Bal­anc­ing act

Kim and Gra­ham’s colour­ful Cape Town home is a master mix of con­trasts – so­phis­ti­cated, yet play­ful, re­fined, but quirky – all set against a neu­tral back­drop that’s pop­u­lated with jewel-box brights

Living Etc - - SHOPPING / ETC -

With Ta­ble Moun­tain as its back­drop, Kim and Gra­ham’s home needed to pack a punch

Home pro­file

THE OWN­ERS Kim Stephen, an in­te­rior de­signer, her hus­band Gra­ham, who works in brand li­cens­ing, and their chil­dren Jamie, ten, and Anna, three. Plus dogs Buster and Bella.

THE PROP­ERTY A two-storey house out­side Cape Town in South Africa. The ground-floor in­cludes a large liv­ing room with kitchen and din­ing area, plus an en-suite bed­room, guest suite, TV room, util­ity room and WC. Up­stairs is the master bed­room, en-suite bath­room, dress­ing room, study, two fur­ther bed­room suites and a bal­cony. Out­side, a deck and ter­race join up with a gar­den room and pool. Gar­den room

A din­ing and liv­ing area, with a fire­place, has been worked into an out­door space that re­ally makes the most of the view. ‘It’s like a sec­ond liv­ing room, opened up to the sun­shine,’ says Kim. Get the look The din­ing ta­ble is from Block & Chisel. These are Eames DSW chairs for Vi­tra. The vin­tage botan­i­cal print is from the ed­u­ca­tional printer Hage­mann. The Isaac arm­chair by is sim­i­lar.

‘Iwanted to mix so­phis­ti­ca­tion with folly, play­ful with el­e­gant and bright colours with neu­trals,’ says Kim Stephen. Ask­ing too much? Not in this home – where seem­ingly con­tra­dic­tory styles are brought to­gether to zing with a fresh en­ergy. It works be­cause Kim’s guid­ing phi­los­o­phy is find­ing the right bal­ance be­tween key el­e­ments, rather than throw­ing every­thing up in the air in the spirit of ran­dom chaos. The re­sult is a fam­ily home that shows how to turn up the con­trast, while re­main­ing cool and com­posed.

The need for bal­ance started not as a the­o­ret­i­cal ex­er­cise in in­te­rior de­sign, but as a very prac­ti­cal re­sponse to the land­scape around her home, just south of Cape Town, South Africa. ‘My fam­ily and I have a re­ally close, un­ob­structed view of Ta­ble Moun­tain,’ ex­plains Kim. ‘It’s amaz­ing – but it has such a huge im­pact that the house needed a look that was strong enough to bal­ance out its pres­ence.’ If room schemes glided from neu­trals to yet more po­lite, muted tones, they would be over­shad­owed by the im­pres­sive floor­show put on by Mother Na­ture. ‘This home needed a force of its own to bal­ance the pull of the view,’ adds Kim.

Colour was her solution – and the per­fect op­por­tu­nity to push her in­te­rior-de­sign skills in a new di­rec­tion. ‘It was a chance to be cre­ative and work to my own dead­lines, rather than a client’s,’ she says. Kim’s ally in this mis­sion to play with colour was the classic back­drop that runs through all the spa­ces. ‘The ar­chi­tec­ture and floors gave me a base that was pretty much black and white,’ she says. Para­dox­i­cally, this mono­chrome grid is the an­chor that has al­lowed her to veer off course.

Delv­ing into lux­u­ri­ous touches was also part of the plan: ‘I didn’t want to skimp on glam­our or drama – de­spite hav­ing two young chil­dren,’ she says. In this house, style and fun are easy mix­ers: cock­tails are served from a Gatsby-es­que sha­green drinks cabi­net – but a few yards away, there’s a mon­ster wa­ter slide that’s per­fect for dive-bomb­ing. And while Kim fell for the so­phis­ti­ca­tion of mono­chrome floor tiling and classic white bar stools, she also loves her run of pop­si­cle-coloured din­ing chairs in the gar­den room. Be­cause, as Kim says, ‘even the most so­phis­ti­cated home needs to feel com­fort­able’.

Kim’s love of glam­our re-emerges in the kitchen, with brass-trims and cab­i­netry in a deep, sea-green shade. Again, the dé­cor comes down to a need for bal­ance. ‘The kitchen is at the other end of a long, open-plan, barn-style room, with a strong char­coal-framed fire­place at the other end,’ she ex­plains. ‘The space needs to hold its own and the rich colour does the job bril­liantly.’

Her predilec­tion for con­trasts ex­tends fur­ther than know­ing her way around a colour wheel: ‘I’m on a con­stant, on­go­ing quest to in­tro­duce dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als that com­ple­ment one another, but are all dif­fer­ent enough to cre­ate vis­ual in­ter­est,’ she says. Hence ter­razzo floor­ing butts up against raf­fia wall­pa­per in the sweep­ing en­trance hall and grainy, wheats haded weaves act as a palette cleanser in the master bed­room: ‘Adding nat­u­ral tex­tures has helped tone down the colours, so the ef­fect isn’t over the top,’ says Kim.

These play­ful con­trasts might seem to­tally rooted in the Cape Town cli­mate, but with Kim and her fam­ily re­lo­cat­ing to the UK this sum­mer, she’ll soon be trans­plant­ing her lush brights to Lon­don’s less-vi­brant skies. It’s a for­mula, she main­tains, that can hold sway in­ter­na­tion­ally: ‘I think Europe is wak­ing up to South African style, but it’s still a largely un­tapped source,’ she says. ‘One way to look at it is that Bri­tain prob­a­bly needs a bit more colour to coun­ter­act greyer, more som­bre tones.’

And don’t ex­pect Kim to pull any colour punches: think generous sweeps of plant-fresh greens and so­phis­ti­cated jewel shades that can seep into ev­ery room of a home – all ap­plied with a del­i­cate sense of bal­ance.

See more of Kim’s work at kim­ GAR­DEN ROOM

The mono­chrome dé­cor pro­vides the per­fect back­drop for a mix­ture of lively colours, which also com­ple­ment the lush green­ery that sur­rounds this out­door space. Get the look The pen­dants are from Ea­gle Light­ing.


‘I wanted a home that feels glam­orous, but which is also a com­fort­able space for Anna and Jamie to hang out,’ says Kim. Get the look This is Tex­tures Végé­tales wall­pa­per by Éli­tis. The cur­tains are made in a Manuel Canovas fab­ric and the arm­chair is up­hol­stered in Mavro­mac’s Fan­dango Gran­des. The floors are cus­tom-poured ter­razzo.

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