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The most iconic houses Abroad

of the twentieth century 92

September 2013

Head of the table Blurring the lines between inside and out was top of the agenda when Jo Springthorpe and husband Jeff Liss decided to build a view-filled family home in the shadow of Cape Town’s Table Mountain Words Laura Snoad Photography GAP Interiors/Greg Cox Production GAP Interiors/Sven Alberding 93


September 2013

Homes Dream space far left What was a Fifties cottage has been transformed into a spectacular home with breathtaking views on all sides left Experience for yourself the views across the rooftops of Cape Town. Jo and Jeff’s home is available for holiday rentals – visit Terra Firma at perfecthide below An open area beneath the cantilever provides a sheltered space for the family to dine

‘A lot of people can’t believe that this  space is in the city,’ says Jo Springthorpe of the dramatic glass home she and husband Jeff have built in a leafy suburb of South Africa’s Cape Town. ‘It has such a strong feeling of being completely surrounded by nature.’ It’s an atmosphere that Jo, a stylist, and Jeff, who works in fashion retail, were keen to cultivate. With views of Table Mountain on one side and the rooftops of Cape Town stretching down to the bay on the other, it’s not surprising they decided to create what is effectively a giant viewfinder, which frames the jaw-dropping vistas – you can even see the mountains from the bath. As a space, it couldn’t have been more different from their previous home – a small, detached Victorian house cast from a mould popular in that specific suburb. ‘It was very quaint and attractive, but those type of houses are designed for the UK climate rather than ours,’ says Jo. ‘Although I was drawn to the pretty architecture, the house invited you to live either inside or outside; it didn’t combine the two.’ When they stumbled across a gem of a plot inside Cape Town’s urban area (called the city bowl), Jo and Jeff knew immediately that they wanted to pull down the existing Fifties cottage (‘It didn’t use the view at all, it had just been plonked on top’), but it took them four years, while living in the tiny property, to save the necessary funds to be able to start the project. Unsurprisingly, spending so much time in such a small space helped to crystallise in their minds the value of the great outdoors, and how they wanted to build it into their new home. The main inspiration came in the form of a small riverside weekend cottage, about two hours outside the city, which the couple escaped to every weekend with September 2013



‘it’s not a big house, so we tried to create clever extra areas within a small space’

their young son, Oscar (now 12). Its defining feature was a 3.5-metre ‘stoep’ (the Afrikaans word for veranda) with sliding doors, which allowed them to open up the house totally to the elements and move seamlessly between indoor and outdoor rooms. A mutual friend introduced the couple to architect Antonio Zaninovic; they took him to visit their weekend getaway when they were ready to build. At the time, Zaninovic, originally from Chile, was new to South Africa, and his reaction to the dramatic location inspired his approach to designing their current home. ‘We took him to this funny little cottage, right near Table Mountain, and he was completely wowed by the view,’ explains Jo. ‘I think that when you live in a place too long you can get complacent about what you have on your doorstep. He was completely struck by it, and adamant that we build the mountains into the design.’ As well as a 95


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mutual awe of the surrounding landscape, Jo and Jeff found instant chemistry in Zaninovic’s ethos. ‘A lot of houses around here are very flash. We didn’t want that, and he isn’t that kind of person,’ explains Jo. ‘He wanted to be subtle about the way he designed it. We wanted to stick to the footprint of the original cottage – it’s not a big house, so we tried to create clever extra areas within a small space. I think sometimes South Africans think way too big – we build these incredibly large houses and I’m not really sure what it’s all for.’ One of these smart spaces is the cantilevered gallery kitchen and dining room, which juts out from the main footprint of the house. Its full-height fixed corner window gives the impression you’re suspended out over the landscape, and its nifty orientation means it’s one of the most used rooms in the building. ‘The light in the corner is spectacular, especially in the morning. We often sit

above Jo has salvaged old curtain material from the Seventies to make the cushions in the living room. Both the sofa and lamp were rescued from junk shops and restored right The family spend a lot of time on the stoep (veranda), an outside dining area

