Victorian Cape Town Semi

Text Hilary Prendini Toffoli Styling Kate Boswell Photographs Elsa Young Of all the double-storey semis with upstairs wooden balconies that the Victorians built in Cape Town, the most alluring appear to be in Tamboerskloof, below Lion’s Head. They have wonderful views: surging, forested kloofs on one side, and the mountain and bowl of the city on the other. Just such a home is that belonging to interior designer Danela Conti, who moved here with her husband, Neill, and their 20-month-old daughter, Lily, a year ago. ‘We found it on a massive group email,’ she says. ‘We were living in a Bree Street loft, the least baby-friendly place imaginable. So when this came up, we grabbed it.’ The couple child-proofed the stairs with gates, and beefed up security with chunky wrought iron in an attractive sun-star design. Otherwise, the house was structurally perfect. ‘I wondered how we’d find living in a place smaller than the loft we’d got used to, but it all works like a bomb,’ says Danela. ‘It’s compact. No wasted space. That’s what’s nice.’ The light-filled kitchen opens on to a slatted-roofed patio and lush, small garden overlooked by high, rambling greenery and giant, 57-year-old palms – she actually counted the rings – that give the place a delicious Caribbean feel, even in the depths of winter. This is enhanced by a pretty upstairs wooden balcony that leads out from the master bedroom – an ideal spot for morning tea with Lily. Though Danela loved the pale walnut floors of the house and the four Victorian marble fireplaces, the white walls did not blow her away. She decided she needed to paint the walls throughout. ‘Colour always plays a big role in my spaces,’ she says. Danela is a partner in Malibu Interior Design, located on a charming cobbled street in De Waterkant, with her mother, Leigh Samson, a former Johannesburg model. They clearly make a great team. ‘We have different styles but they mesh well,’ she explains. ‘My mother is more classical. I’m more creative and eclectic. Our clients value the mother-daughter vibe. They get different perspectives.’ She adds that they always conceptualise projects together. ‘We both love colour and beautiful fabrics, and we both get excited about the same things.’ They’ve filled the space below their studio with a host of covetable decor pieces, clothing and accessories, calling it Resort Lifestyle. And not surprisingly, many pieces have made their way into Danela’s home, too. If exotic plantations are where her visual policies tend, understated glamour is a vital part of the decor mix. So bringing warm shades and some flamboyance into the heart of her new strictly up-and-down habitat was essential, especially in view of the inspired colours of the revamped bathroom she’d inherited – teal tiles and teal-and-black wallpaper, which work well together. The TV room became a cosy blue, and the dining room a dramatic burgundy. ‘We wanted a more theatrical feel in the dining room because we entertain a lot,’ she says. ‘Neill’s Penang Duck is world class. We both love cooking. That’s the reason a friend introduced us.’ The couple met a few years ago after Danela returned from London where – with an interior architectural design degree from Johannesburg – she’d spent five years doing interiors and her own range of fashion accessories. Her mother Leigh’s lovely old antiques pop up all over Danela’s house. ‘These are things I grew up with and love,’ she says, explaining that she’s ‘not into minimalism at all’. ‘After every job I do, I buy myself something for the house,’ she laughs. ‘I always buy two of whatever it is. A kind of enforced symmetry. I like stuff. I like clutter. I believe less is less, not more.’ This article was originally featured in the June 2012 issue of House and Leisure.