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A young designers dream to renovate a heritage home is realised

Young interior designer Bryce Henderson recently purchased a heritage home in Cape Town to renovate and personalise while still keeping the core of this home’s history intact

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By House & Garden South Africa | October 18, 2022 | Interiors

For many homeowners, bagging a heritage home is the ultimate dream. Character-filled and downright romantic, every time-worn build also comes with a handful of unique challenges. For Bryce Henderson, the chief among the challenges for his own newly purchased heritage home in Cape Town was one of restraint.

‘Situated in a Heritage protected overlay zone in the Southern Suburbs, and also being over 60 years old, a highly sensitive approach to any renovation was needed,’ Bryce explains. An architectural designer by trade, Bryce, in any other project, might have been inclined to open up the facade with swaths of glass to let natural light shine in, gut poky rooms and knock out walls to improve flow. However, here, the limitations meant withholding his natural proclivity to re-engineer, preserving those strapping old bones but transporting them into the 21st century.

Interior designer Bryce Henderson and his beloved dog Finn, Photograph: Greg Cox

Balancing the past with the present is a bit of a theme of late for the architect, whose move from Cape Town’s buzzy Atlantic Seaboard to the suburbs with his schnauzer Finn coincided with a professional shake-up. Bryce struck out on his own to found Studio BHD in May 2021, quickly hiring a team of four to help him manage his increasing project load. ‘I have learned from my experiences at different companies over the years, and I am trying to do the opposite,’ he explains. ‘In just a year, I have forged a cool, young, dynamic, driven company to break out of the traditional scope of an architecture firm. It has been rewarding to provide the freedom for up-and-coming architects to flourish.’ And flourish they have with a steadily growing client list and a slick new office space in Woodstock.

Back at his home, Bryce sought to bring about change from the inside. ‘Because the windows are small cottage panes, as in so many heritage homes, it is about how you treat the interior,’ he notes. He turned his attention to the potential of materiality and colour for brightness, from light oak flooring and walls that are a palate-cleansing shade of off-white to the chalk hue of the ceilings. But the real key was in the lighting: ‘I have played a lot with ambient lighting,’ Bryce explains. He installed recessed lighting behind the detailed cornicing elements in the lounge, accentuating the features. Track lights highlight artwork and the white of the walls during the day, and pendants give things a dose of drama come evening.

Bryce Henderson juxtaposed the matte black oak joinery with a mirrored splash-back, Photograph: Greg Cox

‘There are certain elements that are darker and moodier but are linked to the function of the space,’ Bryce says, pointing out the dining room. Here, a custom three-seater black oak bench curves along half the circumference of the James Mudge ‘Threefold’ table, which is lit up by a single &Tradition pendant light. ‘I really only use the dining table at night for dinners, so the moodiness complements that.’

Although Bryce was limited in what he could do structurally, inside, he re-allocated zones to maximise the flow, bringing the lounge, dining room and kitchen to the front and the bedrooms off the arm of the L-shaped home. The ruling palette – neutral greys, matte-black and pops of green – features throughout, creating a sense of continuity as you move through the spaces. ‘My palettes are quite muted, so the colour comes from the artwork and greenery,’ notes the designer. I source inspiration from art to draw out colours and elements from and use it in my designs.’

The main bedroom is layered with textiles and shades of green and grey, Photograph: Greg Cox

The kitchen rightfully sits at the apex and is Bryce’s domain, where he prepares gourmet spreads for a regular rotation of dinner parties. ‘No matter your budget, it is always crucial with a renovation to focus on the kitchen, especially when the kitchen is the heart of the home as it is here,’ he explains. The standout feature is undoubtedly the island, which is not marble but porcelain tiles carefully lined up to match the veins of the pattern. It is ideas such as this that young and first-time homeowners – who often do not have the budget to take a hammer to the structure or install a pure-marble island – can really steal for their own space.

And like many new homeowners, Bryce loves nothing more than filling his space with close friends and family, who move effortlessly through the reconfigured zones and spill out into the alfresco nook, where an ‘Ashby’ table by Lemon takes pride of place. ‘A home needs to allow you to derive inspiration for your work; for me that comes from having people use it. It is in the way the house can accommodate 30 for a party and never feel overcrowded. It is in having people around, and eating good food and enjoying it.’ So, despite not being able to indulge his architectural impulse on the facade, Bryce insists, ‘My personality shines strongly through this house.’

The vanity area in the bathroom is complete with modern pill shaped mirror and high-gloss cabinetry, Photograph: Greg Cox
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