Homes Dream space left The colour palette in the spacious living room was inspired by green and brown tones found in nature below Jo and Jeff wanted architect Antonio Zaninovic’s design to be subtle rather than flash. As a result, his intelligent use of space belies the build’s modest footprint

Homes Dream space

The layout: 320sqm lower ground floor

bedroom swimming pool

above right The dining room beside the fixed corner cantilever is one of the most used spaces in the house



first floor

ground floor





living room living room

veranda bedroom

N September 2013

Plans: Edgar Hoffmann

above Every room has been designed with a view in mind. The boundary between inside and out is blurred by full-height glass

top right The entire ground floor and neighbouring veranda have been given a concrete floor to improve the flow between the indoor and outdoor spaces right Green and brown tones continue in the light and airy kitchen space

Homes Dream space

‘Because of the views and the glass, the inside and the outside feel like one space’

and have coffee there, watching the sun come up over the mountains. Because of the views and the glass, the inside and the outside feel like one space. The room actually seems a lot bigger than it is.’ It’s also the architectural feature Zaninovic is most proud of. ‘I think it’s really successful how the supporting column for the glass cantilevered section submerges into the pool below,’ he says. ‘The relationship between structure, function and the site are all at play there.’ Despite having lived in the property for four years, it’s clear Jo is still gobsmacked by the impressive vistas. She’s furnished the interior accordingly, focusing on natural materials (including a carpet chosen to match the bark of nearby trees), greens and browns (such as in the sofa fabric salvaged from Seventies curtains) and a mixture of traditional South African-made pieces inherited from her mother and Danish furniture picked up cheaply and lovingly restored. The family now spend a lot of time sitting in this house’s 99


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outdoor dining room, just as they did on the spacious stoep of their holiday home (which, sadly, they had to sell to finance this project). The industrial concrete floor of this new space matches the rest of the ground floor. ‘It was really important that it felt like one room, on one level, with one floor finish,’ says Jo. Upstairs, bamboo flooring and lower ceilings mark a more intimate zone, which houses the three bedrooms (one of which Jeff uses as a studio), bathrooms and a second living room, which Jo can escape to when Jeff and Oscar are watching rugby downstairs. ‘Everyone always talks about building nightmares and all the things that went wrong, but we all got on very well,’ says Jo. ‘We respected each other and loved the process. If I had the budget I’d do another one. I think it was all about the people that we worked with.’

Emulate Jo’s striking scheme of nature-inspired hues, bold patterns and Danish furniture, p100

above left Oscar has his own shower room, which has a skylight fitted to maximise the natural light above The colour scheme for Oscar’s bedroom was inspired by a muted take on the Bauhaus style. He’s a massive Grand Designs fan and loves to play with building blocks

this picture Jeff’s studio is the only carpeted room in the house. Its shade was chosen to match the bark on the trees outside above right Jo and Jeff wanted to bring the outdoors into the design

Font design: Andrew Clark (


PROJECT TEAM Architect Antonio Zaninovic Architecture Studio (+27 21 462 5039; Contractor Berrisford Construction (+27 21 448 1659; Structural engineer Design Tech (+27 21 794 0655) Quantity surveyor Andrew Broome (+27 21 418 4441) FIXTURES & FITTINGS Stove Eurogas (+27 21 511 3925; Taps Hansgrohe (01372 472 001; Mosaic tiles in bathrooms and scullery Pudlo (+27 21 448 0607; Bamboo floor Cabinetworks (+27 21 422 3830; FURNITURE & ACCESSORIES Sofas Space For Life (+27 21 418 1734; Tables Piér Rabe Antiques (+27 21 883 9730; Dining chairs Try Ercol for similar (01844 271 800; Cushions Try Romo at Heal’s for similar (0870 024 0780;

September 2013



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