private viewing: smith gallery's candace marshall-smith lets us into her contemporary abode
It’s hard to decide which view is more magnificent when walking into this Oranjezicht home. The uninterrupted cityscape that seems to continue unravelling the longer you stare at it; the gentle slope of the lion’s neck, as you gaze to the left towards Lion’s Head; or the overwhelming expanse of looming Table Mountain, at the base of which the property is located. And then there’s the remarkable collection of art adorning the walls wherever you turn.
For owners Will and Candace Marshall-Smith, the proximity to nature was an overriding factor when they bought their home. ‘I was born in Cape Town, but grew up in Joburg. In 2013, Will and I decided to move back to the Mother City to raise our children,’ says Candace, who is the owner of SMITH art gallery. ‘After renting for a few months while looking for a place, we came across this house.’
Candace describes the original structure as ‘a little ugly and falling apart’, but the couple immediately appreciated the surrounding nature, centrality to the CBD and enviable size of the space in a rather built-up area. ‘I’m an enormous fan of Mid-Century Modern architecture, and the original seventies-style house lent itself to that – I knew we’d be able to work with what we had,’ she says.
Choosing not to renovate immediately, the couple and their two young children moved into the house. (Their third child was born after they moved in.) At the same time, Candace was on the hunt for a space to open her art gallery. ‘It was actually Will’s idea that I open a gallery,’ she says. ‘We were both chartered accountants in Joburg – he still is – but as a young mom I felt like I wanted to do something else, and go in a direction where I could be creative,’ she explains. ‘Moving to Cape Town was the perfect time for me to make the transition.’
Growing up in a family of auctioneers and having been exposed to plenty of art and culture meant that pursuing a career in this field was almost a natural progression for Candace. ‘Will and I have also always been interested in art as a couple, and I naturally gravitate towards aesthetically pleasing things.’ After scouring the city for a suitable gallery space for some time, she eventually came across a unique place in Church Street. ‘The building was dilapidated, but at the same time charming and unique, as well as being historically significant,’ she says. At 43m long and 6m wide, it made perfect sense as a gallery space. Working with architects Alexander McGee and Reanne Urbain, the building was restored and completely transformed, and opened as SMITH in February 2015. Showcasing contemporary fine art from living artists, and in various mediums, Candace built up an enviable gallery.
After SMITH’s successful launch, Candace was ready to work on the home renovation, and called on architect Stuart Thompson to bring her vision to life. ‘Although the design phase was quite lengthy, Stuart was absolutely amazing throughout,’ says Candace. ‘Our brief to him was to keep the home family-friendly, but with a modern, pared-down approach. Will and I wanted almost a “smart-casual” feel, and a warm, welcoming environment. Wooden finishes and a natural palette were important to us,’ she adds.
While the pre-existing structure of the house remained, the inside was almost completely gutted. Thompson opened up the entire living area, allowing each space to flow seamlessly into the next. They lengthened the balcony, put in large windows throughout, added a study and moved the entrance of the house. Candace also applauds the work of Kyle Grant of MRGB Construction and his team, who she says were ‘dream builders’, and the contribution of quantity surveyors Watermarque Consulting.
Perfecting the final touches was interior designer Christine Joubert, with whom Candace worked closely. ‘I wanted to do everything myself initially, but then realised the importance of professional involvement. Christine was amazing – she created exactly what we wanted on a relatively small budget. She sourced vintage furniture, we refurbished a lot, and she enhanced the palette of muted tones and timber accents.’
And then, of course, there is the art. Candace and Will have built up an enviable collection over the years. Asked which is her favourite piece, Candace says, ‘that’s impossible to answer. They are all special, which is why we bought them – but one of my most prized pieces has to be the silkscreen Walter Battiss print above our bed. We have so many artworks still to be hung, but I also like changing up pieces from time to time. You simply can’t hang it all.’ However, with a career, family and home like hers, Candace surely makes it seem like you can, in fact, have it all.