Posted: 12 July 2011
Text Deborah Louw Styling Genneth Lyn Photographs Warren Heath Five years ago, when HL’s features editor Leigh Robertson was looking for a new home, Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard was not her first choice of locale. A long-time Gardens denizen, Leigh loved the buzz and pace of the City Bowl, but, widening her search one gray winter’s day, she came upon a small, gracious, balconied 1930s block of apartments at a spot where Fresnaye and Sea Point meet. ‘It was the light that clinched it,’ she says. ‘When I walked in, I could see through the interleading door into the bedroom and from there to the light from the balcony beyond. A channel of light. And that was it.’ Over the next few years Leigh and her partner, Nick Stanbridge, co-owner of Cape Town-based concept store, A Store, set about turning the apartment into a home of warmth, wit and style, piece by thoughtfully chosen piece. While the original wooden strip flooring, high ceilings, amply proportioned spaces and doublethick walls create a feeling of sturdy wellbeing, the couple has given it a uniquely contemporary update. Other than in the bedroom, the couple opted to avoid pale shades. Instead, the walls of the lounge are painted a deep and moody green that changes with the light, making a striking backdrop for the sleek couches (albeit ‘cat-worn’, as Leigh describes them), richly textured fabrics, eclectic array of artworks and tongue-incheek treasures that fill the room. Evidence of Nick’s business is everywhere, from books and art prints to select pieces from A Store’s evolution, like his prized Godzilla lamp and a small-toy collection. The mantelpiece is just one example of the couple’s creative collaboration (‘it’s a give-and-take affair,’ quips Leigh), hosting an ever-changing display of pieces from toys to quirky ornaments picked up at second-hand shops. The fireplace is a central feature of the room – both from a visual and an atmospheric point of view – and it’s in nightly use throughout winter. The dining room is an intimate space, its walls coated in chalkboard paint so, the couple explains, friends can express their creativity should they be seized by the moment. Dramatically chic by day, this well-used room comes into its own at night, when it’s a warmly lit cube. In fact, the whole apartment has two distinct moods: urbanely sophisticated and curl-up-on-the-couch comfortable. The spacious balcony is effectively another room – a generous strip running the length of the apartment. The kitchen and the dining room both open onto it, making for easy indoor-outdoor access, with views over apartment blocks and palms towards the sea in front, and the homes strung along the avenues of Fresnaye on the slopes of Signal Hill behind. With its black-and-white checkerboard tiles and Leigh’s colourful Alessi collection, the kitchen is an inviting space where guests linger and chat to the cook of the moment (mostly Leigh). Floor-to-ceiling cupboard doors open to reveal a huge shelved pantry, complete with a corner for cheerfully stocked wine racks. The tucked-away nooks and corners, cupboards and high ledges provide endless opportunities for feline mischief for the couple’s three cats – Cookie, Misty and Suki. Everywhere you look you’ll find spaces that have been playfully curated. And each piece has its own story: there’s the retro, the Art Deco, the fun and the beautifully solemn (like Leigh’s vintage dressing table – one of her most cherished pieces). Somehow, despite their mixed provenance, they all combine in harmony. This welcoming home is a lesson in what you can achieve with a touch of imagination, a creative spirit, an open mind and a lot of love. A Store, Kloof Street, Cape Town, astoreisgood.com. This article was originally published in the June 2010 issue of House and Leisure.