houses, Renovations

level best

Inge Prins


This bright, airy home in Higgovale, Cape Town, wasn’t always so Sinatra-chic. When Duncan Artus, a director at an asset management firm, bought the house two years ago, it was a time capsule from the 1980s – bathed in bold colours and mesmerising mosaics, with ad hoc renovations that didn’t gel together.

But its location suited him perfectly. An avid trail runner, he has easy access to those crisscrossing Table Mountain paths and loves that he can leap into the pool for a quick cool-off on his return. Just five minutes away is Kloof Street with its vibey bars and restaurants.

Livingroom Owner Duncan Artus relaxes in the lounge of his chic split-level home. Low-profile 1950s-style furniture means nothing comes between him and those magnificent views.

At 400m2 the north-facing home is not huge, but the 1 000m2 plot on which it sits has great potential for future expansion, another huge plus for Duncan. Dropping down the valley in three tiers, the garage sits on street level, while one level lower is the dwelling’s entrance, two spare bedrooms, a bathroom and study. The final tier is the main living/dining room, master bedroom, deck and pool.

Duncan entrusted the project to interior designer Ashleigh Gilmour and project manager Peter McNamara, giving them carte blanche bar two simple requests: lots of space and light, and a wine cellar to house his beloved reds.

Wine Custom-designed cedar cabinetry and cladding offer a welcoming scent in Duncan's prized wine cellar, once the garden shed. James Mudge customised his Stick Table at the back of the cellar to accommodate the protruding rock feature, which was sealed and waterproofed.

Duncan chose not to live through the six-month renovation in residence, but was kept abreast of its progress every two weeks with an off-site PDF presentation by Ashleigh and Peter. ‘It was great,’ he says. ‘If there was any variance to the budget whatsoever, I was immediately made aware of it during the bi-weekly meeting and had to sign off on it. Of course we went over budget, renovations always do, but at least there were no rude surprises at the end.’

Walls in the kitchen and study were torn down to better integrate the spaces. All the lights were replaced, the mosaics demolished, every finish was redone and the painted bagged brick throughout the house was plastered over, the new walls made white. Well-worn travertine tiles were torn up and replaced with Lifestyle Oak engineered wood flooring in Smoked, Oiled White from Albert Carpets.

Kitchen The sleek and practical kitchen features handleless cupboards by Cabinetworks and matt countertops in a hi-tech porcelain that is indestructible. Wood finishes and Jolie barstools from Ligne Roset lend the breakfast bar a fresh, contemporary look. 

The tiled fishpond, which took up the entire inner courtyard, was removed entirely and replaced with a wooden deck and bench planter, creating a protected exterior space that could be accessed on blustery days, when the exposed terrace proved too windy.

The big boxy combustion fireplace in the main room was removed, opening up the L-shaped living space, and instead a sleek, barely there, flueless fireplace was installed. ‘Even though it’s flueless, we created a covert extractor that feeds back into the room behind the wall cabinetry above,’ explains Ashleigh. ‘That way we can be sure that the flatscreen television hidden within won’t melt from the emanating heat below.’

Dinning The large boxy combustion fireplace was removed to open up the L-shaped living space on the top level. The dining table was custom-designed by Pierre Cronje.

The completely cohesive makeover almost wasn’t so cohesive, as Duncan was originally prepared to skip renovating the kitchen and the bathrooms. ‘They were okay when we started,’ he explains. ‘But as the renovation progressed it became apparent that what looked okay against the original backdrop, looked shoddy and tired compared to the rest of the update.’

Bathroom The owner hadn't planned on redoing the bathrooms and kitchen, but as renovations on the rest of the home progressed 'it became apparent that what looked okay against the original backdrop, looked shoddy and tired compared to the rest of the update', he says. The guest bathroom on the lower level benefited from new cladding in a smoky granite by WOMAG and wooden finishes.

The entire back end of the house features retractable glass panelling that allows the home to drink in the views of the valley and statuesque Lion’s Head immediately opposite. To preserve this unparalleled vista, low-profile furniture with a 1950s aesthetic was chosen so as not to block or compete. Duncan was also adamant that the view from the glass entrance door should be maintained so that arriving visitors can admire the vista out of the back of the house before they’ve even entered the front.

Ext High up in Higgovale, the home overlooks the valley and the sea across the city. Retractable glass panelling along the back of the house maximises the view, which can be admired all the way through from the front entrance.

The interior colour palette centres around two pillows from Pezula Interiors that sit in the lounge. The patchwork of colours caught Ashleigh’s eye and she used the colour scheme of muted teals, greys and even a splash of pink to give the home its modern bachelor feel. A wall covered in a charcoal textured wallpaper anchors the otherwise light and airy home.

‘I like dark elements,’ says Ashleigh. ‘They impart a maturity to a space, establish a mood.’

Tv room The muted, modern colour scheme used throughout the home was inspired by the two geometric-printed cushions from Pezula Interiors on the corner couch in the lounge, says interior designer Ashleigh Gilmour.

Duncan, who gave away all his previously collected belongings when he moved from his Clifton beach apartment to Higgovale, wanted a fresh start. ‘I didn’t want dust collectors in my new place,’ he explains. As a result, the home feels minimal but by no means barren, with carefully selected statement pieces, like the pendant Fin Light by Tom Dixon hanging above the dining table, providing eye-catching interest. Likewise, the wall art was all bought to complement the new renovation. With the bigger picture in mind, Ashleigh steered Duncan’s preference for modern, patterned and abstract artworks towards pieces that tonally chime with the room in which they feature.

Bedroom In the master bedroom, an oak veneer bedside plinth and dark-grey drawer box continue the clean, uncluttered lines evident throughout the home.

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Originally published in HL’s special 2015 Before & After issue

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