Old blends with new in this 160-year-old Victorian home nestled in the heart of Cape Town – packed with personal charm, French-Asian influences and lashings of luxe.
When a South African with French heritage, and her husband, a doctor, and health and wellness expert of Chinese descent, decided to renovate, it’s no surprise that the result would be unusual.
Anina Malherbe-Lan and Michael Lan had been searching for a space in the city, which had two separate entrances and enough space to combine their home and Michael’s wellness centre and Tai Chi Studio in one property. A traditional Victorian house that had fallen on hard times, and was being used as a neglected guesthouse, proved to be the surprising solution for their blended home, says Anina.
‘The house had six bedrooms and six bathrooms. One room even had carpet on the wall!’ recalls Anina. The front was bricked and the veranda had been sealed off to create a sunroom.
Anina, who says she has a ‘soft spot for heritage buildings’ chose to work with architect Chris Zimberlin of Limeline because of his experience with heritage properties. ‘Chris knew where to source things like missing shutters and who to use to recreate the traditional French doors’, explains Anina, who felt that taking the house back to its original architectural integrity, whilst modernising the interior, was crucial.
The first task was to remove the glass panelled facade from the entrance to reveal the elegant pillars and welcoming veranda. It is here that you will find the first hint of the surprises that lie within – two imperial marble lion statues guarding the front door. These are an auspicious symbol in Chinese custom with powerful mythic protective benefits, explains Anina.
‘Michael’s only request for the interior design was that we adhere to the five principles of Feng Shui’, she explains. Gold, representing ‘metal’ in Feng Shui was a shade they were both comfortable with. ‘I love gold and fortunately it appealed to Michael as well’, Anina explains. Touches of it can be seen in the lighting, ornaments, wallpaper and details on furniture, but against the otherwise monochromatic palette it feels understated rather than brash.
But it’s the walled garden in the conservatory (representing ‘earth’) that infuses the home with the most remarkable energy. ‘We wanted to bring a bit of nature inside and create balance within the hustle and bustle of the city’, explains Anina, who is patiently waiting for the trellising to be filled with foliage. Other nods to Feng Shui are the floors and French doors (wood) and water (a fountain is at the entrance to the house adjacent to the front door).
The conservatory, which transformed an unused courtyard into an enchanting space, was a smart design decision that gave the couple more footprint to entertain and relax in. ‘Once we designed the Tai Chi studio, we were left with what we realised was quite a small living area’, says Anina. ‘It made sense to gain an extra room, and I love it.’
While Anina and Michael are avid weekend explorers of the Cape, her work, as founder and CEO of Vivid Luxury Communications Agency, keeps Anina dialled in to international trends.
Her agency has represented some of the world’s top luxury brands over the years, such as Gucci, Burberry, Jimmy Choo, Patek Phillipe, Belvedere Vodka and Hugo Boss. Anina says her love for luxury is not only reflected in her wardrobe, but also the interiors.
She cites Philippe Starck, Eero Saarinen, Minotti and Kartell as some of her favourite furniture designers. Handpicked pieces can be found juxtaposed with inherited antiques – the open-plan living room/kitchen with its generous ceiling heights can comfortably house the fusion of styles.
The couple married in 2014, which means they brought not only their different heritages to the home, but furniture they had collected over the years. How did Anina manage to blend these? ‘I just painted everything black’, she laughs.
Words: Lori Cohen Styling: Sven Alberding Photography: Greg Cox/Bureaux
Create the look: Monochromatic elegance
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP RIGHT Darkness Falls Glass Art boconcept.co.nz; Manor Collection Herringbone Classic forteflooring.co.nz; Porcelanosa Barcelona E Tiles nextdore.co.nz; Five Chandelier boconcept.co.nz; Paris Grey and Graphite Annie Sloan Chalk Paint thefabricofsociety.co.nz; Baobab Collection Ghepardino Jungle Safari Scented Candles & Brushed Brass Darkly Mirror corsomerivale.nz; Harriet Console Table davidshaw.co.nz; Norm Collector corsomerivale.nz