It may seem grandiose to approach decorating in a Darwinian sense but, when the owners of this six-storey cubist home in the shadow of Lion’s head in Cape Town approached La grange Interiors owner Sumari Krige, an aesthetic evolution is exactly what came to pass. The brief was clear: ‘We always wanted a modern home,’ say the homeowners. ‘What we didn’t want was a modern, cold shell. That’s where La grange Interiors and Sumari came in. This is what they do: create spaces where people live.’ Before the topic of interiors could be addressed though, the house itself had to be built and that alone proved to be a process of growth and adaptation. ‘Initially there was only one site but, due to planning constraints, the decision was made to purchase the neighbouring site and merge the two,’ says Marco Bezzoli of ArchiLab, who was the architect on the job. ‘This unlocked a lot more useable space, which was the catalyst that set the design free.’ It was in this urban rookery high on the mountainside that Marco and his team could fully exploit the dynamic geography of the plot – from rocky outcrops to sweeping ocean vistas – through strong vertical and horizontal planes that really maximise the views. ‘My aesthetic is to layer things, to make it warm and bring the outside in,’ says Sumari, to whom the homeowners handed over full creative control. For the decorator who has long championed a Flemmish look with painted furniture in neutral colours, an X-Men-like mutation was taking place. Enter the house today and you’re met by a mature chiaroscuro of dark wooden floors, pallid walls and a ton sur ton approach to texture and colour. ‘My style has evolved over the past two decades to become more modern, and then to mix that with older pieces, rough stone, raw wood and sophisticated finishes,’ Sumari says. ‘When I travel, when I’m buying, it’s an eclectic mix. The goal is to seek what no one else has – my mission is to find what’s different.’
For a home with such generous rooms, a sense of intimacy is created by using large-scale pieces in moderation and filling in the details with an intricate matrix of naturalistic materials, imperfect ceramics and tones of orange and green that almost melt into the underlying gradient of greys. ‘I don’t like minimalism,’ says sumari. ‘The spaces here are richly appointed in wood and metal, fabric, rope and rattan. We’ve used all these materials to create the warmth that I’ve always dreamt of. It’s a modern house but with texture and soul.’
Functionally, the floors of the house operate with a strong focus on dedicated living spaces. As such, the spacious ensuite master and guest bedrooms occupy the third and fifth floors while the living area, with its sprawling outside platform and unobstructed views out to robben Island and the wide expanse of the Atlantic beyond, lies on the fourth floor. However, the true genius of the floorplan is its adaptability, a product of its wide, uniform design. ‘The house comes with a great deal of flexibility,’ says Marco. ‘What is now a bedroom could easily be turned into a study or a music room; the spaces don’t dictate their function but rather allow for any manner of appropriation.’ a striking element to the home is the ‘picture boxes’ throughout, like portholes that look out onto different aspects of the surroundings. ‘The best way to maximise a view is to frame it,’ says Marco. ‘By creating these differing snapshots onto the outside, the experience of travelling from room to room is always refreshing.’ For Sumari, the greatest danger in decorating lies in overexposure, especially with platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram saturating our collective consciousness with a myriad shots of interiors and furniture pieces. ‘Today it’s about object, about assemblage. It’s about layering not just physical elements, but also timelines. That’s where you find real depth,’ she says. Through a process of evolution the final product is a refined living space that has adapted perfectly to its environment. You could say that Marco and Sumari really were the natural selection.
Text: Piet Smedy
Photographs: Elsa Young