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