city, houses

Past Meets Present

Warren Heath


The typically Victorian facade of Frank and Lisa Gardner’s 130-year-old home, tucked away at the end of a row of terrace houses in the heart of Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard, reveals nothing of the sophisticated new look of its interior. When Lisa and Frank, both film-industry veterans, moved in, they lived in the downstairs apartment with their daughter, Alexandra, while renting out the upstairs unit, but it didn’t take long before they began outgrowing their living space. They discovered that the house had been divided into two apartments as early as the 1930s, and decided to merge the two floors once again and renovate the space.

While the exterior was given a much-needed face-lift, Lisa and Frank wanted to honour the history of the house and worked within strict heritage laws to retain its original features.

Alexandra sits on the staircase designed by her dad, Frank Gardner. The vertical wrought-iron bars serve as both a railing and as a support structure. The photographic light is from Weylandts and the woven candle holders bought at Nap Living (napliving.co.za); Alexandra sits on the staircase designed by her dad, Frank Gardner. The vertical wrought-iron bars serve as both a railing and as a support structure. The photographic light is from Weylandts and the woven candle holders bought at Nap Living.

Inside, however, they were able to inject a contemporary aesthetic. The internal spaces were connected to let in as much natural light as possible. ‘Structural balance and clean lines are important design elements for us,’ says Lisa. Living pockets were opened up and doorways throughout the house were heightened. Arches were squared off to enhance the lofty feel of the high-ceilinged rooms. The kitchen was moved to a more central location connecting the living spaces, including the tranquil courtyard and plunge pool.

‘We introduced an Asian-inspired green vertical herb and veggie garden as “living art” and, with our passion for food and entertainment, found it fun and practical to pick and eat from this fresh green space,’ says Frank. They wanted it to be easily accessible when cooking, so Frank’s idea of using an existing exterior boundary wall on the side of the kitchen resulted in it becoming a feature wall visible through a glass door in the dining room.

In the dining area the table is from Pierre Cronje (pierrecronje.co.za), the black and white Bentwood chairs were purchased from Weylandts and the pendants lights found at Entrepo (entrepo.co.za) In the dining area the table is from Pierre Cronje, the black and white Bentwood chairs were purchased from Weylandts and the pendants lights found at Entrepo.

Every bit of the property’s under-utilised space has been maximised for additional storage or to enlarge existing areas. A small storage place leading off the kitchen was converted into a separate well-equipped scullery and laundry room. The original kitchen at the back of the house is now a spacious family room and an additional dining area with stacking doors leads out onto the pool terrace. A striking new staircase leads up to the bedrooms and bathrooms.

‘The vertical wrought-iron bars give it a feeling of floating and allow the natural light in to what was originally a traditional dark stairwell,’ explains Lisa.

The bedrooms upstairs are light and airy. Alexandra’s spacious room combines sleek white desk furniture with musical instruments and walls adorned with artwork and horse pictures (riding is one of her passions). A new en-suite bathroom was added to the design of her room so that she would have her own private space.

Neutral colours in Lisa and Frank’s bedroom provide a tranquil atmosphere. The light grey sheer curtains, which came from Danielle, allow light in while reinforcing the double-volume ceilings. Neutral colours in Lisa and Frank’s bedroom provide a tranquil atmosphere. The light grey sheer curtains, which came from Danielle, allow light in while reinforcing the double-volume ceilings.

Lisa and Frank’s tranquil bedroom is accessed via a short passage with a small study at the end. Their room is spacious and beautiful, overlooking a large pepper tree in the street below. ‘It’s become our tranquil oasis to relax in, away from work,’ sighs Lisa. The sumptuous open-plan bathroom has a freestanding bath and organic-shaped basins, which give it a contemporary yet timeless aesthetic.

Lisa and Frank enlisted Lisa’s interior designer sister, Danielle Howard, to help them with the interior furnishing decisions. A monochromatic colour scheme with soft grey tones interspersed with black and white fabrics works well throughout the house. Items include local contemporary classics such as the dining table custom-made by Pierre Cronje. ‘Selecting the lighting for each room was an enormous challenge due to the high ceilings,’ says Lisa. She sourced all the light fittings herself, combining local South African designs such as Heath Nash’s upcycled lights with other Scandinavian-style pieces.

‘Tranquil oasis’ is a fitting description of the end result of this subtle but sleek renovation. It resolves historical and modern elements cleverly, becoming a sophisticated, yet unpretentious home.

Lisa with Charlie in the lounge on the corner sofa unit from Sofaworx (sofaworx.co.za). The framed Jane Eppel prints (janeeppel.com) hang above the original Victorian fireplace, all of which were retained to enhance the character of the house. The curtains were designed and made by Danielle Howard Interiors and the white plastic corrugated ceiling light is by Heath Nash (heathnash.com). Lisa with Charlie in the lounge on the corner sofa unit from Sofaworx. The framed Jane Eppel prints hang above the original Victorian fireplace, all of which were retained to enhance the character of the house. The curtains were designed and made by Danielle Howard Interiors and the white plastic corrugated ceiling light is by Heath Nash.

Originally published in HL November 2014

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