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Freshlyground’s drummer and his family’s contemporary Cape Town home

Text Leigh Robertson Styling Kate Boswell Photographs Warren Heath

When you want something badly enough, you simply don’t let it go. ‘Like a dog with a bone,’ is how Freshlyground drummer Peter Cohen describes his and his wife Genevieve Hofmeyr’s quiet determination to own the piece of land high up in Cape Town’s Tamboerskloof, and then their perseverance over the nearly eight years it took until their knockout architectural home was finally ready to move into.

‘Before we bought the land, we’d come to see it often and fantasise about living here,’ he says of the property with its sweeping outlook over the City Bowl and a forested stretch on the slopes of Signal Hill. ‘We still tend to walk about the house pinching ourselves…’

Who wouldn’t be relieved for such a laborious process to be over, with the subdivision of the property alone (they bought it with a friend, each ending up with 500m2) taking years – ‘during which time we designed the house three or four times over,’ Peter laughs. Not least of all because of a minor spanner in the works: what started out as a brief for architect Simon Mountford of Kube Architects to create a home for a settled couple was altered along the way to become a home that would be suitable for a family of three. And yes, they’re all still friends.

Simon more than succeeded in designing a house to meet Peter and Genevieve’s need for an open, modern home that would reflect their easy, sociable lifestyle, with a generous indoor-outdoor flow creating plenty of space for the now six-year-old Ben and his friends to run around in. For the busy couple, time spent at home is the ultimate luxury.

Peter, with his hot-in-demand Afro-pop band, is forever touring or rehearsing. Genevieve heads up the feature-film division of Moonlighting, a film-production company, with travel a big part of her job. During the rare spells when they’re at home at the same time, the couple love to have friends around for a braai, and the expansive house with its decked pool area works just as well for band parties too.

The architect was also mindful of the occupants’ need for private spaces while retaining a sense of connectedness. The voluminous living area downstairs is linked to the en-suite bedrooms above by means of a striking wooden staircase semi-concealed by a ceiling-high slatted screen, imparting a sense of rhythm to the interior.

Simon’s use of timber, both in features such as this as well as in the cladding of the house, adds warmth to the structure’s concrete and glass. ‘They didn’t want the cold, clinical feel that many highly contemporary homes have,’ says Simon, who was impressed by the additional earthiness lent by the house’s recycled teak parquet floor, which dates back to the 1930s. ‘I wanted a nice parquet floor in the house, so I hunted it down,’ explains Peter, who kept it stored for four years in his garage until it could be laid. ‘It was great to put something old in a new place, and it immediately gave it some texture.’

What the couple love most about their new home (they moved in a year ago) is that it is ‘light and spacious, and you never feel closed in,’ says Peter. ‘We’ve lived in a Victorian before, and it was beautiful, but it’s nice to be in a contemporary but classic space that’s big and airy.’ He describes their style as ‘natural and comfortable; we don’t have a style check list’. But it’s still early days for the interiors. ‘First out of the boxes were our books,’ he says.

‘It’s easy for something like this to go wrong,’ says Peter. ‘I make music, Genevieve makes movies, and it’s not unusual to make something you don’t like. Similarly, you could build a house and end up not loving it. That would be so depressing!’

Kube Architecture, 021-465-6926, kube.co.za.

 

Peter’s Home Truths

Downtime at home in summer is having family and friends over, eating, drinking and swimming. Though we both work a lot at home, when we have free time we’re very sociable and festive. Of course, things have changed since the previous decade, when the festivities might have been a bit out of control…

The best thing about living in Cape Town is all the things everyone loves about the city: the mountain, the sea, going to the beach. And having family here too. It may sound boring, but I love living here. We both grew up in Cape Town, then spent 14 years in Jo’burg, so it’s great to be back.

Building my own home has taught me that you can achieve almost anything if you put your mind to it. It’s a big challenge and takes up every bit of spare time. It’s also taught me to have confidence in my ideas.

My favourite room varies all the time, depending on what I’m wanting to do. But when I want to play the drums, sleep or take a bath, it’s the bedroom.

I’m inspired by live music – it still gets me off the ground! When the band tours we get to play at some amazing festivals overseas alongside some incredible bands. I’m also inspired by my son – we started late, but having Ben is the best thing that’s happened to us.

When we entertain at home we both like to do the cooking. But we’re not big on setting tables or having matching things.

Hanging out with our friends is probably what we aspire to do more than anything, and we’re working on having more time to do that.

Top of my iPod playlist is Côte d’Ivoire singer Dobet Gnahoré, who we saw at a festival in Switzerland; solo-piano tracks by Keith Jarrett, and the most recent John Mayer album.

 

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue of House and Leisure.