Text Deborah Louw Styling Jeanne Botes Photographs Micky Hoyle The finest forests in the world lie scattered all about the mountain-side,’ enthused Jan van Riebeeck in his diary in 1652 on venturing beyond his ship-refreshment station in Table Bay to the southern flank of Table Mountain. Overlooking a sweep of sea, it was an area so rich in timber that the name he gave it – from the Dutch for wood – suggested itself. Hout Bay has changed dramatically since those days, of course. The amount of land under forest has diminished, the population grown, much of the valley’s wetlands replaced by strips of shops and offices. Yet, thanks to guidelines that encourage a measure of conformity of design and materials, the residential estates peppering the mountain slopes retain some of Hout Bay’s rural character. When a site suddenly became available in one of these developments, the present owner didn’t hesitate to buy it. Among its attributes was the fact that it was one of the highest properties on the estate, hugging the 150-metre contour line (the Cape Town city council’s height limit for mountain-side builds). It also offered a panoramic aspect, encompassing views that took in a slab of mountain to the north, a westerly orientation that caught the warmth of the afternoon sun, and a southerly view stretching beyond Hout Bay harbour as far as the Kommetjie lighthouse. The success of the 16-month project depended, inevitably, on a team effort. The owner enlisted the help of architect Paolo Deliperi, who’d already designed several homes on the estate and was well acquainted with its rigorous design manual. LA Developments Cape was brought in as building contractor. ‘The project wasn’t without its challenges,’ says CEO Anton Mandelstam, ‘from the sharply sloping site to the major body of subterranean water we encountered!’ KwaZulu-Natal interior specialists Mark and Michele Metior of M+M Space Design were tasked with interpreting the architectural design and incorporating the owner’s personal preferences. They were involved in everything from finishes and fabrics to light fittings ‘from the time the first brick was laid,’ says Mark. The outcome is a house that reflects a perfectionist’s attention to detail. This expansive property is staggered over four levels that follow the natural contours of the land. The dominant materials are, appropriately, wood, glass and steel, all of which the owner and the architect appreciated for their aesthetic and functional qualities. Clever use was made of the area created by the initial excavation: as well as a separate-entrance guest suite, this ‘basement’ level comprises a three-car garage, visitors’ parking, and a den with a home-theatre entertainment system, bar and wine cellar. The main living areas (which include a study and family area) and three bedrooms occupy the second level and are integrated with the lawn, rim-flow pool and patio. In fact, when all the exterior doors are opened up and folded away, the home more closely resembles a massive outdoor courtyard than a conventional four-walls-and-a-roof dwelling. The master suite and a fifth bedroom occupy the third level, which in turn looks out and up into the indigenous garden. The owner’s twin enthusiasms – cooking and wine – are reflected in the attention paid to two key areas: the kitchen island that is an integral part of the main living and dining area, and the temperature-controlled wine cellar stocked with 600 bottles, each held in place by two bespoke pins (almost everything in the home is custom made). This home has settled into the environment that influenced it. Although utterly contemporary and silkily hi-tech, it would not have been out of place in the forests observed by Van Riebeeck more than three-and-a-half centuries ago… Paolo Deliperi, pdarchitect.co.za; LA Developments Cape, ladevelopments.co.za; M+M Space Design, mmdesigns.co.za.
Q&A with Paolo Deliperi
What was the best part about this project? Working with such a motivated team: from the client and contractor to the interior designers and landscapers. The most memorable moment? Feeling how, through the use of natural cross-ventilation, the building could ‘breathe’ in the middle of the hottest day of the year. Who inspires you? Architects Renzo Piano, Peter Zumthor and Glenn Murcutt. Favourite building? The Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre in New Caledonia. How would you describe your style? Style, per se, does not interest me. I strive to make architecture that is enriched by the innate uniqueness of location and landscape, the movement of the sun and the changes in the weather. What have been some of your most special projects? I cherish all my projects. A project not worth cherishing is a project not worth doing. Favourite piece of design advice? Be guided by the environment; allow the elements of nature to inform the design. Trust your intuition. Pet design hate? Architecture needs to be so much more than picturesque; the result should be relevant to its place and setting. I also dislike buildings that are sensually bankrupt and evoke no emotion. Your most treasured item? My father’s Nikon F3 with manual lenses. Looking forward to… working on an environmentally conscious resort located in a remote landscape. Essential summer music on your iPod? Moby, Lucio Battisti, Ismaël Lô, Dave Matthews Band. This article was originally featured in the November 2011 issue of House and Leisure.