An architect, rigorously trained in the discipline and practice of a science, knows how to design a building that is appropriate to its business or public use. There’s an understanding of the importance of keeping the structure’s various elements in balance and staying mindful of its purpose.
But when it comes to creating a private residence, those formal principles are often enhanced by an extra, indefinable dimension. So it is with the house that architect Jeremy Williams built in Cape Town’s Camps Bay. Well, not exactly built – there was already an uninspiring 1970s house on the property when he bought it some five years ago. Appreciating the house’s ‘good bone structure’, he decided not to pull it all down and instead embarked on a year-long renovation. An award-winning architect with a substantial portfolio of corporate designs in Johannesburg and Cape Town, Jeremy focused here both on what he loved and on what the Atlantic Seaboard lifestyle required.
The outcome is an elegantly lofty 400m2 glass-and-timber house perched high above the lively Camps Bay strip, with Table Mountain’s granite flanks rearing up behind it.
Favouring a style of ‘non-architectural architecture’, Jeremy designed what is effectively a shell. ‘It’s not an all-white house!’ he insists, gesturing towards the muted expanses of walls, tiles and ceilings. It is all one colour, though – pale oyster – which complements the modern-luxe structure and reflects his take on the Atlantic lifestyle: minimalist, with plenty of room to breathe. It’s also the perfect canvas for an enviable collection of contemporary international and local art, carefully amassed over many years.
The home’s colour is provided by paintings, etchings and sculptures by top and emerging South African artists, such as Dylan Lewis, Angus Taylor and Rina Stutzer. Some of the works are startling, even confronting. No pretty landscapes or delicate still lifes here: ‘People often ask me why I collect “ugly” art,’ says Jeremy, ‘but to me it’s challenging to find beauty in “disturbance”, the contrast with the “chocolate-box setting”’, and the fact that it’s unexpected, that gives art an edge.’
Its gallery-quality art collection aside, the house is a home that caters thoughtfully for residents and guests. The entertaining area – an expanse of decking and a stretch-out swimming pool – is a step away from the sitting room and a dining space that comfortably seats 10. There’s a chic kitchen and hidden scullery, a Hollywood-glam guest loo and a wine cellar. The staircase leads to the upper storey, where the landing doubles as a study that opens onto the Table Mountain reserve behind. Leading off the landing are two sea-facing bedrooms, two bathrooms and – the scenic showstopper – the master bedroom suite, seemingly suspended between mountains and sea.
Jeremy believes that although a house should have a distinctive aesthetic, with a sympathetic nod to its setting, it should still reflect the personality – and the personal journey – of its owner.
His own travels, which have taken him from his birthplace in Malawi to Johannesburg via Hong Kong, Thailand, Venice, Turkey and elsewhere, are vividly represented in the assorted objets that he’s chanced upon, loved and brought back to South Africa.
And the ‘wow’ factor? It’s everywhere – feel the art’s magic, take in the multidimensional experience, and you’ll be transported to another realm…
This article originally featured in the April 2013 issue of House and Leisure.