Best of both worlds

Best of both worlds

With views of Lion’s Head and in close proximity to the beach, this family home
in Camps Bay makes the most of its exceptional location. By Tess Paterson

As prime locations go, this famed part of the Atlantic Seaboard is hard to beat. Even more so for the owners of the impressive Casa Luz, overlooking a nature reserve with the reassuring presence of the majestic Lion’s Head towering behind it. ‘We looked at numerous sites over the years while living in Green Point,’ says the owner. ‘This one was just high enough to have wonderful views, and just close enough to walk to the beach.’

Unfortunately though, these spectacular settings usually come with a steeply sloping site, and with that, the complex challenges of design and construction. ‘The slope definitely presented a challenge, as did the constraints of the footprint,’ says the owner. ‘We first wanted to expand the existing house vertically, but it soon became clear that the structure wouldn’t withstand another level. It appeared that the only solution was to demolish almost all of the building. Fortunately we were still able to work with a section of the original foundations.’

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The owners turned to architect Marco Bezzoli of Archilab to interpret their brief for an airy, open-plan contemporary home. ‘Essentially the base structure was just too small,’ says Bezzoli, ‘and our launching point was the decision to add on an entire floor. The goal was a series of clean, open spaces with an uninterrupted flow, and that’s where the engineering team came into their own – there’s a lot of superb structural work that’s completely hidden from plain view.’

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The new plan was resolved into three different levels, all connected through a central staircase, with large glass doors to optimise the mountain and sea views. The entrance level opens up to a generous guest suite and wine cellar – a very versatile space which functions as a guys’ den when needed. One floor up, in what was the existing house, is the open-plan kitchen, living and dining area. Cool and uncluttered, this spacious entertaining hub flows on to the terrace and pool. With its relaxed atmosphere and simply jaw- dropping views, it feels every bit like being on holiday.

‘Getting the flow right was the most important part of the design,’ says the owner. ‘We wanted a home that revolved around the most used rooms, and for us that means the kitchen. Having Mediterranean roots and working in the restaurant industry, this is where our family gathers. It’s also where we entertain, and where we can take full advantage of the views.’

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The new top floor forms a private wing with four en-suite bedrooms – three of which have access to the outdoors. ‘Once the key structural challenges were resolved, the design for the bedroom level fell into place quite simply,’ says Bezzoli. ‘We wrapped the rooms around the central core, adding generous terraces and substantial openings to bathe the area in natural light. The main bedroom faces west, and we included an entire corner of glass so that it’s all about the views, right from the mountain slopes to the sea.’

While the views may be astounding, they’re often accompanied by buffeting winds – a challenge that Bezzoli resolved particularly successfully on the pool deck. ‘It was important that the pool area could still be enjoyed, even when the wind comes howling over Table Mountain. To address this we designed a simple concrete canopy which creates an unobtrusive, sheltering cocoon.’

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Apart from the vistas, the owners inherited two stone pines which now define the front entrance. ‘There’s also an established palm tree on the adjacent property which provided instant landscaping and really adds to the sense of place.’

Overall, this breezy building is contemporary and uncluttered, its clean lines partially inspired by the works of Brazilian architects Marcio Kogan and Isay Weinfeld. However, as with all simple, eloquent designs, the actual build was not without its challenges. ‘The house itself sits right in the middle of a 1 400 m2 stand,’ says the owner. ‘We had our work cut out for us when it came to gaining access, and had no choice but to hire conveyors and cranes. All credit to our builder, Arnold Meiring, who resolutely saw a solution in every problem. He managed several crucial changes during the project and kept our neighbours informed on each inevitable disruption.’

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Once the dust had settled, the owners set about creating a very sleek monochromatic interior shell. Pale terrazzo tiles were used in the living areas, with natural oak floors adding warmth to the bedroom suites. ‘Working with a limited palette on the walls, floors and ceilings allows the interior design to come to the fore,’ adds Bezzoli. ‘It was also quite important that all the finishes and design elements complement the views, rather than compete with them. With that in mind, we opted for glass balustrades both indoors and out – visually, it’s a wonderful way to achieve a completely seamless transition.’

‘My style tends to be more classic, while my wife’s is a bit more contemporary,’ the owner explains, ‘but I think we managed to reach a good compromise.’ Describing the home as simple, warm and unfussy, the owner feels that every aspect of a room should work together, without one element vying for attention. ‘I think that if you enter a space and don’t feel comfortable enough to sit down, then it’s overdone. Ultimately, we wanted a practical home with plenty of storage to keep things out of sight.’ This kind of philosophy works particularly well in the open-plan family room, where a custom-built cabinet conceals all the electronic gadgetry. In the spacious dining area, a generous server, topped by a pretty collection of Murano glassware, keeps the look pared down yet colourful. ‘I’ve been collecting vases for years from markets and antique shops. This was also the ideal place for the bold artwork by Jimmy Law.’ The muted palette is extended throughout the rest of the home, punctuated here and there by other colourful accents, such as the pink and turquoise tones in one of the bedrooms.

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The kitchen, custom-made in oak, is a generous eat-in space which connects seamlessly to the living areas. ‘We knew that this would form the hub of the home, and we wanted something that was functional yet beautiful,’ explains the owner. ‘We both love to cook, and included casual seating as well as a breakfast nook, where we enjoy most of our meals with our daughters.’ A marble countertop on the central island adds a luxurious finish, while slatted timber doors cordon off the scullery and pantry.

On the top floor, the design of the main bedroom and en-suite bathroom take centre stage. ‘This is our favourite room in the house, as it’s so serene and utterly calming.’ Subtle textures in the rug and scatter cushions add interest, but it’s those wrap-around views that really draw you in. ‘Our dream was to be surrounded by nature, and from here we have a panorama of both Lion’s Head and the ocean,’ says the owner. ‘We will always appreciate the sunsets. That, and the fact that we can walk to the beach.’

Photography: Duane Howard; Location: Casa Luz/Location Gallery
February/March 2016

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