City Bowl House

WORDS Lori Cohen PRODUCTION Shelley Street PHOTOS Warren Heath / Bureaux


A Cape Town Creative has renovated a Victorian terrace house in the city bowl, both infusing it with contemporary allure and honouring its heritage roots.

As a visual merchandiser, Sanet Coetzee has honed her talent for creating captivating spaces with a single, well-placed item that sets the perfect mood. And this expertise became a personal passion when she transformed her home in Cape Town into a tranquil sanctuary.

When Sanet first stumbled upon the charming Victorian house, she faced a challenge – it had previously functioned as a boarding house, and featured six cramped and unappealing bedrooms. However, she immediately saw the hidden potential within its walls. “Having experienced apartment living, I was overjoyed at the prospect of having a garden and being on the ground floor,” she says. “While I had no choice but to replace the deteriorating windows and doors, it presented an opportunity to invite in natural light.”

The terrace house required not only the rejuvenation of neglected areas, but also practical improvements. The sash windows were replaced with meticulously crafted ones, and a bold decision was made to extend them up to the ceiling, allowing for mountain views. Additionally, introducing a series of arches infused a touch of whimsy that flooded the ground-floor living space with an enchanting abundance of natural light.

City Bowl House
With warm wooden floors and tasteful cream and white furniture, the lounge is a welcoming space. The vintage chairs are from The Space Agency; the sofa is from Klooftique.

Breaking free from the traditional open-plan layout commonly found in Victorian renovations,Sanet transformed the entrance passage into a guest bathroom, maximising the space by incorporating a pantry for the kitchen right behind it. Also on the ground floor, liveable spaces now transition effortlessly from the lounge to the dining room to the kitchen, where Sanet was immediately drawn to the original small terracotta tiles on the floor, appreciating their simplicity and beautiful range of colours. A palette of pistachio and lemonade-pink was selected to complement this, and the addition of sleek copper handles, a vintage-inspired Smeg gas cooker and minimalist open shelving established an understated foundation, which Sanet adorned with plants, art and an array of intriguing “curiosities” amassed over decades. An unused courtyard has been transformed into an extension of the kitchen, featuring a terracotta-toned gravel floor, vintage furniture and a wall of plants that blend the two spaces.

The dining area and lounge are separated – and linked – by a double-sided fireplace. These rooms house a medley of classic and vintage furnishings, enhanced by table decorations that play with height, dark sheepskin throws that contrast a Persian carpet, and glass cabinets brimming with collectables. A cheeky portion of brick has been left exposed, showcasing the material’s time-worn beauty.

“The house’s neglect became its greatest strength, because most of the original features were untouched,” Sanet says. “I couldn’t believe how beautiful the staircase was, for example – it was just waiting to be brought to life.” She credits architect Alet Barnard with pushing her to play with the concept of arches, and creating an organic opening from the staircase to the lounge and dining area: “It frames the staircase in a way I couldn’t have pictured.”

Upstairs, two bedrooms lead off the staircase, with a landing splintering off to a bathroom with a monochrome palette. Here again, open shelving creates spaces peppered with precious finds. Her good friend and collaborator, stylist Shelley Street, played a vital role in helping Sanet give a fresh look to the furniture in her new home. They got really creative in the main bedroom, introducing a headboard that Sanet’s studio made from a dappled shop counter, decorating it with leafy plants, and adding a touch of elegance with a delicate porcelain ceiling light. All rooms were brought to life with vases scattered around, creating a cool mix of decorative elements.

“I’m loving the transition from an apartment to a house,” says Sanet. “It has allowed me to incorporate more delicate pieces into my living spaces. I never anticipated how much I would enjoy this change – not only because of the extra room, but also because of the opportunity to explore different levels within the home.”


Looking for more architectural inspiration? Sign up to our weekly newsletter, here.