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A chance encounter

While looking for a new home for her family, the last thing landscape designer Mary Maurel expected was to find a gem in Cape Town’s City Bowl

By Heidi Bertish, Edwain Steenkamp | January 6, 2021 | Interiors

Photographed by Greg Cox

While looking for a new home for her family, the last thing landscape designer Mary Maurel expected was to find a gem in Cape Town’s City Bowl

When garden designer Mary Maurel came across this house in Cape Town’s City Bowl, she was all but ready to leave the city behind her. Having just had her first son, the new addition to the family meant that she and her husband Marc needed more space than her then semi-detached house could offer. ‘We were on our way back home after viewing houses in the suburbs when we decided to stop and look at a house in the city,’ she says.

Photographed by Greg Cox

It was the first house that she and her husband looked at in the area, and as luck would have it, it would also be the last. ‘It was love at first sight,’ recalls Mary. But like all great loves, it would require a lot of work. The house, set on 800 square metres of land, was in desperate need of a renovation - a total of three renovations in fact - and over several years, Mary transformed the tired building into a vibrant family home, with an impressive garden to match. The three renovations – the last of which was overseen by architect and friend Victoria Perry of Loudon Perry Anderson architects – largely reconfigured the existing structure to make the most of the impressive views of the mountains and bay. Over many years, the different stages of renovation turned the home into a comfortable and functional family home, whilst simultaneously being a space of curation (or gallery-archive of sorts) where Mary houses her many treasures: A collection accumulated over many years, and one that continues to grow.

Throughout the house, shelves and tables serve as displays for ceramics, glassware, books and art, making for a colourful and lively atmosphere. ‘I collect intuitively and impulsively,’ says Mary. ‘And everything has a story behind it.’ This intuition and her sharp eye have, over time, allowed for the separate pieces to speak to one another, coordinating entirely by chance. ‘It may all seem curated,’ she adds, ‘But it is all accidental. These pieces are just pieces that resonated with me.’ Like her collected treasures, living things are close to Mary’s heart. having practised as one of the country’s foremost garden designer for many years, Mary knew how to make the most of the advantages (and challenges) of this property.

Photographed by Greg Cox

Mary never wanted to live on a flat piece of land surrounded by walls. ‘The idea of that makes me feel claustrophobic,’ she says. So, the garden was turned into a dynamic environment that uses space and its orientation in a clever way. ‘The house sits perched above the garden,’ says Mary. ‘Bringing it up to meet the building was a deliberate remedy for the disconnection.’ Now, there is an almost seamless connection between the house, the garden and their surrounds. ‘I can stand at the back door and look onto Table Mountain,’ she says. ‘And to the sides of the house, we can see Devil’s Peak and Signal hill, with views of the city as well.

It’s a space where I instinctively feel safe in and completely at home.’ To achieve an even greater feeling of cohesion between the house and the surrounding garden, Mary incorporated several cues from nature. Turquoise walls, planters along the walls and floors, and an abundance of wood tones work alongside the large windows and natural light to disassemble the lines between inside and outside. The result? ‘This house is a sanctuary – and I am surrounded by all of my favourite things.’