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Finding Harmony in a French-Asian Inspired Oranjezicht Home

Old blends with new in this 160-year-old Victorian home in the heart of Cape Town. It’s a renovation packed with personal appeal, French-Asian influences and lashings of luxury.

Greg Cox/
Sven Alberding

When a South African with French heritage and her husband, a doctor and healthcare expert of Chinese descent, decided to renovate, it’s no surprise that the result would be unusual.

Anina Malherbe-Lan and Dr Michael Lan had been searching for a city space in Cape Town featuring two separate entrances and sufficient room to combine their home and Michael’s wellness centre and Tai Chi studio on a single property – and a traditional Victorian house in Oranjezicht that had fallen on hard times proved to be the unexpected solution for their blended home. 

‘The house had six bedrooms and bathrooms. One room even had carpet on the walls!’ says Anina. The front was bricked and the veranda sealed off to create a sunroom. Anina felt that taking the house back to its original architectural integrity – while modernising the interior – was crucial and chose to work with architect Chris Zimberlin of Limeline because of his experience with heritage properties. 

First, they removed the glass-panelled facade from the entrance to reveal the pillars and veranda. Here you will find the first hint of what lies within – two imperial marble lion statues guarding the front door. These are an auspicious symbol in Chinese custom with mythical protective benefits, explains Anina. ‘Michael’s only request for the interior was that we adhere to the five principles of feng shui,’ she says. 

So Anina brought in interior designer Annelise Botes of MJA Design and Build, who is an expert at layering textures, to conceptualise the space. Gold, which represents metal in feng shui, was introduced via lighting, ornaments, wallpaper and details on furniture, but it’s the walled garden in the conservatory (earth) that infuses the home with the most energy. ‘We wanted to bring nature inside and create balance within the city,’ says Anina. Other nods to feng shui are the floors and French doors (wood) and a fountain at the entrance to the house (water). An unused courtyard was transformed into a conservatory in a smart design decision that gave the couple more space in which to entertain. ‘Once we designed the Tai Chi studio, we were left with quite a small living area,’ says Anina. ‘It made sense to gain an extra room.’

As founder and CEO of Vivid Luxury Communications Agency, Anina is dialled in to international trends – and this love of luxury is reflected in her home. She cites Philippe Starck, Eero Saarinen, Minotti and Kartell as some of her favourite names in furniture, and handpicked pieces can be found juxtaposed with inherited antiques and treasured items of furniture the couple had separately collected over the years and merged when they married in 2014. How did Anina blend all these so seamlessly? ‘I painted everything black!’ she laughs.