Hout Bay Home

WORDS Tracy Lynn Chemaly PHOTOS Greg Cox / Bureaux PRODUCTION Sven Alberding


When a New York couple opted to build a home in Cape Town, they honoured its location by furnishing it with pieces by some of South Africa’s most renowned artists.

It was 13 years ago in 2007, that New Yorkers Jim Brett and Ed Gray were first enchanted by Cape Town. At the time, Jim was Head of Home at leading US retailer Anthropologie and was on a buying trip to South Africa with local design promoter and exporter Trevyn McGowan of The Guild Group. The three of them embarked on a trip cross-country, visiting the studios of artisans and designers, and formed an immediate bond. “I had never met anyone who could match my passion for handicraft and design,” Jim says of Trevyn.

Inspired by the architecture of barns, the home’s design includes a silo into which the master bedroom and upstairs office fit.

“As we travelled to South Africa more often, we fell in love with the country, specifically Cape Town and its environs,” Ed says. So, it came as no surprise to family and friends when he and Jim decided to build a home for themselves in Hout Bay, just 30 minutes from Cape Town’s city centre, in which they hope to eventually spend six months of the year. Enlisting the help of Trevyn and her husband and business partner Julian, it was only natural that they would continue their trajectory of working with local designers, furnishing the home with pieces by some of the country’s most prominent names.

For the new build, the couple briefed architect Francois Swart of PADIA, requesting barn-like structures that suited the expansive property, on which they also have a guesthouse. Pitched roofs, a silo structure, and a variety of window shapes brought this vision to the fore. “As a reference to the informal way sheds grow into existence, there is a certain charm in the creative use and placing of windows,” says Francois, explaining the forms that are stackable and hidden in places, lowered for framed views in other instances, or inserted flush against walls in corners in order to allow light to flood in unobstructed. “The ‘journey’, surrounded by nature, can be experienced open or closed, and doubles as a pause area that can be used as a sunroom or gateway to the pool garden,” says Francois of the thoroughfare that offers glimpses of the furnishings beyond.

“It’s really enjoyable creating a world for people you care about,” says Trevyn of the project that has dressed the home in pieces by the likes of Gregor Jenkin, Charles Haupt and Laurie Wiid van Heerden, designers represented by the McGowans’ collectible design gallery, Southern Guild. “It’s a beautiful homage for the work we all continue to do for South African design,” she says of the result.

The newness of the home and its interiors paint a fresh African story for the US couple. “It’s important to us that our home feels warm and welcoming, with a degree of humility,” says Jim. Their modus operandi in eliciting the desired warmth was a crafted use of colour. An abstract artwork by John Murray mounted above the dining room cabinet – where striking tones mix with neutral hues – informed the colour choices for sofas, walls and decorative objects.

The kitchen cabinetry is painted in Hale Navy by Benjamin Moore, a colour that perfectly sets off the combination of other materials, brass and marble. At the kitchen sink, a ceramic by Chuma Maweni stands under a lithograph of a bird by Japanese artist Jun Goto. Clockwatcher by Gregor Jenkin presides over the entrance.

As with the varying patterns in John Murray’s painting, a myriad forms exist in the home – from tapered pot plants and circular nesting tables to curvaceous dining chairs and elliptical sideboards. “There are very few hard corners on the furniture items,” Jim explains of their brief. “Ovals, circles, or rectangles with rounded corners… it’s very subtle details that add a softness to the experience.” Equally considered is the collection of ceramic vessels. “I’m a bit of a ceramics junkie – I just can’t seem to stop buying them,” says Jim. It’s a passion he and Trevyn have shared since the start of their friendship, which made it easy for her to suggest new pieces by Andile Dyalvane, Zizipho Poswa, Anthony Shapiro, John Bauer, Madoda Fani and Chuma Maweni for the home.

What began as a professional exploration between Jim and Trevyn over a decade ago has resulted in a very personal celebration of South African design. “We still manage to inspire each other,” Jim smiles, gesturing around the home that proves his point.