On first impression, this is a house that is all about making an entrance. Pass through one and there are yet more surprises to come, not unlike the effect of opening a series of Chinese nesting boxes. The prize here is the extraordinary view revealed the minute one steps inside, through a front door painted in the perfect Tiffany blue.
Positioned high on the slopes of Cape Town’s City Bowl, with a panorama stretching all the way to the harbour, it is hard to imagine that this elegant multilevel home with its easy flowing, naturally lit interiors was once closed off to its lushly treed surrounds, and described variously as ‘dark’, ‘charmless’ and ‘rather depressing’.
For Dominic Touwen and Rohan Young of Young Touwen Architects, enlisted to transform it into ‘an inviting, family-friendly home’, it was a matter of revealing the property’s potential, starting with its engagement with its locale. And indeed it is now one of its most remarkable features. ‘Entering from street level, one has no idea of what to expect until you drop down into the courtyard and look through the new entrance doors and out at the view,’ Dominic says.
His clients, a couple with three young daughters, had been in search of ‘a classic, timeless home’ that they would be able to grow into over the course of a lifetime. ‘For this purpose we wanted to steer clear of a strictly contemporary feel in favour of something beautiful and quite classic,’ says the wife, who envisaged elements from her native tropical Durban to be woven into the revised vernacular. Naturally this entailed the addition of a generous verandah across the north side of the house, providing a protected outdoor living and dining area that has become its central hub. ‘It had to be a place that everyone would gravitate to, where we could sit outside throughout the day and in the evenings,’ she remarks. ‘It set the tone for the rest of the house.’
‘We opted for colour schemes that are bold and vibrant yet classic’ Dominic Touwen
That the original structure had ‘good bones’ to work with was a boon for the architect. It was by moving the kitchen, located in the back, to a new position inter-leading to the living room, verandah and stoepkamer, that Dominic was able to ‘unlock the house’s magic’. The result, he notes, is ‘a near perfect arrangement, allowing for relaxed family living, entertaining or quiet alone time’.
It was by moving the kitchen that Dominic was able to ‘unlock the house’s magic’
The owners were emphatic about not having an overly decorated home, ‘where you wouldn’t be able to put your feet up’, and worked closely with Dominic to achieve what he describes as ‘a fresh, slightly eclectic, contemporary Cape classic look with a splash of tropical flavour to add some romance’. With the house subtly fusing both traditional and contemporary features, he notes that they had to walk the fine line between the two when it came to the interiors. Timeworn furnishings were simply reupholstered and worked in with newer pieces they sourced together and the couple’s considered collection of South African art. ‘They also had some charming inherited family pieces that keep it real and add to the layered look so important in a home,’ Dominic adds.
For the owners, there is really nothing better than unwinding in the quiet privacy of their verandah at the end of a day, cosseted by the softness of the natural surrounds while soaking up the hazy buzz of the city below. ‘This is all you really need,’ they agree.
Photography Elsa Young Production Martin Jacobs