A Covetable Midcentury Home Receives A Sensitive Renovation

Homeowner and interior designer Laureen Rossouw and her husband Koos were about to move out of their old apartment, when she spotted a picture of a dilapidated house with classic Bauhaus lines in the newspaper. She was smitten. “I immediately phoned Koos to tell him I had found my dream house. When he saw how much work there was to tackle, he could not hide his disappointment,” but she finishes her tale with a characteristic flourish: “We always buy everything in a few hours and deal with the consequences later.”

The Rossouw’s had been living in one of Cape Town’s iconic Art Deco buildings, in an apartment that had been spectacularly renovated by Laureen some years before. In this new home, she explains, “the lines were there; it was the layout that was unpractical. It clearly needed a thoughtful update to adapt it for 21st-century living.

“The exterior had all the good elements of a midcentury meets Art Deco house, [but] the interior spaces were a bit of a mess and were almost completely redone [as] the interiors didn’t have flow or enough light.” Together with her architect daughter, Renée Rossouw, the pair turned the garden-and park-facing kitchen into a breath-taking double-volume space, and added more glazing elsewhere too, including a large circular porthole in the dining area, as well as clerestory windows and interior glass and metal doors. “[Creating] new, bigger windows and bigger volumes that flow into nature was a driving force,” reveals Renée, as the aim was to reconnect the house with its beautiful garden – also much worked on during the renovation and now a lush masterpiece – and the greenery of the park landscape beyond it.

Once inside the house now, it’s impossible not to be captivated by the visual feast created by the classic 20th-century furniture, authentic design objects and special artworks that fill the interiors. But what really makes Rossouw’s painstakingly curated collection shine is the way it fits into the context of the reworked spaces.

The overall result is that as well as having an abundance of natural light in its interiors, the house is an intriguing and visually pleasing exercise in geometry. It has become an illustration of the fact that ‘geometric symmetry’ is not really about straight lines, but rather, is an expression of the most pleasing combinations of shapes based on rectangles and circles, as well as the use of these elements in concert with one another.

‘My mom and I often collaborate,’ says Renée. ‘We alternate between creator and editor for different projects, depending whose project it is. We have a similar understanding of color and style: I’m a bit more minimalist and stripped-down whereas Laureen is more energetic and passionate.’

In this project, she adds, ‘My mom was the driving force. I acted mostly as a bouncing board and gave architectural ideas about light and volume and space. Once she started with the interiors, I designed some of the surfaces – like floors and a mural, and some furniture pieces. She furnished the space from her ideas and desires.’ 

Laureen, for her part, explains that ‘so much interior design is based on formulas about how spaces should work,’ adding that a formulaic approach ‘had to be transcended’ in this house. ‘Every space had to be considered and designed – and then furnished – on its own terms,’ she says. The results are beautiful: 20th-century design pieces including Le Corbusier chairs and a Bruno Mathsson chaise share the space with custom-designed flooring and wall panels created by Renée. The colors used throughout are vibrant, yet always tonally arranged to perfectly set off one another within each room. And the final layer is formed by Laureen’s collections of classic posters, local artworks and collectible objects.

Among the home’s most charming spaces is the outdoor living space, complete with fire pit and a combination of vintage and custom-designed garden furniture. This, Renée says, is the place where ‘we sit as a family… It feels really special.’

Photography by Greg Cox.

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