John Zwiegelaar’s home is located in the heart of Bantry Bay, perched midway between the ocean and Lion’s Head, and right in the hub of Cape Town’s cosmopolitan Atlantic Seaboard. It’s a 19th-century house that was turned into an unattractive Spanish villa in the ’70 and is now one of John’s most successful design projects. Completely rebuilt and redesigned, it cleverly caters for contemporary living requirements while still acknowledging its dignified character.
John sees all interiors as volumes of space. Interest and consideration must be given to everything from floors and ceilings to the ventilation of a room, and in particular the quality of light. At John’s home for instance, the hallway that’s lead into the kitchen is lined with a row of hanging lanterns that produce just the right amount of sparkle and shadow, adding to the overall warmth and glow of the room. ‘I love the comfort factor of our home,’ John remarks. Stepping out into the garden courtyard, the smell of freshly potted plants and the sound of trickling water are both treated as if they were integral elements of their own interior.” The best comfort is during winter when I return from work in the evenings and the floors are already warm, and the dogs are waiting.” The beloved dogs-Henry and Albert the dachshund and a dear old Jack Russell called Chloe- cheerfully stretch out on the warm tiles of the cosy kitchen .Staring up at him from under the table, there is no doubt that they are the life and soul of the party. “I just love the idea of entertaining in the kitchen when the dogs are around and guests are able to engage in the whole cooking process,” says John. ”I think it breaks the ice, relaxes people and makes for a much more fun, comfortable event.”
Informal dining requires nothing more for John and his partner Paul Duncan, head of design for home ware at Woolworths, than a fuss-free kitchen supper: rocket and roasted pear salad with walnut oil and black pepper to start, followed by a chicken cassoulet, and roasted fruit with John’s homemade toasted hazelnut ice cream for dessert. Black is a crucial colour and is used repeatedly throughout the house. John’s table setting is in sync with the black –and-white-colour scheme of the kitchen, highlights of which are the black-and –white-tiled floor a big black cabinet filled with old drinking glasses and decanters, and lovely black-and-white frames hung on the walls part of a collection of topographical images of the Cape by Arthur English. ’I find pale colours are often affected by light intensity so white walls sometimes appear flat and grey.” Black, on the other hand, is “unwavering in its conviction”, boldly juxtaposed with any other colour, but particularly invigorating when contrasted with white.
Near the stainless-steel gas cooker, a chunky eight-seater dining table is surrounded by a collection of antique chairs. Tall cast-iron candlesticks and purple foliage are grounded by black-and-white-striped napkins on top of a mix of antique crockery and slick black under plates. The green-stained wine glasses from Hans Niehaus Antiques match perfectly, as do the glass flacks found at the Porte de Vanves flea market in Paris. ‘I have always been one for intensity of experience,” John says as he lights one of his John Jacob candles on the table, enhancing the room with a heady fig aroma and setting the scene for casual comfort that perfectly complements long, lazy winter suppers in the kitchen.
“We also entertain in the kitchen-although more informally- at our farm in the Karoo,” he adds. “It’s a lovely 18th-century room with a giant fireplace, earthy rough platters and mismatches furniture… lovingly alluding to the passages through time.”