All About the Kitchen: a Peek Inside Liam Tomlin's Cape Town Home
The heart of chef Liam Tomlin’s remodelled home in Cape Town’s City Bowl is an Italian stove that’s almost an artwork.
Liam and Jan Tomlin have just spent a year reimagining the boxed-in Victorian semi-detached house they bought on the slopes of Signal Hill. Now the double-storey is an elegant townhouse with a hi-tech kitchen that would be equally at home in a restaurant.
Dublin-born Liam Tomlin is a South African foodie icon. This recent Chef of the Year award winner runs a stable of four popular Chefs Warehouse restaurants in the Cape, and is due to open another this month at Spice Route in Paarl. He also oversees the kitchens of Singita’s 13 game lodges.
‘Though I don’t get to cook at home as often as I would like,’ he says, ‘I put a lot of thought into the layout of the kitchen. It’s a place [where] friends can gather, chat and drink.’ The focus of these gatherings is the massive black standalone Gullo stove that acts as an island linking the kitchen with the living area. Liam considers this glamorous, high-performance cooking machine practically an art piece.
‘It really is the Rolls Royce of ranges,’ he says. ‘It’s custom made in Florence, Italy, in bronze, copper, steel and iron. The craftmanship is amazing and it’s a pleasure to cook on. Two ovens, a grill plate, steamer, a bull’s eye, four burners and a 2m bench for plating, as well as storage space for pots, pans and knives. I sandpaper its surfaces after use so they won’t deteriorate.’
The previously dark kitchen of this revamped 105-year-old semi now has loads of natural light, which enters the room through a long expanse of metal-framed glass panels curving from the work area into the ceiling. It’s a brilliant solution that gives this unashamedly industrial space an appealing conservatory-like feel.
The sink, work bench, fridge and cooking equipment are all within a metre of the stove. Liam has used stainless steel throughout. ‘It never ages and is easy to keep clean,’ he says.
He keeps the work and plating spaces free of clutter and says everything should be within reach. ‘It’s important to have ample refrigeration and storage. A separate wash-up area. Plenty of power points.’
Interior architect Lawrence Holmes helped the couple optimise their space. Now the house flows from the new wine cellar near the front door (it’s tucked away in the unused cavity under the stairs) through to a large bamboo-lined outdoor entertaining area at the back. Here, ethnic pieces impart a slightly exotic flavour to the balau deck, with its fire pit, wide sofas and potted citrus trees beside a long table.
The three compact bedrooms upstairs were converted into one large bedroom and bathroom area, all open plan and leading on to a new deck overlooking the entertaining area. In the living space on the ground floor, one wall was lined with shelves for the books that Liam calls ‘a 40-year collection’. Mostly cookery and travel, and coffee-table sized. He has written three cookbooks himself – and another is in the pipeline.
‘I like a house that tells a story about the people who live in it,’ he says. ‘I think ours reflects what we both enjoy. Food, wine, travel, books, art and entertaining.’
Unfussy decor was created with the help of interior designer Douw de Kock. Muted natural colours and clean-lined simplicity prevail in the bedroom area. The minimalist four-poster is made of blond wood, like the bedroom floor, which makes an inspired juxtaposition with the open-plan bathroom’s black and white floor tiles.
Charcoal is the theme colour in the other rooms, including the kitchen. The darkly luxurious edge that this scheme gives to the understated elegance of the living spaces reflects its owners’ confident approach to life and design.