Text Freya Clyde Photographs Warren Heath/Frank Features The relaxed home of stylist Julia Stadler and her property analyst husband, Andre, bears no trace of the unremarkable, uninspiring box it once was. But then this couple knows a thing or two about bricks and mortar. With breathtaking views of Cape Town’s harbour, their sprawling Green Point home with a laid-back, island-style aesthetic is an oasis of calm in the centre of the city. You might blame the pervading sense of relaxation on the crisp grey-washed floors, the invitingly deep slipcovered sofas or the lush royal palm that stands guard at the edge of the veranda. ‘It’s definitely the tree,’ laughs Julia. ‘I’d always wanted an old house with a palm tree in homage to my tropical roots in Durban, so when I clapped eyes on that tree – it was a done deal!’ The house was also north-facing with harbour views, a huge garden and had the potential to create a family home over two levels. They bought the house ten years ago at a decidedly tricky time of their lives. Andre had resigned from his job and was in the midst of a six-month sabbatical in which he was launching his own business. ‘Our son, Max, was a year old, we had limited income and there we were buying a house,’ laughs Julia. ‘At the time a lot of people thought we were absolutely mad, and of course we were, but Andre’s nothing if not a strategic risk-taker and it felt right to both of us.’ They lived in the house for nearly two years before they were brave enough to tackle renovating; in that time Julia gave birth to their daughter, Gabriella. ‘Although it was frustrating, in retrospect it was great to have the time to plan properly for what we’d need with two young children.’ Back then, the house was a three bedroom,one bathroom affair with a dingy downstairs flat. The main bedroom and lounge faced the road and everything led off a long, dark passage. ‘The bathroom had the best views in the whole house,’ recalls Julia, ‘if you knelt on the loo and peeked through the teensy window!’ The first phase of their renovation involved turning the house around on itself. The old living room and front porch became Max and Gabriella’s rooms while the master bedroom and living-and-kitchen areas were arranged to lead out onto a veranda and take in views of the garden and harbour. The extra space in between was used for the kids’ bathroom and an en-suite bathroom for the main bedroom. As the footprint of the living-and-kitchen area is actually quite small, Andre and Julia manipulated the space, first horizontally with a deep veranda to add a fantastic feeling of space, and then vertically by exposing the roof trusses in the living area. ‘We live out on the veranda now,’ adds Julia. And when a few years later they tackled the downstairs section of the house, they created a TV room, guest suite, study, wine cellar and utility area. They also put in a pool and decking. ‘We bashed out every wall and extended to the end of the upstairs veranda,’ says Julia. ‘It’s quite low down there, so we took out the existing floorboards and laid a concrete slab to give ourselves some necessary headspace.’ And headspace is just what this home gives them as a family. Throughout, Julia’s crisp, classic-meets-graphic eye has ensured that everything in this down-to-earth house is beautiful yet geared towards family living. So while no areas are out of bounds to the children, there are plenty of private, quiet places to retreat to, should the need arise. ‘I wanted to create a place that feels like a holiday at home,’ she adds. ‘And the great thing about our home now is that we feel like we get to take that holiday every time we come home.’
JULIA’S HOME TRUTHS
I like living where I do because it feels like a secret tropical oasis in the heart of the city. And we love our constantly changing views. My favourite room is the open-plan kitchen, dining and lounge area. It’s the heart of our home. Style is being able to mix different look effortlessly and confidently while including your favourite mementos and things. I collect old black-and-white prints – particularly of places of interest or places that Andre and I have visited, like my framed photograph of Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong and old prints of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Also interesting bric-a-brac – I’m always looking for those inconspicuous dusty old treasure troves you happen upon in small country towns. I relax by entertaining friends around the pool at an impromptu barbecue or an alfresco lunch at our old red table on the balcony upstairs. I like to experiment with different dishes, but I do love my prawn and-chilli linguine with freshly squeezed lemon juice and pine nuts, and a crunchy green salad along with a good bottle of French bubbly. The best things about summer are the long warm days and beautiful sunsets. I love waking up to the birdlife in the morning and all four of us cuddled up in bed with a cup of tea. This home was originally featured in the December 2009 issue of House and Leisure.