WORDS Amelia Brown IMAGES Jan Das PRODUCTION Mark Serra
A boutique hotel hideaway beside the Camissa River in Cape Town affords guests privacy, tranquillity and the pleasure of eating breakfast at the foot of Table Mountain.
Cape Town is one of those places where, if you’re lucky, you can find a property in the suburbs that’s surrounded by nature, has sea views and is located minutes from the city. Camissa House is just that: named after the Khoena word for “the place of sweet waters”, the eight-bedroom boutique hotel is situated in a quiet cul-de-sac neighbouring a green belt. On the fringes of the City Bowl – the residential areas within the amphitheatre created by the mountain range – its back garden is Table Mountain National Park, and you have to tilt your head right back to see the famous eponymous mountain’s summit.
Owner David Ryan, founder and CEO of safari company Rhino Africa, is adept at finding and developing sites that give Mother City visitors a unique private perch from which to explore (or to hide out). He’s the owner of boutique hotel MannaBay, which has occupied two sites in the City Bowl. For the brief to architect Lauren Bolus of Make Studio, David used his hospitality insights and experience from building MannaBay and Silvan Safari in Sabi Sand Game Reserve. “We know guests in Cape Town typically spend less time in their bedroom than they would on safari, so we wanted to maximise the public areas of the hotel,” he explains. “We spent a lot of time on creating visually and spatially distinctive public areas – the magnificent breakfast atrium with views of Table Mountain, the rooftop bar, the pool area as well as the cosy indoor bar.”
While most new apartment developments around the country are marketing “hotel-style” luxury and amenities, this hotel offers all of those modern comforts within the well-appointed shared spaces, originality and scale of a home. The former building was, in fact, a six-bedroom house to begin with, which Make Studio reconfigured on the same footprint. The result is that no two suites are the same, maximising the panoramic rooftop balcony view or a meditative mountain-retreat perspective.
It’s not formulaic, which is reflected in the finishes and interior design, and there’s also an intimacy, making for a memorable stay. The most distinctive feature of Camissa House is the steel-and-glass atrium that brings Table Mountain in, letting the location and natural surroundings permeate the space. Surrounded by common areas, the atrium – which was an existing outside courtyard – “is the ‘piazza’ of the hotel,” says Lauren. “There are visual links to it through the textured breeze blocks as one circulates through the levels and overlooks it while walking along the passages towards the suites.”
Built on the mountain slopes above a large garage, the hotel’s three floors are terraced, and this effect of layering has been echoed in the internal layout and interior design. Architecturally, there are many sharp edges and clean lines, which are softened by plush jewel tones and materials that are rich and textural, and that pick up David’s vibrant artworks.
The building takes up most of the plot, so consideration was made to highlight existing surrounding flora and incorporate additional greenery. The atrium houses a tree at its centre, looks onto a rockery and is bordered by planters on the upper galleries. “Plants have been used as a functional aspect of the design, rather than an afterthought,” explains landscaper Chris Maddams. “The planting is intended to be eye-catching, either as a sculptural focal point or to create swathes of colour to brighten the spaces, and to surround guests with the lushness of the ferny kloof and ensure they feel like the hotel belongs high up on the mountain.”