houses, Seaside

Smooth Operator

Text Laura Twiggs Production Shelley Street, Genneth Lyn Photographs Mark Williams, Inge Prins The first thing that strikes you on entering this contemporary Camps Bay penthouse, with its sweeping sea views, is the light. It floods through the floor-to-ceiling sliding doors, through the slivers of windows at the top of the living-space walls and filters poetically through the white wooden blinds. Most of all, the impact is the space itself: the way the rooms and separate areas communicate effortlessly with each other, conveying a supreme sense of fluidity and ease. There’s nothing to jar the senses here. The palette is simple, but nuanced: black and white dominate, but are made interesting and multi-layered by the addition of textured beiges, creams and browns in oak flooring, a shaggy rug and inviting low-slung sofas. The effect is one of calm and harmony. It’s hard to imagine anyone becoming ruffled here and, as architect Marco Bezzoli of Archilab explains, this was a big part of his brief. His intensely private clients were seeking a no-fuss lock-up-and-go bolt hole for their visits to South Africa, and found this gem, then little more than a shell, within walking distance of the shops, close to the beach and held beneath the atmospheric Twelve Apostles flanking Table Mountain. It was Marco’s job to find the magic of the space through a process of deconstruction. ‘I had to focus on how the couple would live in and use the space when they were entertaining and when they were here alone,’ he explains. ‘It was largely about clearing out the space and opening it up.’ Long inspired by ‘clean-lined and unashamedly modern’ Brazilian architecture, and with a love of the way that Japanese designers merge interior spaces, part of the challenge for Marco was to uphold these principles while ensuring that two individuals could go about their business and indulge their interests without any conflict or collision: the mantra had to be ease, tranquillity and flow, and it’s worked. ‘He can watch the Grand Prix in the bedroom while she takes in a chick-flick in the sitting room,’ says Marco. The planning and forethought that has gone into what appears to be simplicity itself is formidable: the height of the sofas, for example, was carefully considered so that they would not interrupt the sightlines to the sea view from the bed. Within the outer walls is a veritably sculpted second shell so that architectural details such as mouldings and ceilings appear graceful, yet solid – and which hide a network of sophisticated technology from air-conditioning pipes to power points and other unsightly necessities that regularly are the undoing of any minimalist-design aesthetic. Marco describes his work as being in a natural-contemporary idiom, with the main focus on ‘how to respond appropriately to local contextual conditions while pushing design envelopes. There’s a strong pull towards a simpler and more clean-lined architecture than we’ve been accustomed to in the past, which at the same time is being offset by the measured use of characterful natural finishes on the inside,’ he notes. Uncluttered, with discrete spaces and above all, livable, it’s a fine balance that Marco has struck in this home. The terrace, with its white porcelain tiles, black slate-clad wall and cool turquoise pool, is as restful as it is functional: the perfect place to entertain outdoors and also a place to sit and work on a laptop while contemplating the waves as they break on the beach below. Back-to-back sitting areas extend the apartment’s repertoire, rendering the more intimate and informal cocooning spaces private and yet adaptable. A breakfast bar in the kitchen forms a cosmopolitan hub that lends itself equally to quiet coffee breaks as to cocktail parties. ‘I tried to create an atmosphere that is clean and simple, with a hint of natural warmth,’ says Marco. There’s no doubt that he succeeded. Archilab, 021-447-8675, archilab.co.za This article was originally published in the February 2010 issue of House and Leisure.