Into the Blue
In Cape Town’s intimate coastal community of Bakoven, the Maddox family have settled into a lifestyle quite different from the Parisian one they left behind
Brilliant ethnic touches inform this beachside home in South Africa.
‘I PREFER LIVING WITH THINGS THAT HAVE A BIT OF A SOUL’
Ashley Maddox, a Princeton University graduate, recalls her African politics professor mentioning the African bug – some people were just bitten by it, he said. And so it was for Ashley when she visited South Africa for the first time in 1994 to observe the country’s first democratic election. ‘It was the most life-changing experience,’ she admits. Once she’d graduated, she returned to South Africa for almost two years as a Fulbright Scholar living in Camps Bay, a coastal suburb down the road from her current neighbourhood. It was Bakoven, however – named after a boulder resembling a pizza oven – that was her favourite spot, and she returned several times in the intervening years for holidays there. After Ashley met her husband in Los Angeles, the couple moved to Paris for a six-year stint where they established a website called Where I’d Stay, featuring a portfolio of stylish rental apartments. However, the pull of Africa was always in the background and Ashley explains the decision to relocate there. ‘A lot of things came to a close at the end of 2014, and that’s when we decided that we should go and have this great adventure,’ she says. So they left Paris on the darkest night of the year and landed in sunny Cape Town, in the middle of summer, ‘our eyes blinking like the moles in The Wind in the Willows,’ she laughs. The family home that has been lovingly created in Bakoven clearly reflects a love of colour and being close to the sea, as well as many elements from their travels. ‘What makes this area special is that there are 40 houses lining narrow alleyways, clustered around two small beaches. There are families here who descend upon the neighbourhood playground every day after school. It’s a gorgeous little community,’ she says.
The sea plays a focal role in Ashley’s home – and not only because it features a 180-degree view of the Atlantic Ocean. The porthole windows on the front door and in the kitchen carry a nautical theme, as do the patterned, handmade Moroccan tiles featuring looping blue lines up the outside of the house which create a striking first impression. Long-time friends Samuel and Caitlin Dowe-Sandes of Marrakesh-based Popham Design gave the family the tiles as a house-warming present, and a great deal of time was spent piecing them together like a giant unwieldy puzzle. ‘It took forever,’ she laughs. The floors were buckling like a tidal wave when they moved in. Now, flat as a lake, they are adorned with an assortment of items sourced from all over Africa, which combine happily with the French furnishings they brought with them. Indeed, Ashley made a conscious effort to find things that were handmade in Africa to co-exist with the likes of the French vintage wicker and lighting. And there’s no shortage of examples to reflect this impressive pan-African collection: the tiles, carpets and Fez Pom Pom blankets are from Morocco, the grass and leather woven carpets hail from Mauritania, while the baskets originate from Zambia, Kenya and Uganda. Then there are Madagascan shells, Ivory Coast wax fabrics, a vintage Nigerian headdress, chairs and throws from Malawi, Swaziland glassware, and a pink feather headdress from Cameroon. ‘When we first moved in, the house was all white everywhere – very stark with big, white, poufy, shabby chic-type couches. You can create so much personality just with colour,’ Ashley explains. ‘All the colour and the pizzazz here is from Africa.’ Standing in the bright turquoise guest bedroom, Ashley explains that each of the upstairs rooms has been painted to match the spectrum of blues and greens that the family has observed in the sea’s many shades since their arrival. The walls are more of a stormy blue in the larger guest bedroom overlooking the ocean, which is an appropriate choice considering
the adjacent door opens to a balcony and the sound of the crashing waves just beyond. The cerulean shade in the master bedroom was inspired by a visit to the studio of South African artist Paul Senyol – indeed, a large painting of his hangs in the entranceway downstairs. ‘Before we moved here from France, I was looking for inspiration in South African design and there were two artists who I really loved. One was Paul and the other was Andrzej Urbanski. I had no idea that they were both in Cape Town, or that they are represented by the same gallery, have exhibited together and are best friends, as I found them from totally different sources.’ Ashley’s eclectic style is a reflection of her everevolving journey. ‘I prefer living with things that have a bit of a soul,’ she says. ‘Things that are simple and well designed and have a story to them.’
Above The chairs at either end of the table are by French furniture designer Constance Guisset and the patterned wax print school chairs are by South African fashion designer Sandalene Dale-Roberts. The contemporary chandelier is from Atelier Areti.
Clockwise from above A balcony in the master bedroom welcomes in the fresh sea breeze. In this stormy sea blue guest bedroom, the carpet and Fez Pom Pom blanket hail from Morocco, the black and white photograph over the bed is by Malian photographer Malick Sidibé, and the lithograph prints are by Picasso. The open plan bathroom in the master bedroom is a favourite spot for Ashley. ‘It’s so nice to see the sea from our bathtub.’ Behind that is the shower with a window framing the trees outside. ‘It feels like you’re in a rainforest,’ says Ashley.