There’s always luxury in a decorating style that rates over-scaled dimensions as one of its key elements. Palm House, an Englishman-in-Africa-style country house in Constantia, has it in bucket loads. Perhaps it’s the planters housing the banana trees – not just any banana trees, but enormous ones whose branches soar up to ceilings held aloft by gnarled, white-painted beams. They’re unexpected, as are the overly deep sofas and the sense of theatre that pervades the entire interior.
This house is a showstopper. Its interiors are the kinds that inspire decorators. The rooms are big and high and filled with light. This is high-octane, laidback African living, chic yet practical, comfortable yet perfectly poised in that tradition of European rooms that embrace the need for ceremonial and formality when they’re called for. It’s the kind of place that makes you feel at home – whether you’re a former state president invited for dinner or a daughter’s surfing friends invited for a weekend away from school. It’s an easy place to entertain in, but if you need to be alone, the bedroom suites are secluded and private. White-painted floors, creamy linen, crewel work curtains, antique furniture inlaid with ivory and tortoiseshell, painted screens, huge wicker baskets, heaps of books, towers of blue and white ceramics, those potted banana trees reaching up to the ceilings: Palm House is simple and handsome. Downstairs an enfilade of big, wide rooms unites the sitting room with, on one side, the kitchen-dining room.
Cook and entertain your friends all at once. On the other side is a library-cum-gin-bar, which in turn leads out to the Africa Room where, if it weren’t for the ceiling overhead, you’d be sitting in the open air. South African houses have mastered the art of conjuring living spaces that underpin the excitement of inside-outside living and the Africa Room exemplifies this perfectly. In fact it’s a classic stoep room – open on two sides, its walls penetrated by deep arches and, cool and shaded in the summer, in the winter the chill is taken off the air because the third side consists of a vast fireplace. Deep linen-covered sofas and armchairs, rugs and animal trophies complete a look that you find mimicked across Southern Africa. It overlooks the garden with its rectangular pool and in the distance, on the other side of the Constantia Valley, is the chain of mountains that snake down the Cape Peninsula from Table Mountain to the sea at Cape Point.
Upstairs in the main block is a single bedroom suite: off the landing, the bedroom, a dressing room and a bathroom – oh and there’s the al fresco bathroom too which allows you to bathe outdoors, on the roof, under the stars, shaded by the surrounding oaks and in full view of the handsome mountain range that makes the Cape Peninsula so extraordinary. In another wing are two further bedrooms and their bathrooms, both of them opening to the garden, which is secluded, private and sheltered from everything but the hot summer sun.
What we love!
- The space, the comfort, the eye-pleasing delight – it’s hard to leave this haven.
- Palm House is a mere 15 minute traffic-free drive to the warmer waters of Muizenberg beach or 20 minutes to the lovely Llandudno – both great surfing beaches.
- The glorious gardens of Kirstenbosch can be reached in under 10 minutes.
What you need to know…
- The water supply comes from a borehole so whenever water restrictions are in place, Palm House is not affected.