A Cliffside Bolthole On Cape Town's Clifton Coastline
Situated on the rocky cliffside above Cape Town’s famed beaches of Clifton, this sophisticated beachside bolthole is the epitome of modern coastal living.
Billowy sheer curtains, sleek handworked tiles and terraces of olive trees – this airy home has all the makings of a quintessential Mediterranean bolthole. Yet it isn’t on the shores of Corsica or sidling up against the Valencia boardwalk. Rather, it’s perched on the slopes of Lion’s Head in Cape Town, and overlooks the umbrella-pegged stretch of Clifton coastline that’s slung around the city’s Atlantic Seaboard.
‘The whole idea was that it needed to have a Mediterranean feel throughout,’ says gallerist and interior designer Dylan Thomaz of Studio Dylan Thomaz, who achieved this aesthetic through a nuanced layering of texture, a carefully selected palette and an inclusion of natural details. The result is decidedly coastal, celebrating the home’s magnificent location above the storied beaches of Clifton, while evoking that southern European ambience.
Having met some six years ago and worked on numerous projects together, Thomaz and the homeowner have history. As such, their dynamic is laidback and fun, making them the perfect storytellers of their four-month journey through this project.
‘The homeowner lived through the renovation, and one night they had an epiphany to change all the floors,’ says Thomaz.
‘We were already five weeks in!’ the homeowner adds. So Thomaz’s team swapped out the solid screed for a painted black brick, which has a cool sensation underfoot that enhances the Mediterranean theme.
‘All the tiles are handmade and they encompass a sense of authenticity,’ Thomaz explains. The home itself is steeped in history, edging up against a boulder-heavy spot on the mountain which, in a former life, was known as Botany Bay. This large worker’s cottage was once part of the manor-house property next door.
Determined to respect the history of the site, Thomaz chose to incorporate the rocky surrounds into the design. ‘We wanted to accentuate the boulder,’ he says. ‘We framed it in the kitchen, and at night, it lights right up. It’s quite spectacular.’
This theme also makes its way into the soft furnishings of the interior, with boulder-shaped felt cushions tastefully popped on couches and chairs. The facade of this home could be that of a sophisticated boutique hotel in France, but inside, Thomaz sought out materials that speak to South Africa. At the entrance, a custom Bofred mirror with a fringe of black mohair hangs above a traditional riempie bench.
‘It’s about a tactility of textures and mixing contemporary design with really old-world pieces,' says Thomaz. 'The only right-angled elements are the door frames, stairs and windows.’ The organically inclined design intention is evident in every corner of the space, but is most apparent in the second-level kitchen. This is the home’s veritable heart, and at its core is the pièce de résistance – the heavy marble island.
‘Through the whole project, the homeowner was prescriptive about only a few things, and one of those things was the stone,’ Thomaz says, brushing the honed, porous slab with his fingertips and pointing out the little crystalline fragments that make it unique. The homeowner opted for a honed finish rather than polished for a softer effect. Sourced from WOMAG, this exquisite piece of marble truly complements Thomaz’s organic ethos, but due to its size, weight and the location of the kitchen, it wasn’t easy to install.
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The resulting solution included a last-minute decision to add a narrow, off-centre section of blue tiling. ‘It ended up becoming this feature that we both loved, and serves as a different kind of detail. It acts like a serving tray, but it also adds more authenticity to the house,’ he says. The blue is reflected throughout the home, including in a clever painted floor lining inspired by a trip to Spain.
Both Thomaz and the homeowner credit the brick flooring as the key to unlocking this home’s potential. ‘The balcony becomes an extension of the interior, and in turn, the indoors feel breezy and light,’ the homeowner says.
The second epiphany came in recognising the black aluminium shutters’ effect on the tactility of space. ‘When you slide the shutters back, there is this overwhelming sense of exposure,’ they say, and Thomaz elaborates: ‘When you close them but keep the slats open, you still get the incredible view, but there is texture at play. You don’t ruin the view, you just accentuate it.’ As with any home overlooking the ocean, views are pivotal, and from each room, you are treated to an eyeful of the Atlantic.
For a visitor, the tour de force just might be the homeowner’s bedroom. Serenely dressed in swathes of linen, it opens up like nowhere else in the house. Sitting at the foot of the bed, you might think you were teetering at the top of the world, ready to dive into the crisp blue sea below. ‘I get the sense that I can almost touch the ocean,’ the homeowner says. It’s a mesmerising view, so it’s little wonder that Thomaz kept the style of this room neutral, with occasional pops of interest, such as the plinth-like headboard fashioned from faceted patterned tiles and a custom-made sidetable by Studio Dylan Thomaz.
For the homeowner, the real masterpiece is a zone that’s utterly their own – ‘the Sex and the City closet’, says Thomaz. It’s a glamorous area bordered by a delicate line of gold detailing that holds a beautiful collection of shoes. For a designer whose modus operandi is to create considered, stylised vignettes, Thomaz’s aesthetic signature is also all about lifestyle. ‘Even though I create quite curated, precise spaces, they are imbued with authenticity,’ he says.
What has made this such a successful project for the homeowner isn’t just Thomaz’s expert eye for curation and attention to detail, but the way he has created a home that is geared to the way they live. At weekends, friends gather around the expansive dining room table under outsize woven pendants on the deck, where the homeowner’s penchant for laidback entertaining is best illustrated. Here, floors made from terracotta-coloured klompie bricks take you right back to that breezy Mediterranean-South African theme.
‘It’s not a fussy home,’ says Thomaz, and the homeowner agrees. ‘Previously, the house was a burden and it required a lot of maintenance. I felt like I couldn’t actually live here the way I should be able to.’
Surveying the garden from the deck, the homeowner says, ‘This is so beautiful, it’s such a different part of the house and it’s so peaceful.’ Adds Thomaz, ‘It’s really where life happens.’