured volakas marble in the main bathroom (the guest bathrooms gleam with Bianco Gioia tiles) to the pale silk rugs in the living area and the La Cornue kitchen, no detail has escaped the owners’ tasteful consideration.

When it came to crafting the interior, Paris-based Christian Liaigre was the natural choice. ‘What really drew us to Christian, and French design in general, is that there’s only one finish that runs throughout the space,’ say the owners. ‘No one knows how to balance textures – matte bronze and lacquered wood – like he does. He is the master of minimalism.’ The colour scheme is a restrained one, opting for pale tones of silver and gold in the living areas, blooming into more vibrant hues in the bedrooms. Christian designed every piece in the house in his iconic 1930s, Jean-Michel Frank-inspired style, with prominent use of burnished bronze, high-gloss Makassar ebony and, on the enclosed terrace, pale sandblasted French pine.

‘We don’t have much in the way of wall surfaces, given the home’s open-air layout,’ say the owners. ‘But we have incorporated the views with windows just shy of five metres.’ Where there is available wall space, you’ll find artworks by German-born, Paris-based artist, and a personal friend of the owners, Christoph von Weyhe. ‘His paintings of Hamburg Bridge are truly evocative of city living,’ they explain. ‘That’s why it works so well in this setting. When you look outwards, you see the azure waters of a secluded peninsula, but look towards the house and it’s classically urban.’

The strong linear design is apparent in the view from the kitchen into the dining room

The La Cornue kitchen

The living room, tastefully appointed in custom pieces by decorator Christian Liaigre, features a hand-carved French limestone fireplace

The custom-designed archways pay homage to French interior designer Jean-Michel Frank

Featured image The entrance hall in smooth French limestone is a study in symmetry Photography Elsa Young Production Martin Jacobs