Stepping over the threshold of Kim Stephen’s gloriously colourful abode in Bishopscourt, Cape Town, is like virtually inserting yourself into her plethora of gorgeous moodboards, which are on show throughout the house. Vibrant colour is everywhere on the display boards, yet these bursts of brightness are also framed within the crisp lines of Kim’s classic yet contemporary style, which includes nods to elegant lines, beautiful fabrics and a few judicious touches of whimsy.
Kim’s home is a reflection of her moodboards: firstly, there is a sense of graceful classicism that includes a confident use of black and white. ‘These work as a foil to the vibrant colour – balancing and grounding it,’ she explains. Then there is the bold palette which, combined with a number of other strongly individual choices, gives the scheme a dynamic energy.
Another reflection of Kim’s penchant for classic elegance is the architecture of the house, which she describes as having ‘Georgian lines with modern edges’. Before it was completely renovated three-and-a-half years ago, it was a simple, rustic A-frame structure. Kim, her husband Graham and their son, Jamie, lived here for seven years before the remodel, then daughter Anna, who is three, was born shortly after.
Kim cleverly uses colour to balance these strong architectural elements in the various spaces. A good example of this is the dark green paint shade she chose for the built-in kitchen cabinets – an unusual selection that works to offset the visual power of the charcoal-framed fireplace at the other end of the open-plan living, dining and kitchen space. This area is the heart of the home, and is made even more family-friendly by including a cheerful children’s play area situated just off the kitchen space. While busy in the kitchen, it’s easy for Kim to supervise homework or just keep a watchful eye on what the youngsters are up to.
Beyond the children’s area is a beautiful indoor-outdoor living space that was added to the house during the renovation. This ‘outside room’ can be closed up during inclement weather or completely opened to the elements during the city’s long, hot summers. The area has a custom-made terrazzo-tiled floor (the tiles, Kim reveals, are exactly the same as those used at the renowned Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga, just outside Durban: she tracked down the original tile press in KwaZulu-Natal).
The patio area adjoins the garden with its inviting square swimming pool – as well as a wooden jungle gym for Jamie and Anna featuring a slide that runs directly into the pool – where an uninterrupted vista of Table Mountain above Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden gives the entire property a palpable feeling of expansiveness and freedom.
The guest suite and guest cloakroom are both on the ground floor, off the entrance hallway and along a passageway adorned with a large Slim Aarons’ photographic print hung above a bright green love seat, while the family bedrooms, as well as Kim’s petite home office, are upstairs. These all lead off a hallway that has been furnished as a casual ‘pyjama lounge’ where a glorious view across Cape Town towards the distant Durbanville hills can be enjoyed. While both children’s rooms are bold and colourful, the master bedroom is more muted and restful, with just the bright tones of the artwork above the bed adding an eye-catching splash. Both the bathroom and dressing room have been deliberately kept separate from the bedroom rather than being en suite, as is typical these days. The layout means that Graham, who travels a great deal for work, can get up and prepare to depart without disturbing anyone else in the house.
Another characteristic feature of this unique home is the fact that there is almost no built-in furniture throughout the house. ‘I prefer to avoid built-in items and instead use cupboards, storage units and cabinets that are all individual – and mostly custom-made – pieces,’ Kim explains.
Undoubtedly, Kim’s visual style is the product of meticulous research. She has methodically tracked down all sorts of items she envisaged as perfect for the family home, ranging from those old terrazzo-tile presses to wallpapers, unique artwork and custom-made furniture. The combination of such a thoughtful approach, combined with an innate sense of colour, reflects both confidence and panache, adding to the pleasure its end result affords.