Bursts of bright colour elevate this elegant Bishopscourt home from conventional to dramatic, tranforming the space and infusing it with energy.
The best preparation for stepping over the threshold of this gloriously colourful home in Bishopscourt, Cape Town, is a quick browse of the gorgeous Pinterest boards created by its interior designer, Kim Stephen. The boards simply sing with vibrant colour – they have names like Perfect Pink, Tangerine Dream and Yellow Love – and yet the bursts of brightness are also framed within the crisp, clean lines of Kim’s classic-yet contemporary design ethos.
As on Pinterest, so it is in this home, which Kim redecorated for a young family during a major renovation three-and-a-half years ago. On the one hand, there is a sense of graceful classicism that includes a confident use of black and white. As Kim explains, the black and white “works as a foil to the vibrant colour, balancing and grounding it”. On the other, there is that bold colour which, combined with a number of other strongly individual choices, gives the scheme a dynamic energy.
The front door opens onto a supremely elegant hallway and stairwell that features poured terrazzo floors and a textured charcoal wallpaper, as well as a tall potted palm tree and a number of artworks, including an eye-catching series of brightly coloured silkscreens by little known South African artist Stephanie Watson. Before the house was renovated by its owners with Kim on board, it was a simple, rustic A-frame shape – difficult to imagine now, given that its architecture has a classically elegant look that she describes as “Georgian lines with modern edges”.
Kim cleverly uses colour to balance architectural elements in her spaces. A good example of this is the dark green water-based Plascon Velvaglo Rogue (G6-E1-2), she chose for the built-in kitchen cabinets in this house – an unusual selection that perfectly off sets the visual power of the charcoal-framed, wood-burning fireplace at the other end of the open-plan living-dining-kitchen space. This open-plan area is the everyday heart of the home, and it is made even more family friendly by the colourful kids’ play area situated just off the kitchen. It’s now easy for Kim’s clients to supervise homework or just keep an eye on what their children are up to while prepping a meal.
Beyond the kids’ area is a beautiful indoor-outdoor living space that was added to the house during the renovation. Reminiscent of the extensive patios and terraces that are in widespread use in Durban and Johannesburg but are still relatively new to Cape Town houses, this “outdoor room” can be closed up during more inclement weather or completely opened to the elements during the city’s long, hot summers. Kim created the look she wanted for the custom-made terrazzo-tiled fl oor by diligently tracking down a tile press in northern KwaZulu-Natal. (The tiles are exactly the same as those used at the renowned Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga, just outside Durban.)
The patio area adjoins the garden. A marvellous wooden jungle gym for the kids features a slide that runs directly into an inviting square swimming pool. The views from here are spectacular. With an uninterrupted vista of the side of Table Mountain above Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, it is a classic Bishopscourt view that gives the entire property a feeling of expansiveness and freedom.
The design of the garden was also part of Kim’s brief. It reflects her key style, too, again combining classicism with a touch of quirk. She describes the landscaping as being that of “a formal tropical garden” and explains that it’s inspired in part by the formality of the work of Australian landscaper Paul Bangay, but also by her childhood, much of which was spent in the tropical climate of Durban. There are exuberant elephant ears contained by a narrow, clipped, formal hedge, and an elegant square of lawn.
Across the front of the dining and living space are French doors that open onto an uncovered, narrow terrace. It was going to have a pergola over it, says Kim, until she substituted that idea for the four huge grey planters containing lime trees, which adorn the space instead. It’s a boldly elegant idea that creates a much more modern feel than a pergola would – and the homeowners confirm that the trees provide a great supply of limes to boot.
The family’s bedrooms (as well as a petite home office, which features a fresh green ombré wallpaper by Designers Guild) are all upstairs. All these first-floor rooms lead off a hallway that has been furnished as a casual pyjama lounge and features a glorious view across Cape Town towards the distant Durbanville hills.
The little girl’s bedroom is gorgeously pretty, with bold horizontal pink stripes in Plascon Double Velvet Love Light Chiffon (R6-B2-1) on the walls that open up the space, while the room created for the owners’ son, by contrast, is bold and graphic. One wall features Cole & Son’s Frontier Tile wallpaper in black-and-white and another is painted black in Plascon Polvin. A wooden four-poster bed and a large glass-fronted cabinet display his toys and books.
The main bedroom is more muted in terms of its use of colour (a splash of which was recently added in the form of a new artwork above the bed) and the bathroom and dressing room have been deliberately kept separate from the bedroom rather than being typically en-suite. The separation means that one of the homeowners, who travels a great deal for work, can get up and prepare to depart without disturbing anyone else in the house.
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. In the guest cloakroom, the gorgeous, leafy Martinique wallpaper is used; Kim insisted on tracking down the original version of this modern classic, the same as that famously hanging in the Beverly Hills Hotel. (It can be ordered in South Africa through Mavromac.) The guest bedroom is decorated in restful, muted shades of oatmeal and sand, with a charming en-suite bathroom that has its own little landscaped courtyard – and that beautiful Bishopscourt view – as well as custom-made terrazzo floors based on the same design as that used at the V&A Waterfront (but in black and white rather than the V&A’s greens and pinks).
One of Kim’s most interesting design choices in this house has been to include almost no built-in furniture. She says she prefers to use cupboards, storage units and cabinets that are all individual – and mostly custom-made – pieces instead. One of the loveliest examples of this sort of furniture in the house is the drinks cabinet in the dining area. Covered with a shagreen-textured vinyl decorated with a circular nailhead pattern, it’s filled with beautiful glassware, as well as all the essentials for everything from cocktails to post-dinner digestifs.
Listening to Kim talk about her history as an interior designer and the way she went about creating this space, the phrase that comes to mind is “investigator decorator”. Her childhood experience of fabrics – Kim’s mother is Debbie Schuurman of Walnut Interior Fabrics in Durban, so she grew up around textiles of all kinds – obviously plays a part, but her visual style is also the product of meticulous research.
She methodically tracked down all sorts of items she envisioned as perfect for this house, ranging from those old terrazzo-tile presses to classic wallpapers, and from carefully sourced artworks to custom-made furniture. The combination of such a thoughtful approach with an innate sense of colour that creates so much brio might be remarkable, but that just adds to the pleasure its end result affords.
*Kim Stephen works on projects in Cape Town and London. To contact her, visit kimstephen.com
PHOTOGRAPHS: WARREN HEATH/BUREAUX.CO.ZA
PRODUCTION: SVEN ALBERDING/BUREAUX.CO. Z A
TEXT: ROBYN ALEXANDER/BUREAUX.CO.ZA