houses

A Prized Cape Town Home


Text Leigh Robertson Photographs Micky Hoyle The Bantry Bay home of Cape Town-based interior designer Robert Sherwood and curator Alberto Rodriguez defies instant categorisation; there is no label that might neatly define the style of these avid collectors of art and objets, whose private domain does exotic Seventies glamour, cool classicism, playful eccentricity and laid-back comfort with equal élan. It’s in line with Robert’s avoidance of what he calls ‘formulaic, colour-by-numbers’ interiors, and the total effect is one of lustrous originality. And that’s before you even notice the full-on views of the bright azure sea below, framed by the garden’s palms and bougainvillea, and tune in to the mesmerising susurration of the waves breaking on the rocks. To say that Robert is deeply attached to his home, where the duo have lived for the past six years, is something of an understatement. Having grown up just down the road, he vividly remembers admiring the handsome cliff-hugging building with its square lines and retro mustard hue, even as a school boy walking or taking the bus along Victoria Road. ‘I always loved its modernism,’ says Robert. He admits to experiencing a sense of completion, of having come ‘full circle’, in eventually being able to call it home. One of just three spacious apartments in the building, each occupying a level, Robert and Alberto have restored it to ‘its former glory’ (they also took on the apartment below, at garden and pool level, to have separate lodgings for visiting guests). Yet there is much that’s remained untouched; its previous owners, retired architect Dennis Tavill and his wife, a one-time British Vogue staffer, had already renovated it with considerable flair. ‘When you walked in you immediately saw their creativity and taste,’ says Robert. Hence details of an era past: the gleaming wooden panelling throughout the living area; arched doorways, one leading out to the patio, through which you might expect a kaftan-clad model to appear, Martini in hand. And it continues: a vast kitchen in solid wood, which Robert says might be ‘old fashioned... but works!’ There are magnificent mirrored bathrooms, reminiscent of those in the homes in which he grew up, and the guest bathroom sports its original geometric wallpaper – ‘an ode to David Hicks,’ Robert quips. The elements can’t help but dominate; facing the ocean, the lounge and dining areas are flooded with light by day, yet by sunset are bathed in a gentle rosy glow. There’s no better spot to gaze out at the ever-changing spectacle of sea and sky than on the ample chaise custom-designed by Robert, snug beneath a fur throw. But there are other places where you can retreat: the calm, classically decorated bedrooms, or the intimate TV room, the walls of which are hung with artworks by Diane Victor, William Kentridge and Cecil Skotnes. ‘He was my god,’ says Robert of Cecil. ‘He and Walter Battiss were the style heroes of my formative years!’ Robert and Alberto are enthusiastic supporters of contemporary South African art (Robert bought his first piece when he was 18), and it shows wherever you look. Their collection, Robert says, ‘is mixed, with modern and old pieces, photography and sculpture’. There are works by Nandipha Mntambo, Dan Halter, and Hasan and Husain Essop alongside paintings created by Robert himself. Bronze Age Art’s gilded sheep is as at home as a series of carved wooden sculptures bought at the side of the road in Camps Bay. The couple’s objets have as much value as their art. ‘It’s all those whimsical pieces that bring a space alive, that give it warmth and character,’ says Robert. ‘In a sterile environment you can’t relax or be yourself – it almost goes against our wiring.’ Hence, he says, his love for ‘emotive interiors’. ‘People who visit our home tend to love it for how it feels.’ Ultimately, he adds, ‘your home must tell your story.’ Robert Sherwood Interior Design, 082-627-9504, rgsherwood.com; Alberto Rodriguez, 073-702-0562 ROBERT AND ALBERTO’S HOME TRUTHS The best thing about living where we do is the beauty of the space – we are surrounded by nature (Alberto). My favourite room in our home is the living room – it is a wonderful space in which to watch and enjoy the ever-changing seascape (Robert). The first thing I do when I get home is open up all the doors and windows (Robert); feed our three cats (Alberto). I’m inspired by nature, artists, architecture, conversations with people, time alone (Robert); Robert, nature, art galleries, and any well-merchandised shop and shop windows (Alberto). I collect art (Robert); terracotta pots with succulents, shoes and Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses (Alberto). My favourite artwork in our home is Diane Victor’s ‘Scavenger’ and a Nandipha Mntambo photograph called ‘Narcissus’ – but I love all the pieces in our home, otherwise they wouldn’t be here (Robert); ‘Pumpkin 2000’ by Yayoi Kusama, ‘Concentration Camp’ by Hasan and Husain Essop, and ‘Beetle Suit’ and ‘Scarab Suit’ by Walter Oltmann (Alberto). My most rash purchase was an Edoardo Villa sculpture purchased in the garden workshop of the artist’s home (Robert). Our entertaining style is informal, but we can step it up a notch (Robert). My signature dinner-party dish is country-style chicken and roast vegetable pie (Robert); tortilla and fresh grilled sardines in soy sauce (Alberto). This article was originally published in the April 2012 issue of House and Leisure. This house is one of the House and Leisure House of the Year 2013 finalists. To vote for this house, click here.