October 4, 2022
How this tree-house inspired villa is giving indoor-outdoor living a luxury edge
Of all the ingredients that make up the perfect Cape Town escape – sweeping views of mountain and ocean, shelter from the Cape Doctor (the local name for the gusty summertime south-easter winds), close proximity to the city’s buzzing shopping and dining scene (and, make no mistake, this private villa has them all) – it’s a closeness to nature that really regenerates, restores and transports.
As design pedigrees go, this mountainside villa is a shoe-in for ‘best in show’. The architecture by SAOTA, arguably the continent's most celebrated firm whose wow-factor villas attract clients from Miami to Moscow, acts as both a tribute to and extension of the rugged natural landscape. ‘The idea developed from the conceptual approach of reinstating the qualities of the natural fynbos and indigenous forest landscape,’ says lead architect on the project, Phillipe Fouché. ‘Any building work has an impact on nature, here we wanted to use the opportunity to give something back to nature.’ And give back it does. Arranged as staggered, spacious blocks that rise along the steep mountain slope the home resembles an architectural tree house with three distinct sections.
The gabion-walled lower part – which houses the garages and a private suite cocooned in dark-stained timber and off shutter concrete – represents the solid stone from which springs the arboreal middle level; comprising a green terrace with an outdoor kitchen, it is a living expression of the treetops. Hovering above this, a vertically slatted box allows the forest bushwillow trees below to grow into this level. The fantastic structure was engineered from a durable yet lightweight aluminum in a finish that mimics the different tones of bark, a durable solution no matter the season. Inside, a bridge is suspended over the main living room, looking down onto the state-of-the-art kitchen – fully kitted for long family lunches and private chef-hosted dinners.
Finally, the uppermost level (which is set right back against the slope, allowing for complete privacy) opens up to the sky like a heavenly platform, which houses the master bedroom suite, which is finished in cumulus tones of white marble and pale timber. ‘The space is visually extended via the introduction of a courtyard towards the mountainside, which allows for ventilation, light, and, again, an opportunity for planting.’ The concrete ceiling of this level, shuttered with rough-sawn planks, champions a raw texture. ‘The variety of spatial experiences is quite special. In moving through the villa there are lush green spaces, dramatic volumes, and intimate areas,’ says Phillipe. ‘This is further animated by the surprising materials that animate the progression from earth to the forest to sky.’ All three levels are connected via a sculptural timber staircase that folds like a ribbon as it rises through the villa, growing lighter in tone as it ascends to the top floor.
But closeness to nature means more than paying homage to the surroundings or filling a space with plants – it’s about the interplay of light and air and how the home uses these to create happy, flowing rooms. ‘The quality of light in Cape Town is like nowhere else,’ says In Residence founder Pieter Brundyn. ‘Reflected off of the cool Atlantic waters, it has a beautiful clarity that filters into every space and creates a glowing aura.’ Throughout, clever design play allows you to adjust the flow of sunshine, effortlessly allowing for a dynamic relationship between intimacy and openness that shifts throughout the day. On the middle terrace level, moveable screens can be extended to create a dappled effect, ‘as if you were sitting in the shade of a large tree, while upstairs in the master bedroom, skylights and fold-away glass walls blur the divide between villa and sky.
Inside, the love letter to the Cape’s natural beauty continues, with living spaces brilliantly decorated by the team at Cécile & Boyd (the firm made its name creating exceptional interiors for the Singita safari group). Imagine large swathes of natural materials – cerused timber, plush fabric, burnished metals, and weighty stone – in a palette of wheat, ash, and bronze tones, all working together to create a feeling of impossible luxury and comfort. Art is one of the home’s major draw cards, seamlessly woven into the design tapestry – from patinated sculptures peeking out behind lush indoor plants to soft pastel works adding subtle color to the scheme. Obsidian villa is a home for all seasons: on cooler evenings, light up the floating fireplace and curl up on the oversized sofas or celebrate Cape Town’s legendary summer sunshine in the infinity pool overlooking the ocean. In the master suite, the decor takes a vibe shift, losing the moody palette for swirls of cream, blonde wood, and Carrara marble – a heavenly sanctuary in the clouds.
Don’t be fooled by its rock-hard name, Obsidian villa – available exclusively through In Residence by Pieter Brundyn – is a master class in the lightness of living naturally, perched against the majesty of Lion’s Head with dramatic views and a profusion of natural materials, bespoke finishes, and fine art. A stay here is to reconnect with the wild while taking in the sophistication of an architectural marvel and the ease of modern luxury.