INSIDE THE BOX

By Tracy Lynn Chemaly | Styling Sven Alberding | Photography Greg Cox

An open-plan house in a mountainside suburb of Cape Town uses outside-the-box thinking to make the most of a small property.

It’s unusual to want to live inside a box, but, says Capetonian Bruno Bossi, that’s exactly what he required of his home’s architectural structure. Situated on a small plot of land in the city’s mountainside suburb of Higgovale, the house packs in a vast open-plan living area and three en-suite bedrooms through the clever construction of spaces Bruno refers to as ‘three boxes piled on top of one another’. 

The former photographer, who now runs one of the city’s leading production companies, was integral in designing his home with architect Wolf of Wolf & Wolf Architects. Having travelled extensively, directing television commercials for global brands in many parts of Europe and Asia, Bruno’s design aesthetic has been led by a myriad inspirations, although he cites minimal, Modernist buildings as his greatest influences. 

The house presents a unique visual arrangement, one box appearing to hover above ground when viewed from the street – a layout permitting more light to penetrate the interiors. However, Bruno says that what led the unconventional design was less about having a striking look and more about how he wanted the house to feel, his main motivation being to create the social ambience of a loft-style apartment, where everyone is always within earshot. 

The boxes’ L-shape formation also allows his love of clean geometric lines to be apparent. ‘I wanted the functionality of a Modernist space,’ he explains of the fluid movement this home allows. ‘There are no passageways and there’s no foyer, so the entrance area is actually the outside deck,’ he points out, explaining how the home he shares with girlfriend Talyn Perdikis was first modeled around purpose, and then around form.

It’s therefore understandable that the interior staircase has no railings. ‘The anti-baby staircase,’ laughs Bruno, who has no children of his own. ‘If I don’t need something, why should I put it in?’ 

He credits Wolf with devising this essential connecting element of the home’s puzzle. ‘It was tricky to find the gap for the staircase when fitting the three boxes together,’ he says, indicating the route it follows from the dining area, over the kitchen, onto the mezzanine bedroom level and then up to the top-storey main bedroom. Made of concrete and black polished aggregate, this staircase presents itself as a main feature of the interior architecture, its multi-leveled configuration allowing for more access to natural light. ‘All the glass makes you think the area behind the kitchen belongs to me, but it’s actually the neighbour’s garden,’ explains Bruno of the multitude of windows. ‘It’s like we’ve cheated the space, allowing more distance behind it, giving the home a greater sense of depth.’

Originally built around two gigantic oak trees, which fell down during a storm three years ago, the house is still enveloped by a plethora of greenery and dazzling views of Cape Town city as well as its notorious peaks, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, which Bruno insisted on incorporating into the architectural design considerations. The property’s perimeter walls, kept relatively low, allow these mountainscapes to titivate the eye from the ground-floor living area, its glass fronting providing full visual access to the city’s natural bounty.

It’s these mountains that drew Bruno to the suburb in the first place. A keen mountain-biker, he’s also often seen walking Toska, his long-legged wire-haired Jack Russel Terrier, up to the summits. 

Back home, Toska can be found diving for trinkets in the swimming pool, a later addition to the house, built when a small adjoining property was purchased. Fronted by a tree-covered wooden deck, where many an al fresco Mediterranean feast is enjoyed with friends and family, this pool’s tiles are often a major talking point. Handmade in the seaside town of Hermanus, the aquamarine stoneware slabs were specially commissioned to match the crockery set Bruno’s ceramicist mother made for him back in 2002. Conversation then usually turns to this special collection of plates, bowls and cups, as guests sip coffee from the handcrafted teal-coloured mugs.

Proudly displayed in the kitchen, these functional ceramics sit finely amid the contrasting walnut cabinetry and black Zimbabwean granite counters. But it’s around the fireplace, in winter, when these mugs of coffee are most appreciated. Positioned in front of the swimming pool, this furnace of warmth, constructed with the same concrete as the staircase, allows fire and water to be viewed simultaneously, continuing the home’s reverence for nature and its elements.

In summer, Bruno and Talyn wake up with morning coffee on the upstairs balcony leading from their bedroom. ‘I still need to add a balustrade,’ says Bruno, contemplating the open platform. ‘But maybe I won’t…’ he smiles. 

Although living inside a box, it appears Bruno’s mind is very much outside of it.