The deep blue street facade of this striking home in Cape Town’s historical De Waterkant manages to subtly reference contemporary design while remaining reminiscent of the area’s original 19th-century terrace houses. With South African history a subject close to her heart, it’s no wonder its owner, academic and prominent judge Nothemba Mlonzi, had looked to De Waterkant, part of the old Malay Quarter and now a National Preservation Area, as a place in which to invest. ‘I love that it is so close to the city centre, and that I can walk to many of the great shops and restaurants on my doorstep,’ she says.
Spending eight weeks or more at a time in the various cities in which she presides, Nothemba had previously rented several properties in the quaint Loader Street vicinity. Feeling it time to establish a base of her own in the Western Cape, she began her search for a lock-up-and-go property here, eventually settling on one of the last unrenovated houses on the street.
The home she found was an old, single-storey property in desperate need of a visionary architect to transform it into something special. Nothemba appointed the team from Meyer + Vorster architects, whom she selected for their experience in the area’s redevelopment, and their keen understanding and interpretation of the sensitive building and urban design constraints of the location.
‘Our brief from Nothemba was to create a three-bedroom home with a garage,’ explains architect Tiaan Meyer, a senior partner in the firm. ‘The main bedroom and kitchen/living area was to be the focus. But due to the compact footprint of the house, two more levels needed to be created to allow for these requirements, as well as the addition of a roof terrace to maximise the city views and add another outdoor entertainment area.’ The firm was also tasked with the design of the house’s interiors.
The unexpected feeling of space on entering the house through the solid double doors sets the tone for the rest of this stylish, open-plan dwelling. Clever design elements are everywhere, from the generously proportioned spiral staircase leading up to the bedroom level, to the nifty layout of the guest cloakroom below. Access to the roof terrace and its 360-degree views of the city and mountain is gained from the deck; this is a house that ticks all the boxes.
Storage solutions were a key element in maximising the existing space. Sculptural yet functional joinery components have successfully solved the storage constraints in all the living and working areas with neatly concealed cupboard spaces, and doors that slide away into cavities, bringing light into the deep spaces. An impressive walk-in dressing room leads off the master bedroom, which commands spectacular views across the bay. Soft, sheer linen curtains span the wide glass doors to the outside deck. In fact, everything about Nothemba’s city pad, from its functional design elements and well-proportioned spaces to the furniture exudes contemporary sophistication. The neutral palette of muted, earthy colours contrasts with the light walls and striking accents of white.
It’s the house’s relationship with its outside spaces that really ups its appeal. Aluminium sliding doors lead out onto the pool deck from the living area and third bedroom/study. ‘It made sense for us to raise the pool to give a feeling of space for guests to relax there while taking in the breathtaking views,’ explains Tiaan. Sliding white aluminium shutters also run the width of the lounge area for privacy and security, and both the shutters and the window can be opened up to bring the outside in.
‘In summer I love entertaining with friends and family around the outside table,’ smiles Nothemba. ‘The house really is designed for easy living, which is exactly what I wanted.’
Originally published in HL October 2012.