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Inside a French Riviera-inspired Cape Town villa

This timeless Cape Georgian home on Lion’s Head celebrates the romance and sunshine of summer

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By Thobeka Phanyeko | January 11, 2022 | Architecture

Steeped in history, this classic Lion’s Head villa is not only a love letter to nature but aptly captures a love story that spans decades.

Jane Chapman and her husband, Colin, entrusted their vision to renowned architect, Vernon Head and architectural technologist, Lucia van der Walt, who brought it to life over a six-year period.

The house, which the couple bought in 2015, was one of the first houses on Head road, ‘but we didn’t feel the design did justice to the position and views so we demolished it, keeping only 20 per cent of the superstructure,’ says Jane. The couple’s dream was to create a tranquil oasis on Lion’s Head.

‘Celebrating the spectacular allure of the Mother City, and designing with the bones and key elements of the house in mind, that is, keeping with the Cape Georgian vernacular, we were able to create something that echoes the jewels of the Mediterranean – but on the Atlantic Seaboard,’ she says.

Photo by Greg Cox

The result is an authentic Cape home that capitalises on the breathtaking views and climate. ‘We’ve always loved the terraced homes and gardens on the French and Italian Riviera,’ says Jane. ‘The steep incline of our property overlooking the vineyard and Signal Hill out over the sea to Blouberg and Robben Island lended itself perfectly to our vision.’

Combining classic architecture and a deep love of nature, they invited the outdoors into their home with indigenous botanicals as well as Med-influenced planting. ‘Our limestone terraced garden is filled with olive trees, Pencil Cypruses, Pelargonium, Daylilies and carefully selected roses, such as Moonlight Panarosa,’ she says.

Their vision was further animated by the time-honoured proportions, design, techniques and materials that are prevalent in the home. ‘I believe that quality improves with age. The most beautiful designs begin with beautiful materials – rustic, repurposed French oak, aged and weathered limestone, polished silver and nickel, soft hair-on hide and sumptuous cashmere. I like the textural contrast when layering fabrics and design,’ says Jane.

Photo by Greg Cox

Motivated by a passion for creating homes that feed the soul, Jane reveals that she loves using structure, colour, texture, scent, and a sense of fun to create homes that bring life and express the passion and imagination of the characters who live in them. Her love for art can also be traced back to her great grandmother, distinguished artist, Dorothy Kay. ‘The art on our walls tells the story of our family history with my great grandmother's magnificent oil paintings, mixed with early prints of wildlife and eclectic vintage Cape photographs,’ she says.

Photo by Greg Cox

If you’re curious about how they engage with the space, Jane says it made sense to create a dual dwelling with each villa having its own personality. ‘The sensational view from the top villa reminded us of dreamy destinations on the Mediterranean and inspired us to give it a rustic, yet chic, beachy feel.’ Downstairs, the second villa takes on a warmer, cocooning feel, with rich fabrics and deeper tones. ‘It’s been a privilege to create a home that immerses us in nature and allows us to enjoy the long summer days and magnificent sunsets.’

Take a look inside this French Riviera-inspired Cape Town villa in the gallery below. Lion’s head Villa is available for rental. Enquire at

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