Finding the perfect home can appear to be an impossible attempt to make two ends meet in a single space — secluded but cosmopolitan, modern but romantic. Yet, here in the tucked-away suburb of Tamboerskloof in Cape Town, with its tree-lined cobbled streets dotted with Cape vernacular heritage homes, the old and the new have come to co-exist in quiet harmony.
Homeowner and property developer Bruce Peach of Mason Developments was looking for a home that veered away from the modern and soulless. “He wanted to live in an urban environment, but from the spaces he required a sense of heritage,” notes Johannesburg-based fashion designer-turned-interior decorator Lindie Ferreira, who was tasked with making the homeowner’s vision a reality. “He loves authenticity and history, having spent so many years living in London, so he opted for this smaller home that offered quality over quantity.”
It should come as little surprise though, given the home’s status, that an update was in order. Over the many years — and owners — the home had gradually lost its luster, becoming not only quite ordinary but losing touch with its unique architectural history. Floorboards had been painted black, ceilings lowered, and fireplaces left in disregard. “As you’d expect from someone in his industry, Bruce could see the potential immediately, he could see that the house had solid bones,” remarks Ferreira, “and he wanted to uncover and amplify that, rather than lose it all together.” This would require a nuanced strategy that was equal parts renovation and restoration. The original pine floorboards were sanded down to reveal their natural grain, the ceiling planks removed to reveal the imperfect, hand-hewn planks above that, along with the widening of room entrances, immediately creating voluminous, open-plan spaces. “The house didn’t change or become modern but became a piece of living history,” comments Ferreira. “Like a hideaway or enclave, a refuge that could have been anywhere in the world.”
Not only did this re-establish the flow of the house, but also clearly set the mandate for what was required of the interiors: a feeling of cool serenity, of modern elegance and an almost ethereal lightness unpinned by a reverence to site. “You can’t put cheesy stuff into a house like this,” Ferreira laughs. “I think the house would just spit it out.” So, in short, not your average cream-and-beige setup but something that resonated with history. “What I love in decorating, and what I want to experience in an interior, is a sense of tension, that it is both quiet and dramatic,” explains Ferreira of her creative process. “It can’t be easy or prescriptive — that would just be boring.” Her tonic to this nouveau classic style would be an eclectic yet monastic approach to both furniture pieces and finishes that would yield uncluttered yet richly layered living spaces. “I’m mad about layering, that’s the critical thing in decorating,” she notes, adding “sometimes homeowners want everything maxed out, they want to go full impact, but I believe that you need to add layers, many that you don’t see, to create the experience of depth.”
Drawing on her former career as a fashion designer, this sentiment couldn’t be clearer than in Ferreira’s use of fabric. Take, for example, the variation on curtaining that responds to each room’s needs; in the formal living area, weighted linen introduces a stately sense of importance, whereas in the more casual TV room they’re light and airy, offering just a suggestion of a view to the outside area; in the upstairs bedrooms the linen creates a cocooning softness. Similarly, there is a raw naturalness to the upholstery that infuses the interiors with a feeling of light and air. When it came to furniture pieces, Ferreira opted for a miss-match of chairs and tables, a clever synergy between Cape antiques, touches of Quaker-style simplicity and bold Brazilian modernist collectibles. “All of these feed into the materiality of the home; the grain of the wood, the flecks in the marble, there’s an honesty that isn’t over embellished,” Ferreira continues. “It is precisely because of these noble materials that the interiors of this house will never date.”
But it isn’t all old-school glamour, as Ferreira is quick to note. It is a house geared toward modern living and, though it fully embraces its architectural roots, never does so at the cost of modern comfort. “Take the kitchen,” she declares. “It’s a workhorse, a demanding and practical room that is at the same time personal and also highly technical.” To this end, the entire space was modernized according to Peach’s requirements, most notably with the installation of the timber island that serves not only as a social gathering point but also a well-planned storage unit, leaving the surfaces clean and uncluttered without breaking the free-flow of space from the formal living and dining rooms to the cozy lounge and outdoor area.
For Ferreira, the small guest cloakroom has become her favorite room in the house, an irreverent streak in the decorating that serves as something of a tonic to the otherwise sober, more pared-down interior scheme. “That was my little crazy moment,” she offers, “because the rest of the house is so serene, I could create this little jewel that offered an entirely different experience.” After more than a little convincing on her behalf, Ferreira finally got Peach to agree on using the 1800s William Morris Snakehead wallpaper, which paired perfectly with mirror and antique brass lights.
“I think the house is really successful, because even though every room is so specific in its function and appointment, there is still this common thread, this feeling of congruency,” she concludes. “After all, that’s what we set out to achieve, living spaces that both challenge and enthrall.”
For more like this Cape Town home, be sure to check out the monochromatic interiors of this loft apartment.
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