Located in a tranquil corner of Cape Town’s Hout Bay valley, backed up against rugged mountainside and swathes of forest, it’s to be expected that this multi-level contemporary home with its naked glass walls, carefully oriented for privacy, would offer some outstanding views. It might be set on a secluded residential estate but the effect for those inside is of being far removed and fully immersed in nature.
You could spend hours gazing out at the ever changing spectacle, from storms rolling in to the surreal sight of legions of birds flocking to and from the nearby sanctuary, cutting low across those expansive picture windows, but it’s the terrific displays of art found throughout this elegant home that'll have you just as captivated.
Lawrence and Amanda Holmes have amassed their collection – a diverse and colourful assemblage of works by prominent names on the South African art scene – over the past 25 years. When they set about designing the house some nine years ago the art was as much a consideration as the need to accommodate two teenaged daughters and lots of pets. 'We had some pretty big pieces,' says Amanda, a graphic designer, 'and so we had to make sure there were walls where they could go.'
Lawrence, an interior designer and partner at InHouse Brand Architects, might have been more familiar in the role of drawing up plans but getting the house just right was a collaborative affair between the two of them. The estate’s strict design guidelines were 'like a mathematical formula', Lawrence laughs, ‘but once you got your head around the boundaries it was fun and we were able to produce something very contemporary within them’.
The house is notable for the generous volume of its spaces. Comprising three interconnected block forms, the building’s high ceilings and easy flow make its relatively modest 400m² footprint feel considerably bigger. On one side is the formal lounge, which is cleverly separated from the dining area by a freestanding concrete feature wall – a device that also works as an arresting surface for displaying art. Below this space is the
TV lounge, a wine cellar and the garage.
On the opposite side is the bedroom block, above which is an informal lounge and home office, but it’s the bright and convivial central kitchen that is the hub of this house. Leading onto a covered stoep, the area comes into its own especially in the warmer months when the doors are fully opened up and the outdoors is invited in. The configuration was deliberate: 'There are spaces in this home for everybody to be able to have their privacy and not be on top of each other,' says Lawrence, 'while the kitchen serves as a gathering spot.'
With their daughters having grown up and moved out, the couple have found the house works just as well for two. ‘You don’t feel lonely when you’re here by yourself but when the house is full with guests it copes with ease,’ Lawrence adds. ‘It makes for a great party venue!’
Clean, simple lines, a mostly neutral palette and a decor style the couple describe as 'modern classic' and comfortable really allows the art to stand out but there are plenty of statement-making moments with furniture and lighting that play with scale and form.
Their art collection is the tale of their journey together, Amanda says. There are works by artists such as William Kentridge, Beezy Bailey, Tracy Payne, Lionel Smit and Paul du Toit, whose bold, colourful style can also be seen on a vibrant rug outside their bedroom. 'There's a story behind every piece we've bought,' she says. 'We've always only bought pieces we've liked.'
Every now and then they'll rotate the works for a fresh look. 'We've got a bit more than what we can fit on the walls, and some amazing stuff stored in boxes,' Lawrence explains. A living gallery of sorts it may well be but the couple insists it’s 'very much a home'.
InHouse Brand Architects, inhouse.ws
Originally published in HL September 2015