Balance, rationality and simplicity are arguably the cornerstones of a successfully expressed home, both in its architectural build and its interior appointment. Yet all too often, the pursuit of these tenets becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure where one or all of these are lost to inexperience, doubt or just trying to be too clever. Architect Antonio Zaninovic was all too aware of this when he was first approached to design a home or a client who’d recently acquired an enviable, but tricky, plot of land. The site in question was a plateau that shouldered a ravine, part of the Lion’s Head greenbelt, which acts as a natural aqueduct for mountain water headed to the Atlantic below.
‘While the land is large,’ Antonio says, ‘if we’d taken a conventional approach to the design of the home we would have filled the entire space, completely removing the natural marvel that made it so special.’ The solution was to excavate, making space for any rooms that didn’t need to capitalise on the sweeping views underground, while living areas rise out of the mountainside, enrobed in sheets of glass. ‘The entire build comprises four levels, though you only perceive it as a two-storey house on the hill,’ says Antonio.
The home’s most striking architectural feature is undoubtedly the upper levels – massive slabs of sea-facing concrete that undulate around the mountainside, mimicking the almost poetic curves of its contour lines. These organic shapes are in stark contrast to the distinct rectilinear approach to the back, mountain-facing walls. The result is a seamless union between the natural and free-slowing and the rationality of man-made architecture.
When it came to the interiors, Antonio teamed up with Tonic Design cofounder Philippe van der Merwe, who took to the task of appointing the space. Natural materials were used extensively, from walnut, chosen for its classic vein and rich colour, to marble, glass and concrete. ‘It’s a very technical home, one that doesn’t play with the vast, gallery-like contemporary language you see in a lot of buildings at the moment,’ observes Philippe, who opted for a pared back yet effortlessly soigné approach that is at the same time reminiscent of mid-century sensibilities but completely timeless. He points out how the numerous pieces, from Dutch modernist to vintage Brazilian, sit in comfortable amicability. The achieved objectives is a calm balance between structure and interior. ‘It’s about the richness of the material and craftsmanship. Nothing shouts at you but rather it’s in the quietness of these details that the beauty is expressed.’
Photographs Elsa Young