There’s no better way to get a sense of a neighbourhood than on foot, strolling the back roads and seeing where a random lane might take you. For the owner of this updated Victorian cottage in one of Cape Town’s most desirable urban-residential areas, Green Point, this exploratory tour happens on his bicycle – or, at least, on one of them, for Guy Veysey is nothing short of an enthusiast when it comes to getting around on two wheels.
While Green Point’s proximity to the city and to the plentiful mountain trails almost in his back yard provided reason enough for Guy to look at property here, it was also a desire to find a home with character that he could make his own with a few modern adjustments. Guy, who recently became a partner in craft beer company Jack Black Brewing Co and has a background in finance, has a distinct taste for clean-lined simplicity and his previous homes have been on the slicker end of the scale. This house, as he first saw it, was thus an odd fit: for all its charming features – its original facade, wooden floors and ornate mouldings – it was a dark jumble of tiny rooms leading off a narrow passage. It was his mother, an itinerant fixer upper of places with potential, who persuaded him to take the plunge. ‘She walked in and said, this is the house!’ Guy says with a laugh.
Two years on it’s hard to imagine that this bright, voluminous space with its comfortably minimalist style is the one he describes before its whirlwind six week makeover. He concedes it’s entirely due to the efforts of the team of contractors he used, all friends with whom he’s worked on projects before, including architect couple Stuart and Jo Anderson, and Room to Grow’s Brett and Andrea Chilcott.
A clever reconfiguration of its layout coupled with the removal of a few walls has done justice to the building’s generous proportions – which you would never guess on viewing it from the street, where it sits prettily among a row of well-preserved but seemingly modest-sized cottages. Because of its heritage status there were stringent limitations on what could be removed or improved but features such as the lovely old fireplaces (still in good working order) lend a soulful element to this pared-down pad.
‘People are becoming more comfortable with loving in the city. I don’t know why people want a massive property with big electricity bills and all the hassles that go with it.’ – Guy Veysey
That previous owners had already built upwards was a boon for Guy, who spends much of his spare time chilling out in his loft bedroom and TV lounge, both of which lead onto a wraparound deck with terrific views. While the addition of a masculine wet room was a practical choice it’s the freestanding tub in his sleeping quarters that gets the most use. ‘You can lie in the bath and see through the treetops to the mountain,’ he says.
The two levels are connected by means of a stripped-down staircase that has a dramatic sculptural presence in the open-plan living area and also contributes to the spacious feel of the ground floor – an effect that is enhanced by the whitewashed floors.
Punctuating this area is a sizable kitchen island – as with all the cabinetry in the house it was skilfully installed by Sven Grimmelikhuijsen of Svencraft, another good friend. It almost goes without saying that Guy, who is a minimalist, is also incredibly tidy – there’s not a stray item on the clean white counter or on the open shelves in the kitchen and lounge. ‘I like functionality; I don’t like lots of clutter,’ he says. ‘I think it’s easy to be neat. You just put stuff away as you go along.’
‘Foreign friends who visit can’t believe the outdoor culture we enjoy. Cape Town is a fantastic city.’ – Guy
This social hub is a favourite spot for guests to perch with a cold beer in hand while their host cooks, if they’re not congregating around the braai out in the courtyard that adjoins the living area. Wine drinkers can pick up a bottle or two from the large subterranean cellar, accessed by a nifty trap door. ‘It’s a great house for having friends around,’ Guy adds with a smile. Jack Black’s Brewing Co, jackblackbeer.com
Originally published in HL November 2015