The charm of De Waterkant in Cape Town is layered and contradictory. Secluded, yet right in the centre of things; in close proximity to the bustling City Centre, yet cocooned in the vibrant charm of centuries of Cape history.
Zebra House is set behind a pepper tree down the cobbled De Waterkant hill – a rare example of authentic Cape heritage architecture. It was for the owner a conscious decision to leave the original features in place – ‘I wanted to preserve its personality – details like the teak beams with their natural curves and colours and the lower-than-usual lead paned teak doors leading to the inner, ivy-clad courtyard. I often imagine how people have been ducking through that door for 200 years and love the fact that we still have to do so today.’
The décor creates a sense of adventure and one of escape. Interiors are inspired by the desires of exploration and tranquillity. The sitting room’s antique Indonesian day bed alludes to the Bo-Kaap history; the kitchen features a traditional Cape “kombuiskas” and Robben Island slate on a wall. The tactile fabrics – slouchy linen curtains and bedding, woven Zambian grass carpets, Kuba cloth, and straw lampshades – offer a feeling of earthiness while a calming palette of ocean and Vermeer-inspired blues, greens and muted gold cast a peaceful spell throughout. A varied and extensive art and history book collection invite respite from busy City adventures.
None of the items are gratuitous – all have a story…. The “Tolbosse” rolled into the house, blown by the wind on two separate occasions and the electrician made them into a Tolbos “chandelier”. Likewise, kilims sold to her by a Turkish trader in Manhattan came along with tales of Robert de Niro and some red wine. The fox sculpture by Cornelia Stoop and the Blushing Brides’ photograph exemplify the Cape’s sometimes hidden natural treasures.
Then there is the eponymous Zebra after which the house is named: a gentle-faced rope-and-straw zebra trophy crafted by a Zimbabwean artist who works at De Waal Park. ‘He’s not always there, but you can spot him from time to time working his magic.”
These stories imbue Zebra House with personality and make you feel at home. Personal pieces and familiar textures invite you to kick your shoes off and put your feet up after exploring the City.
The sensorial and time-honoured delights of life in the historic De Waterkant area make the owner happiest – the surprise of the Noon Day Gun booming like clockwork on nearby Signal Hill, the calls to prayer from the Mu’adhin at the Rose Street Mosque, the annual shedding of red petals by the tree in the inner courtyard around Christmas time. ‘Being able to explore the quixotic De Waterkant neighbourhood on foot is really special.”
What we love!
• The sunny stoep and green courtyard where one can assess the day’s weather over coffee and croissants (or koeksisters)
• One can walk to the city centre in 5 minutes. Parliament, Long Street, The Cape of Good Hope Castle, all the Iziko museums, great art galleries and eateries are close enough – no Uber required!
• The V&A Waterfront and the Zeitz MOCAA are also just a 15 minute walk from the house
• Concerts at historic St Andrews offer a classical music lovers a historic setting near Truth Café
• African Nova and Obelisk on the next block in Waterkant street have marvellous crafts, collectibles, and jewellery by Nic Bladen to entice collectors
• Traditional chicken-pie at Le Petite Tarte, or pasta alla nonna at the Italian Stepbrothers remind us of our grandmothers’ home cooking.
• The bar and mezze platter at nearby Anatoli’s Turkish restaurant are an exotic neighbourhood mainstay.
• Glorious Hemelhuijs restaurant, just two blocks away, never fails to surprise and inspire.
What you need to know….
• Parking free on the street with a parking angel, or in the nearby De Waterkant Piazza Parking garage.
• Proximity of local nightlife bars and café’s allow for the sound of revellers to filter through particularly on weekends.