WORDS Annette Klinger PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes PHOTOS Paris Brummer
The facade of a heritage-protected Victorian cottage in the heart of Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap belies the contemporary extension that’s transformed it into a dual dwelling.
If ever you’re asked to illustrate the Chinese concept of balanced dualism, you could do worse than to drop them a pin at 250 Buitengracht in Cape Town. Approach it from the front, and you’re met with a textbook Victorian cottage facade, replete with wraparound veranda shaded by a sweeping corrugated-iron roof – but walk around the corner and up towards Signal Hill, and the house spills over into a set of contemporary sheds. To the left, it’s flanked by the moneyed suburb of Tamboerskloof, with the historically Cape Malay area of the Bo-Kaap to the right. Inside, the house is split neatly down the middle into two almost identical, self-contained double-storey residences – one with a view of Table Mountain, which can be seen through a bespoke conservatory; the other looking out onto Carisbrook Street, and the Bo-Kaap and CBD beyond it.
“Our clients, Fred Durow and Ben Schoeman, are city planners, and bought the property with the idea of creating a double dwelling and work-from-home opportunity, as well as the option to generate rental income,” says Antony Abate, director at Team Architects. “We wanted to maximise the site’s potential, while being true to our ethics and beliefs in terms of urban design, contextual fit, scale and interaction with the streets,” adds Fred.
After navigating the red tape that comes with renovating a heritage building in Cape Town, Antony, Fred and Ben arrived at a solution: restore the Victorian home to its original glory, then extrapolate the fundamentals of the design DNA into a contemporised extension at the back of the property. Antony’s design was largely informed by the original gable facing Carisbrook Street. After simplifying the masonry gable’s silhouette by bricking up a window and cladding the wall in black corrugated iron, Antony repeated its dimensions in the facades of the shed extension and set of studio apartments that step up the slope of the property. To thread the needle between old and new, elements of the original Victorian cottage – and its historic surrounds – were repeated in the additions.
The property’s stone plinth and steel palisade wall is heritage-protected, and inspired the black steel and stone accents incorporated in the new build. The red bricks make a nod to the crumbling boundary wall that belongs to the neighbouring old military base. “All the clues were present in the old house – the corrugated iron, the plaster, the red brick, the gable,” says Antony. “The Victorian was open to the new contemporary, because the material palette stayed exactly the same.”
In order to meet Fred and Ben’s brief of dual living spaces, a section of the site needed to be excavated to accommodate the two storeys, so Antony consciously included plenty of opportunities for natural light to flood in, most notably in each of the homes’ private courtyards and terraces. The nexus that unifies the two halves of thehouse is a shared office space on the courtyard level – and as far as work-from-home office setups go, it’s a pretty sweet one. The cantilevered cube is bright and airy, thanks to floor-to-ceiling glazing that looks out onto the leafy vehicle courtyard shaded by the canopy of two old wit stinkhout trees. It’s a communal area that also serves the two studio apartments, which have become the passive income generator Fred and Ben had been banking on.
One can’t help but wonder – do Fred and Ben get on each other’s nerves, now that they’re sharing a home and an office? “Luckily they’re two completely separate houses; you don’t have to see each other if you don’t want to!” jokes Fred. “It does help that we’re more like brothers than business partners, though.”