Perched on a mountain slope in the affluent suburb of Higgovale in Cape Town, this modern family home, which offers astounding views, came about as the result of a total transformation that saw the original home pulled to the ground to make way for this beautifully sleek structure.
“The owners had lived in the original house for nine years before they hired us to reinvent the space to accommodate the family,” says Philip Olmesdahl, managing partner of architecture firm Stefan Antoni Olmesdahl Truen Architects, also known as SAOTA. “We recommended demolishing the old house and starting again because the original building faced the prevailing winds that blow down Table Mountain. We felt the original structure didn’t live up to the potential of the land and we wanted to transform the space by making the bedrooms and main living areas larger and opening the house up to the breathtaking views.”
The result is a stunning 716-square-metre space that amalgamates contemporary design and raw Cape materials while keeping the natural surroundings in mind.
“We built the new home (together with Three 14, the Architects of Record) in an L-shape to protect it from the Cape’s strong winds and to create a view-facing courtyard,” Philip says. “The house is designed to contain or relate to a series of landscape spaces, from its street-level view to its mid-level west-facing courtyard and the lowest level’s main north-facing lawn. South Africans like to be as near to nature as possible so we connected the home’s indoor and outdoor spaces, linking all the principal living levels to generous but intimate outdoor ‘rooms’ sheltered from harsh winds.”
Describing the home as “unselfconscious, robust and, above all, not precious”, Philip says the combination of natural materials pays homage to historical Cape Town architecture. “We’ve built this home with materials sourced from the Cape. These include polished pigmented concrete floors, similar to the old Cape houses’ screeded floors; natural oak ceiling panels and joinery; off-shutter concrete ceilings and other relaxed-looking finishes like steel and timber.” The house includes a number of design elements that add a subtle architectural twist to the space, from the almost sculptural multi-level staircases that join the home’s various floors in Dali-esque style to the fireplace built into the side of the kitchen counter. “The fireplace gives the kitchen a little more personality and purpose over and above being a place where food is prepared. Essentially, it makes it feel like one of the main living areas. Not to mention that when it’s lit it really warms up the atmosphere during the cold and rainy winter months.”
Soaked in natural light, the home’s chalky colour palette is reminiscent of Cape Dutch homes whose paint contained high lime content. “The history of Cape homes translates into this one in a really modern but unpretentious way,” Philip says. “The property itself is surrounded by history, with the suburb of Oranjezicht – named after a farm established there in 1708 – to the right and Camps Bay – originally inhabited by the Khoi and San tribes before being colonised by Dutch settlers around 1652 – to the left.”
With teenagers in the house, Philip says it was important that it be relaxed, easy to live in, inviting and functional. “The homeowner is a structural engineer and had very specific requests when it came to the abode’s style. One of the requests was that the house feel uncluttered and clean. He wanted a space where he and his family could unwind and socialise.”
I ask Philip in which area he would most like to relax if he lived here. “Definitely on the generous terrace,” he says. “We built it below one of the existing Stone Pine trees in the garden and it offers incredible views of the city and the sea. It’s a really calming space. I love it.”