When Jim Brett and Ed Gray decided to launch a sister property to their exclusive-use Villa Maison Noir in Hout Bay, Cape Town, it was with the intention of creating yet another sanctuary-like space that was inspired and informed by the natural beauty of the bordering Oudekraal Nature Reserve and surrounding areas. To bring this vision to fruition, the couple earmarked a plot of land right next door to Villa Maison Noir and dreamed of replacing the drab ’70s-style building housed on the site with something much more memorable.
Their wealth of interior experience, passion and expertise stood them in good stead to dream up a property that would do justice to the astounding setting. Between them, Jim (previously of Anthropologie and West Elm) and Ed (who founded luxury furnishing store Bruges Home) have a passion for design and art. This new project provided the perfect blank canvas on which to continue the creative journey they started with Villa Maison Noir.
Like Villa Maison Noir, Villa Verte – so-called for its densely treed setting – was to be a showcase for exciting furniture design, artwork and craft. But first, the structure had to be conceived, and to achieve this, the duo enlisted talented local architect Thomas Leach. Echoing the same “village” structure of Villa Maison Noir, with its five peaked roofs that symbolise the five elements, Villa Verte seamlessly combines private and open spaces. This thread continues strongly throughout the structure, with private rooms cantilevered into the trees making the space feel like a beautifully appointed treehouse, exposing its occupants to the panoramic views of the mountains surrounding them. The expansive interior living spaces allow guests room to breathe.
Further nods to nature include the circular shape of the villa itself. ‘Curves and circles are used throughout the property, as nothing in nature is square or rectangular, even at its most cellular form,’ says Thomas. ‘The circular elements represent equality, inclusivity, unity, sustainability and, of course, the circle of life.’This approach extends from the exterior architecture to the interior design. ‘The use of curves rather than corners throughout subliminally softens the entire space, which puts people at ease in a way that other places cannot,’ says Ed. From these organic forms right through to the colour palette, wallpaper and fabric textures, the experience is designed to comfort and inspire. Each of the four suites has a unique interior treatment, outlook and layout. Custom wallpaper by Cara Saven creates cocoons of flowers or foliage out of each space. Freestanding bathtubs and showers with a view ensure that even the bathrooms offer a striking experience of the surroundings. The balconies leading out from each of the rooms allow guests to quite literally sit among the trees.
In the generously proportioned living spaces and outdoor areas, the feeling is one of space and light. While undeniably comfortable, the open-plan living areas are primarily a visual feast. Surface treatments such as timber roof panelling, metallic cladding on the kitchen island and terrazzo floors all engage the senses, while the furniture and objets d’art have been chosen to further stimulate with bold colour, interesting form and engaging textures. The entire interior serves to highlight and celebrate the beauty and dynamism of nature – and more specifically, Cape Town itself. Trevyn McGown of the Guild Group, who collaborated with the owners on conceptualising the interiors, says that she concentrated on the villa’s context. ‘From motifs in the custom-designed pieces to the colour palette and textiles, everything mirrors the plantings and rocky outcrops surrounding the villa. It is a homage to nature. The space is also conceived as a deeply peaceful and serene spot, where you can truly escape,’ she says.
The Guild Group worked on a collection of custom furniture for the villa together with Jim and Ed and these striking pieces set the new hospitality offering apart as a design and luxury destination – a space that represents creativity and culture. A combination of African, botanical and mid-century influences informed the designs of these contemporary furniture pieces. ‘The shapes and detailing needed to reflect Africa but also have echoes of where Jim and Ed come from – their apartment in New York City has a mid-century sensibility, so traces of this also come through. The furniture is bold, dynamic and “future-forward”. We wanted to create a scheme that reflected this,’ she says of the collaboration.
‘As designing interiors, it’s always very important to us that they reflect the various aspects of a client’s personality. We combine these elements to create a layered experience,’ she continues. Contemporary artwork serves to elevate the experience still further. ‘Our main criteria were that the artists be South African. We also chose pieces that we loved and that would complement the furnishings and, hopefully, pique the interest of our guests,’ explains Jim.
Jim and Ed are also avid art collectors, so it was important that the work be local and include both established and up-and-coming artists. ‘The artwork needed to be vibrant and engaging, to create an atmosphere of joy and calm,’ adds Trevyn. And indeed, the intention underpinning Villa Verte speaks loudly in the stakeholders’ execution. ‘Your home is your story,’ says Jim. Yes, it’s told through the architecture and the interior design, but, most importantly, it’s about your soul shining through.’ ν
Words by Julia Freemantle