Contemporary Clifton Home

PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Amelia Brown

Mix an exclusive Cape Town house, an open brief and a trusting client with an eye for designer pieces, and the result is a decorator’s dream project.

Four storeys, five bedrooms, 3,9 m-high ceilings, bare white walls and panoramic views from the Twelve Apostles to Clifton’s beaches. This was the blank canvas that interior designer and partner at Olàlà! Interiors Schané Anderson had to work with. The brief from the client was simple: Surprise me.

The project actually came about as a surprise. With the trucks loaded to decorate another house for her client, Schané and her team were informed of a change of plan: The house they were primed to furnish had been sold, and in its place was an exclusive Clifton property, designed by Jane Visser of Visser Architects. Schané had to go back to the drawing board. “A toned-down yet alluring modern industrial style was redesigned into a layered and more glamorous look and feel,” she says. In the end it took her a matter of weeks to turn the project around, to travel to find exclusive designer pieces, hunt for art, and for the team at the Olàlà! Interiors factory to make the custom-designed cabinetry.

To pull off a project of this magnitude is testament to the relationships Schané fosters with her clients. The brief may have taken her by surprise, but the trust in and success of the execution is a result of her knowing her client’s preferences and building good lines of communication.

“My first project for this client included a deep-midnight-blue buttoned sofa,” she says. “He loved it then, and still loves it now. That cemented his favourite interior colour schemes: black with saturated blues, sapphires, cobalt, navy…” Schané has two loves: black and velvet. “So now I have a client who loves black, who adores velvet, who travels extensively, who has an amazing eye for design, and who fell in love with this gracious home and its unobstructed views over Clifton and Camps Bay!” This could fairly be classified as a dream job.

Seen through 2,8 m-high sash windows, the views are framed in lush black velvet drapes. The home’s magnificent proportions, which allow for expressive decorating with runs of epic wall space for beautiful imported wall paper and local art, are the work of architect Jane Visser. “The brief by the previous owners was to make the most of the Twelve Apostles view and to build in the kind of Edwardian architectural style inspired by original Clifton houses,” says Jane. “We studied the architecture of other Edwardian buildings in coastal suburbs like Simon’s Town, Kalk Bay and St James to come up with a believable architectural style.”

The challenge was the plot itself. “The site is very steeply sloping and shaped like a kite! Onto this we had to position a highly symmetrical classical building while adhering to the onerous building lines, and maximising views and the north sun. This was a difficult puzzle to resolve,” she says. “I think it’s an achievement that we shoehorned a design that should really be in a much bigger garden into an extremely challenging site. I’m also proud of the way we’ve hidden the modern construction of the building so that it appears authentic to the style.”

The slightly exaggerated Edwardian proportions make the house feel grand despite its awkwardly shaped grounds and conceal the modern features. The high ceilings, for example, have a void above them for the air-conditioning ducts, with a vent detail between the double cornices designed by Jane’s team, the scale of which also corrects the proportions. From every angle, this is a home that celebrates craftsmanship, design, art and its exquisite location. “I love that our manufactured pieces hold their own against high-end imported pieces,” says Schané. “The craftsmanship is magnificent, and I’m proud that international owners are happy to display South African pieces alongside imports.”