A Verdant Kingdom
The idea of nesting becomes all the more appealing when it’s in a house set quite literally in the trees – a darkly glamorous retreat feathered in jungle hues that echo its lush surrounds. It is both serene and wonderfully exotic, with a shaded turquoise pool you wouldn’t want to venture far from at the height of Cape Town’s summer.
The handsome contemporary structure – for this slender charcoal column reaching up through the soft swathes of green is distinctly masculine – might appear from the outside to be in contrast to its forested setting hugging the slopes of Table Mountain in the peaceful suburb of Higgovale but you only have to step inside to get a sense of its sympathetic response to the site.
Designed by Cape Town firm Gerd Weideman Architects, it is a home that offers both discreet containment for those who reside in it and an exhilarating connectedness to the outdoors. It’s built on three levels with central areas and private rooms that all share a continuous outlook to the garden through ceiling-height windows and glass doors that recede entirely when opened up.
Indeed what captivated its London based owner, Victor Hugo, who grew up in South Africa, was ‘its proximity to nature, backing right onto a wild rock garden, and the cool, airy living spaces with their spectacular views’. Victor had specifically sought a property in this part of the city.
'Cape Town is the most beautiful place in the world and I wanted to be right in the hustle and bustle of the City Bowl. I love the leafy, mountainous feel of Higgovale’ - Victor
Victor spends ‘every opportunity’ he can in Cape Town and the house can easily accommodate an entourage of friends or family with its four spacious bedroom suites and various shared and secluded lounges and patios. It’s also made for entertaining, whether sunbathing on the pool deck, enjoying sundowners up on the roof deck, or hanging out in the open-plan kitchen with a glass of wine while meals are whipped up. For Victor, who is the owner and operations manager of London eatery Bocca di Lupo as well as gelateria Gelupo and the brand new ‘piazza-eria’ Vico, ‘it’s great being able to look out onto the garden while cooking’.
Local creative whiz Etienne Hanekom was brought in to work his magic on the interiors with a brief to connect the house to the garden while suffusing it with ‘a moody atmosphere’. ‘Because it’s more of a summer house the dark interior colours keep it cool,’ he says of the deep greens, charcoals and greys of the palette he employed in conjunction with the slate-tiled floors.
‘What’s great about the space is that on the bottom level you feel as if you are on a forest floor and on the top floor as though you’re in a canopy of trees’ - Etienne Hanekom
Etienne played with scale when furnishing the spaces by bringing in generously proportioned couches, tables and floor lamps. Darker-toned timber was used in some of the decor pieces, while fabrics were inspired by the colours of leaves, varying from deep purple to lime and turquoise. He was especially resourceful when adding some of the house’s more whimsical touches, such as the bird prints seen throughout and which allude to its name The Aviary. ‘We had a vast amount of blank wall space but our budget just didn’t allow for art or wallpaper,’ he explains of the images he sourced, printed and framed. ‘We also managed to get great colours into the spaces. Each bird has its own personality. Some are even camera shy.’
Etienne also enjoyed the challenge of transforming the kitchen (‘beige all over!’) into its current sleeker format. ‘We face-lifted the carpentry by respraying it a warm, dark grey, while the tops were replaced with a flamed black granite that added a great texture,’ he says. A mosaic splashback in iridescent greens and blues brings a peacock-tail sheen of glamour to the space, which couldn’t be more apt.
Staying in doesn’t get better than when it’s in a cool urban nest up in the trees.
Gerd Weideman Architects, gerdweideman.co.za; Etienne Hanekom Creative Studio, etiennehanekom.com. This property is available for short-term holiday rentals through Perfect Hideaways, perfecthideaways.co.za.