A sense of warmth and a unique personality should certainly be present in any living space, but these factors were of particular importance in architect and interior designer Dominic Touwen’s project of transforming a traditional Franschhoek property into a modern home, while still retaining a sense of heritage. As he began work on La Cotte, an important objective was the creation of a sense of homecoming for any traveller who stepped through its doors. Who better to instil the feeling of finding your way to the place you’ve been looking for than Dominic, who was in part responsible for finding and acquiring the property before giving it its new look.
Having put the word out in the small Winelands town that clients of his were looking for a property ready for rejuvenation, Dominic’s team knew immediately when they’d found what they’d been looking for. ‘It really was a once in a lifetime opportunity,’ he says, one that they jumped at, getting to work right away. ‘While we were obtaining planning approval for the restoration of the old homestead on the farm, we were able to renovate and refurbish La Cotte House, which is a more contemporary villa positioned on the upper slopes of the farm. Taking a rather frumpy, charmless house and transforming itinto a comfortable, charming home was a challenge but also a privilege,’ says Dominic of his work on La Cotte House. ‘I love an ugly duckling story.’
Today this notion seems laughable. Take one look at the property and it goes without saying that the stately swan of a home that peacefully rests beside the water in the Franschhoek valley is difficult to identify with his description of its earlier attributes. What’s less obvious is how the effect of lived-in, easy-to-love languor was achieved. It started with bringing the outdoors in. To create an airier, more spacious atmosphere, many of the doors and windows were replaced with larger sliding sashes, french doors and sliding doors that, when the weather is good, can be completely opened up. ‘We believe that views are enhanced by good framing,’ says Dominic. With vineyards in the foreground and a lake with a dramatic backdrop of mountains, the views hardly needed help, but are well worth highlighting.
‘I love finding just the right place for some object or piece of art that might be completely unloved or thrown out but that looks amazing in a new home’ – Dominic Touwen
The next step was an understanding of the space: that this is a large home with a look that works together cohesively, but that also has individual areas of interest, each with their own personality. In decorating La Cotte House, Dominic considered the Cape’s quality of light and climate, both of which are highly variable. His aim was to maximise large, open spaces and create cosiness in smaller corners. Colour had a key part to play: blue and white are a favourite combination, andDominic feels strongly that it shouldn’t be reserved for coastal living. He used it to bring youthful vigour to the rooms, adding accents of burnt red, saffron and green. To add rich colour, atmosphere and textural layering to the spaces, Dominic turned to an array of textiles from traditional prints to fresh, bold florals.
It’s the smaller items around the home that add personality and detail, yet allows it to escape an artificial, self-consciously decorated feeling. Dominic’s passion for collecting pieces from auction houses, antiques stores and junk shops came in handy here. ‘I stockpile these and then use them when I see the perfect spot,’ he says. ‘I love finding just the right place for some object or piece of art that might be completely unloved or thrown out but that looks amazing in a new home. For a house to have soul it must have authentic pieces that have been collected over time.’ Completing that task successfully means that this is just the beginning: with a welcoming space created, the scene is set for ensuring that the personality grows with each new set of guests passing through.
Text Cayleigh Bright Production Martin Jacobs Photographs Greg Cox