Rampant greenery is one of the advantages of living in the Cape Town suburb known locally as soggy, soggy Newlands – it has the highest winter rainfall in the country. Situated at the foot of Table Mountain in the Southern Suburbs, this historic enclave has fertile soil fed by mountain streams that are the basis of the country’s brewing industry. No wonder this spot was one of the early pioneers’ popular choices to build their homes.
It's this small corner of wooded paradise that entranced Craig and Roxanne Denbury six years ago when they first set eyes on the pretty, double-storey villa that was to become their home.
Its enchanting back garden was shaded by giant swamp cypresses and poplars, and the couple could immediately visualise blissful summer lunches on the deck beside the little fern-covered stream on the edge of the property.
What clinched the deal was the cottage linked to the main house by a courtyard. 'There was enough space there for me to create a separate work kitchen,' says Roxy, who's otherwise known as Roxanne Floquet, London-trained cake maker extraordinaire.
Her world-class, multi-tiered miracles of delicate icing and frosted flowers are so exquisite you wonder how anyone has the heart to eat them.
It was the couple's dream house but down the line began to feel what Roxy calls 'a bit cramped and poky and dark'. Jack, now three, had arrived and with another child on the way the family needed more breathing space. Fortunately Roxy and Craig had spotted a few dead areas between the two buildings that could be utilised – the big upstairs balcony, for example, that linked the houses, as well as the unused courtyard below it.
Together with architect Robyn Millenaar they decided to open up the main house, extending it into the unexploited spaces. This would give them an extra bedroom and study upstairs, and downstairs what Roxy describes as 'a freer, more open and contemporary feel, with more space for the kids to move around', while enabling the north sun to come in and lighten up the enlarged living room.
Read more about the challenge of raising the roof on this beautiful home
All this entailed a major structural revamp so, for six months, they moved in with Roxy's parents. Changes included removing walls and beams on the ground floor, and putting in support for the upstairs structural walls. 'We used steel I-beams to carry the floor above,' says the architect. 'The challenge was to position them as high as possible to give a continuous feel to the open-plan area.'
The tiled floor downstairs was replaced with warmer oak planks. Wider stacking folding doors were installed in the living room to create a better outdoors connection. The main bedroom was made open plan with the bathroom.
Much of the renovation focus was on the look and functionality of the kitchen.
Roxy and Craig both love cooking. 'Frankie Fenner does a weekly delivery of a butchery basket,' says Roxy, 'and we make lots of [Yotam] Ottolenghi-style salads using organic and ethically sourced ingredients. To entertain we like to create a relaxed mood with an abundance of food so we were happy our vision for the kitchen turned out perfectly. We love the combination of steel, glass and raw oak.' That includes the chic little Pedersen + Lennard steel-and-oak bar stools on which six icing-class students can perch around the new kitchen island, which is topped with a giant slab of Vicostone quartz.
Roxy's passion for fresh edibles extends to the reinvented strip of front garden where Swiss chard, spring onions, aubergines and artichokes now thrive among perennials and a water feature. 'We had to rethink this space completely,' says landscaper Arlo Mitchell of Greencube. It was not entirely welcoming as the entrance. Instead, it was 'a solid, impenetrable mass of raised beds of aged Iceberg roses on a grid, with paved pathways in between'.
Now an open and inviting area, it has a small central lawn for the kids framed by recycled pavers and enclosed by an extended Eugenia hedge. Pots of cascading herbs and a pair of lovely citrus trees at the entrance complement the veggies. The soil has been enriched with vermicompost and a gypsum-and-kelp mixture, the root systems have been inoculated with endomycorrhizae fungi and trichoderma, and the growing plants have been sprayed with trace elements and bioflavonoid foliar feed. The result? Roxy now has a flourishing New Age garden in historic Newlands to complement the couple’s reinvented dream house.
Roxanne Floquet, roxannefloquet.com
Originally published in HL July 2015