Float among the trees
Capetonian Grant Bacon had long known that he wanted to live on the steep, lush slopes of Higgovale below Table Mountain.
The quiet residential area offered forested seclusion pierced only by bird calls, with ethereal mists in autumn and shelter from the summer South Easter.
When a large Higgovale plot was subdivided, Grant, a sales and marketing director for a deep-sea trawling company, viewed the newly available property situated on a hairpin bend in a road. Though it made his heart beat faster it was beyond his budget so he continued his search. A year later he happened to see the very plot on the front page of a newspaper property section at a greatly reduced price.
'I phoned immediately, put in an offer and that was it,' he smiles.
Grant had a vision of exactly the type of house he wanted to build: a long, simple oblong in cast concrete, glassed in on its long sides, inspired by Brazilian architect Marcio Kogan, whose houses he’d admired in São Paulo. Instead of hiring an architect, Grant worked with friend André Carl van der Merwe, a multi-talented artist, author and architectural and interior designer. It was André's inspired suggestion to raise the 24×7-metre structure on concrete columns instead of anchoring it to the ground. 'The idea was that the house should float between the trees,' explains Grant. In conjunction with a structural engineer the 18-month building process began in August 2011.
All services now run through eight diagonally placed columns, which open up forest-floor space beneath the house: here Grant plans to create a lounge area and a summer kitchen with a 10-seater table. Garden designer Franchesca Watson is on board to cultivate a wild, forested garden with mosses, ferns and other shade-loving plants, eventually to conceal glimpses of the road with greenery. Even the garage is invisible: sunk into the ground it's accessed from the road below; Grant enters his house via a forested pathway snaking under the house.
'What a privilege to live next to a nature reserve.' - Grant Bacon, homeowner
One steps from an elevated wooden walkway into the grown-up tree house, awed by the proximity of trees and the scent of mountain air. The symmetrical layout comprises an open-plan living area in the middle, a bedroom with bathroom at each end and sliding doors running the length of each side to open the house almost completely. Indeed, when the glass doors are pushed back, an expansive 16-metre opening is created, framing views of trees, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill.
A serious hobby photographer who’s held exhibitions, Grant has hung large prints from his travels throughout the house. His artistic eye and attention to detail are evident, too, in the decor choices. ‘I got my colour inspiration from the stone pine in front – the browns and oranges on the bark. I wanted to bring the outside inside and let it all blend in,’ Grant explains. For floors and walls, wood and wallpaper were used for their warmth instead of tiles.
Minimalist and seamless, this is a house where doors are hidden, sliding into cavities between rooms, and handles have no place: all units operate with a push-and-release opening mechanism. Everything functional, whether a DVD player or the kitchen coffee station, is concealed in storage areas recessed into walls. True to the owner’s nature, each element has been carefully considered, from the light switch plates to the show-stopper woodpile feature wall around the fireplace – André’s ‘brainwave’ while driving behind a truck transporting logs.
From his house in the trees Grant observes guinea fowl, the circling African hawk-eagle, sunbirds, Cape white-eyes and squirrels. Owls can be heard hooting at night and twice he has encountered a porcupine in the road before dawn when heading to the gym.
‘I’ll never move or sell. This is my dream house,’ says Grant.
Grant Bacon Photography grantbacon.co.za;
André Carl van der Merwe 083-700-4465, firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published in HL August 2015