houses, luxury

Dark Materials

Greg Cox


Life’s most extravagant pleasures can sometimes be narrowed down to the simplest of things, such as waking up and enjoying a good cup of coffee in your own bed, rather than in an impersonal hotel room, when spending time in a city that’s become a second home. It’s certainly the case for a Dutch couple who sojourn for six months every year in Cape Town. Their love for the city and its natural splendour has translated into a magnificent contemporary house that honours its surrounds and reflects its owners’ impeccable European style.

There’s no doubt that the views of the sea and Camps Bay beach – as seen from all the bedrooms in this spacious, but beautifully contained, home – add to the restrained sense of luxury that abounds here. It’s seen all around in the seamless attention to detail in every corner, the careful craftsmanship evident from the walls and floors to the ceilings with their subtle recessed lighting, and the slick but exceedingly comfortable furnishings. The house might be decorated with thoughtfully chosen design pieces from the likes of B&B Italia, Linteloo and Moooi but it’s a space that also invites barefoot downtime. Just sink into the cushions on a sofa on the shaded patio to know why.

A sculptural timber staircase, crafted by Stable Marketing (stablemarketing.co.za), appears lightly suspended between floors. Set behind an expanse of glass, the charcoal- hued slate wall offsets the vibrant colours of paintings by Lionel Smit (lionelsmit.co.za). A sculptural timber staircase, crafted by Stable Marketing (stablemarketing.co.za), appears lightly suspended between floors. Set behind an expanse of glass, the charcoal- hued slate wall offsets the vibrant colours of paintings by Lionel Smit (lionelsmit.co.za).

It’s not the first home the couple, owners of Stellenbosch boutique hotel Clouds Estate (featured in HL in March 2013), have occupied in Camps Bay but it was during their attachment years here that they developed a clear vision for a house built to suit their highly particular taste and needs.

The brief to Darryl Croome of Arthur Quinton Darryl Croome Architects was for a clean-lined modern home that would be in keeping with its site – a slice of the steep slope descending from the Twelve Apostles mountains to the sea. Indeed, viewed from below, the structure appears to be set right into the mountain with its sensitively landscaped garden blending it further into its surrounds and adding a softening green counter effect to the angular lines of the structure.

While a substantial property, arranged over three floors and with a separate, self-contained apartment for visiting friends, the house feels surprisingly cosy and its scale pleasingly human. It has been designed to transition all seasons, with its ceiling-height glass sliding doors disappearing entirely to create a breezy indoor-outdoor flow.

darkmaterialsinsitu1 The dining table is by Faas van Dijk for Linteloo. ‘It’s a piece of art,’ the owners say. The joinery in the open-plan kitchen is by Boland Shopfitters.

Fundamental to the architecture is its exquisite materiality. The smooth, almost silken-looking off-shutter concrete shell is layered with slate, blackened timber and the palest European oak. While the overall look is one of calm repose there are some statement making moments, in particular the sculptural oak staircase that appears lightly suspended between the three floors. It floats against a backdrop that looks like a landscape-art installation: a sheer wall of slate delineating the sharp excavation into the mountain, set behind a sheet of glass with a water feature at its foot.

Similarly, the swimming pool is an artistically visualised continuation of the architecture. Designed in an L shape that echoes the lines of the house, specifically the layer of zinc cladding that stops short of enfolding the structure, it dominates the outdoor space. The idea was stolen, admit the owners, from the pool at W Retreat Koh Samui in Thailand but, rather than tiled in black, the Camps Bay version features the same granite-hued porcelain tiles used in the bathrooms and on the floors (even the garage) of the house.

On the other side of the water a square of bright green lawn is a striking modern gazebo built from the same blackened western red cedar used to dramatic effect in feature walls and other details throughout the house. With its slatted screens drawn aside there’s an uninterrupted ocean vista to drink in while sunning yourself on an unspeakably stylish lounger. What could be more luxurious than that?

Clouds Estate, cloudsestate.co.za; Arthur Quinton Darryl Croome Architects, aqdcarchitects.com, AQDCArchitects

Originally published in HL August 2015