Nirvana is not a descriptor architects often employ when talking about their projects, but, in this case – a north-facing site protected from the infamous South Easter winds, with views of Table Mountain and the distant Wellington range, owned by a design-savvy young family – it is spot on. ‘From beginning to end, this was a dream project with clients who were very creative and part of the process every step of the way,’ says architect and founder of Newman Architecture & Design Karen Newman. ‘Apart from creativity, they also had a brief to create an eclectic and interesting home for their family – and their beautiful collection of art.’
Achieving this brief would see Karen join forces with interiors studio Cécile & Boyd and legendary landscape designer Franchesca Watson, who ‘came with her magic to create the home’s beautiful garden.’ This creative A Team produced a comfortable yet modern home for the tight-knit family, fulfilling the need for spaces that could host large groups for entertaining and smaller, intimate pockets for quiet, private moments. ‘And then there is the kitchen, which had to pack on the wow factor,’ says Karen. It may be the proverbial heart of the home but here, centrally located with a large island and furnished more like a room for relaxing and living, it literally is. ‘The homeowners love to cook, so it had to be ready to accommodate impromptu gatherings of friends and family with serious style,’ she adds.
Architecturally, the design had to sit as wide as possible on the site, making full use of the property’s width to capitalise on the aforementioned views while also ‘trapping’ the north light. ‘What we did not want was the house looking like an imposing block in the landscape,’ says Karen. So instead, the team compartmentalised it into separate, interlinking buildings, differentiated from the main, exposed brick building (dubbed the ‘manor house’) in rough plaster, paint and various materials that impart a unique character. Ceiling heights were also adapted, sometimes exposed (creating spacious areas) and other times flat (and, as a result, more intimate). ‘The real joy of these barns connected by the glass and so seemingly transparent is the blurred line between what is indoor and outdoor,’ says Cécile & Boyd designer Paul van den Berg. ‘These merged spaces were central to our design concept as the flow between the two is seamless.’
Admittedly, Karen and her team do not generally like to design open verandahs in Western Cape homes – ‘The weather is just too unforgiving, and they become all but redundant in the cold, rainy winters,’ she says. ‘What often follows is that these spaces are then enclosed, which creates another layer of rooms in the house and makes the original ones feel trapped.’ So, with this project, they decided to opt instead for a long, skinny light-filled conservatory that extends into the garden, with large sliding doors that, when open, converts the space into what is ostensibly a covered stoep (and, in the colder a months, a winter lounge). ‘The views are amazing, and we purposefully chose the interiors to reflect the botanical character of the garden that wraps around it,’ says Karen. Another important room in the house is the small bar, which sits to the side of the kitchen. ‘This is party central and very glamorous, with a mirrored ceiling mosaic,’ says Karen. ‘It is a really fun space.’
When it came to appointing the home’s interiors, designer Paul van den Berg and the team at Cécile & Boyd drew inspiration from the homeowners. They analysed their lifestyle to inform each living zone with their respective personalities, manifesting the family’s design passion into vibrant colours, bold patterning and reflective materials. ‘They wanted to live in an imaginative, uplifting way – what they did not want was ordinary, and they embraced every conceptual idea,’ says Paul. Coupled with Cécile & Boyd’s love of rustic, handmade pieces that beautifully showcase craftsmanship and natural materials, the result is an Afro-modern aesthetic with global appeal. ‘Even though the house is set in lush suburbia, it successfully captures the glamour of urban Cape Town.’