country, houses

The Ties that Bind: A Video Tour of a Bishopscourt Farmhouse

Karl Rogers

 Bishopscourt Farmhouse

No matter in which space you stand, there’s a distinct sense of connectedness permeating this Bishopscourt abode in Cape Town. Carefully engineered by Johann Slee and Yvonne Onderweegs of Stellenbosch-based architectural firm Slee+Co, every room offers glimpses of the surrounding landscape. Of course, this quiet suburb, known for its sylvan-like greenery, has no shortage of breathtaking natural views, so when the owners first alighted on the plot – with its abounding vistas of the Constantiaberg mountain – there was no question that whatever structure they created would need to be inexorably linked to its environment.

‘The houses we design respond to their direct topography, views and vegetation, as well as the history of the place,’ says Slee, who sized up the erf’s existing structure and realised he’d have to start from scratch. After razing the previous build, Slee analysed the site’s natural qualities. ‘There are three old plane trees outside that we wanted to respect, so we decided to build around them,’ says the owner, pointing out the towering trio that deliver those crucial spots of shade on a sweltering Cape Town summer afternoon. ‘We were very lucky to inherit these large plane trees, cork oaks and camellias from the previous owners, and so the garden had great “bones”.’ 

Created in partnership with BrightRock, the family invite us (and you) into their home.

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Founder of DDS Projects landscaping company Danie Steenkamp was tasked with transforming the garden, in which large plane trees, cork oaks and camellias were already present. ‘Because the house floats above the ground, Danie wanted to create a similar lightness with the garden. He decided to make it like a house sitting on a meadow.’ Steenkamp introduced wide varieties of grasses and interplanted them with species such as Japanese anemones, hydrangeas and salvias to achieve this effect.


An Aim light fitting by Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec for Flos is suspended over a dining table by Pierre Cronje, around which the family often gathers, making themselves comfortable on the delightfully tactile Cab chairs in tan leather by Mario Bellini for Cassina . ‘We spend all of our time here,’ revealing that this area truly is the heart of this home.

While the sofa by Rodolfo Dordoni for Minotti is a treasured item, Van der Merwe helped bring it to life by pairing it with clever pieces, such as the Jenny armchairs by Flexform. ‘Because they are viewed from behind, the armchairs have to be exquisite’ . The cast-glass sidetables are from Glas Italia through Tonic Design, and the rug was custom-made by Luke Irwin.