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Lion's Head Family Home

Text Leigh Robertson Styling Julia Stadler Photographs Warren Heath Location might be the buzz word among property developers and real estate agents, but of equal weight is how an architect designs and positions a house to maximise the potential of its site. The developer of a new build high on the slopes of Cape Town’s exclusive  Higgovale couldn’t have dreamed up a more breathtaking location or setting. Positioned at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac, this striking house with its dramatic mountain backdrop and uninterrupted views over the city below has a sense of being far removed from the urban hub just minutes away. For nature lovers and outdoors enthusiasts, spontaneous rambles up Lion’s Head or easy hikes to the paths that encircle Table Mountain are factors that undoubtedly enhance the desirability of this address. For parents, there’s comfort in the impression that it’s the sort of neighbourhood where children can bike around with their friends, with plenty of trees for climbing. When it came to designing the house, brothers David and Simmy Peerutin of Cape Town firm Peerutin Architects took as one of their key starting points how they would get the most from the views. ‘Many of the houses on this road focus the views almost exclusively north towards the sea, overlooking the City Bowl,’ says David. ‘In this house we paid specific and equal attention to the view south, towards Table Mountain.’ Built on a particularly steep site, the house is split over two levels, a diagram of the plan revealing ‘two rectangles with a circulation space in between,’ says Simmy. ‘It’s as simple as that!’ Although it’s a very ‘robust house’, its bright white block-like forms and expanses of wraparound glazing make it appear almost to float. ‘Yes, the house is all about lightness,’ adds David, slipping in a mention of his ‘favourite book of all time’, Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The other key starting point for the design was how it could accommodate a large family, with four young children, whose needs would change over time. ‘The architectural language had to form a neutral backdrop, like a blank canvas,’ explains Simmy. While making sure its occupants would all have enough space to grow, the house was designed so that ‘most of the living’ would take place on the upper level. Here a ‘bedroom wing’ and a ‘living wing’ keep things organised, with the four bedrooms and bathrooms contained in one, and a media room and open-plan living space comprising lounge, dining area and kitchen occupying the rest. Sliding doors open up to the main garden and swimming pool, and an outdoor patio that’s protected even when the Cape Doctor blasts. On the lower level is an additional bedroom, a playroom and the other garden, where the youngsters can let rip to their hearts’ content while the adults enjoy relative tranquillity above. With all that glass, the interior is light and airy, and when everything’s opened up on balmy days, there’s a seamless flow between inside and out, what Simmy laughingly calls ‘the holy grail for architects’. The building’s interior spaces follow strong modernist principles, with adornment kept to a minimum. The architects deliberately did not ‘over-design anything’, making ‘a virtue of the house’s simplicity’. They believe its real personality will develop as the years wear on, as its occupants change, and their home becomes a reflection of the lives that unfold within its walls. As Kundera so aptly writes in that seminal novel, ‘There is no perfection, only life’.

Q&A With Interior Designer Danielle Howard

Describe your decorating style. I really enjoy bringing in an element of classic modernism with contemporary design. A harmonious mix of modern, vintage and ethnic pieces gives a house personality and soul. There is so much new design in lighting, and I like to incorporate this element into the decor too. What was your brief for this home? We wanted the look to be contemporary and comfortable while incorporating vintage pieces from the 1950s. I didn’t want it to be too slick; it’s all very soft and natural, but still elegant. And your inspiration? I have a passion for the design classics, so I was glad at the chance to bring in those retro-style, Scandi-feel pieces. What are the design elements that make a home feel ‘livable’? Texture is vitally important. There must be a balance to make a room look interesting. I also try to bring in as much natural light as possible. Your pet design hate? Definitely that showroom look, when a room looks like it’s been bought from a catalogue. And La-Z-Boys – I’ll never get to love those… Danielle Howard Interiors, This article was originally featured in the May 2011 House and Leisure.