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House Tour: A Renovated Heritage Home in Cape Town Invites Modern Loft Living

This Victorian Cape Town home makes the most of a compact living space with stark contrast, shadows and textures

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By House & Garden South Africa | June 18, 2024 | Interiors

Renovating a heritage row house such as this one presents numerous obstacles, for instance, an inability to expand sideways. ‘Spatial limitations are definitely a challenge, especially in Cape Town, where many of the apartments and houses are smaller than in other areas in South Africa,’ says owner and interior designer Hendre Bloem. ‘On the other hand, it is an exciting challenge. It forces you to think creatively and outside the box to optimise the space.’

Hendre completely reimagined the space, working with the architect Mias De Vries from Fifty8Twelve Design on a design approach that maximises its limited square metres while maintaining a sensitivity to the property’s heritage. He deliberately opted to keep as many original finishes as he could, such as the wooden flooring on the bottom level and the exposed brick in the main bedroom and bathroom, to highlight the historical value and significance of the home’s locale.

Art is layered on a custom joinery piece, Image: Karl Rogers.

The layout of the living area cleverly works with a linear design and high-contrast colour to create three distinct areas of movement: two dark ‘bands’ on either side with the lighter-toned living area in the middle. These zones represent different functions within the home as the dark, south-facing wall represents the practical and service side with the kitchen spanning the length of the wall; the north-facing wall with the staircase leading up to main suite speaks to the circulation of the home; while the living area in the middle provides a lighter and more airy space for relaxed living.

The main bedroom is in the loft with plenty of light filtering through the skylights, Image: Karl Rogers

What makes this home special is Hendre’s savoir-faire when it comes to playing with different contrasts, not only with darker and lighter tones but also with a bricolage of textures. The entire living space is a canvas for experimentation, where various elements evoke a raw yet refined, natural yet modern look and feel. The structure of the living area is smooth and flat, which serves as the perfect backdrop for solid timbers and polished metals, while a leather sofa and velvet armchair fill in the gaps and bring warmth to the space.

The main en-suite bathroom’s skylight overlooks table mountain, Image: Karl Rogers

The loft-style main bedroom keeps to the theme of combining textures and tones to allow for a seamless transition between the different areas of the home. Smaller spaces often require some design choices to be more versatile and multifunctional and the slatted wood element in this room does just that. Functioning as a headboard, and a room divider between the en-suite bathroom, its linear structure opens the space to create a well-ventilated and uncluttered feel.

Stark contrasts define the space, with the walls, floor and ceiling in a deep charcoal colour where darkness blends into the shadows. This creates an infinity effect, which gives the illusion that the room extends further than it actually does.

The private courtyard is furnished with table and chairs from Pedersen + Lennard, Image: Karl Rogers

Hendre balanced elements of the original home with statement furniture pieces and artwork, such as the hand-embroidered Casamento chair under the staircase. Artwork is displayed in a gallery-like setting, whether clustered in unconventional areas, adorning a wall, or displayed on custom joinery. For Hendre, art is essential in telling the home's story, so he sourced many pieces from some of South Africa’s best. ‘The painting by Rosie Mudge has always been a favourite’, he adds. ‘Her work brings a unique mood to the space, as the glitter element changes throughout the day. It is a fascinating, ever-evolving artwork depending on the light you see it in.’

Every design decision tells a story in this Woodstock home. Contrasting textures and tones, along with boldness in certain areas and calmness in others, create a one-of-a-kind urban space with a strategically timeless appeal.

In the hallway is the ‘iconic’ chair by Casamento, Image: Karl Rogers

Words originally by Shai Rama