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LOOK: Top architects transform a Cape Town home into a boutique hotel

The new Camissa House boutique hotel with the rooftop cocktail deck and Table Mountain behind. The building was previously a private house. Picture: Supplied

The new Camissa House boutique hotel with the rooftop cocktail deck and Table Mountain behind. The building was previously a private house. Picture: Supplied

Published Jan 4, 2022


* ​This article appears in our latest Home Improver digital magazine

You might imagine architects prefer to design buildings from scratch but Lauren Bolus, from Fabian Architects & Make Studio, says for her this is not necessarily so.

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She loves renovations. “Renovations are more challenging than a new build as certain parameters dictate some design thinking.

However, the potential always exists and is just waiting to be unveiled,” says the well-known local architect.

“I love watching renovations transform into something spectacular. It’s always super-rewarding to look back at what was there and what we created.”

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​Read the latest Home Improver's digital magazine below

One of her favourite renovations, with partners Dennis Fabian and Andries Samuel, has been the magnificent Camissa House boutique hotel in Oranjezicht in Cape Town, and she relished the challenges the project posed.

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One of the rooms and exterior before its upmarket makeover. Picture: Supplied

The building was originally a six-bedroom private home in a beautiful position on the edge of a greenbelt, with mountain and sea views.

Bolus’s client Rhino Africa bought the building and the brief was to turn it into an eight-bedroom boutique hotel, with each suite capturing the views and incorporating mountain-specific fauna and flora into the interior design.

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“The client has a quirky touch to his projects, which made it a lot of fun, as we could incorporate a specific aesthetic, variety of colours and textures.”

After: All the suites have views and the residents of this room look out over Signal Hill. Picture: Supplied

Before: The room before its transformation. Picture: Supplied

When Bolus first saw the building she recognised its good bones and saw it had massive potential. However, it was a challenging project.

“Working with an existing structure is always full of surprises. Operationally, a hotel requires various spaces to make its functioning practical. Areas such as housekeeping and store areas were tricky to accommodate in an existing structure.”

Bolus’s favourite part of the renovation was this sublime atrium. Picture: Supplied

The old paired basins in the bathrooms were done away with. Picture: Supplied

Bolus made good use of the unique views each suite had. “Sea-facing rooms capture harbour vistas and the city lights, while the rooms facing Table Mountain capture the grand mountain face and the fauna and flora.

“Each room is themed and inspired by specific fauna and flora from that part of Table Mountain. Customised wallpapers were curated for each room.

Cool, clean lines draw the eye outwards to leafy views. Picture: Supplied

Each suite has its own private terrace. Picture: Supplied

“Large, private terraces to bedrooms allow guests to appreciate the views. “The atrium, where guests eat their breakfast, faces a cascading landscape which terraces back towards the mountain.

“The pool terrace is a transition between inside and outside spaces. There are panoramic views from this terrace and one can enjoy the way the light changes as day turns to night.”

A sharp, elegant desk area in one of the suites leads to a crisp, modern bathroom. Picture: Supplied

The atrium is the design feature Bolus is most proud of. “We designed a glass and steel structure to enclose an existing external courtyard. The walls and landscaping contain this space and ensure interesting features wherever you look.”

So, how does she feel the project turned out? “Each time I visit the hotel, I am reminded how much I love it,” she says. What’s next?

The decor of each room takes its inspiration from the surrounding flora. Picture: Supplied

Make Studio is working on “some really exciting projects”, including being the interior architects for plant-clad The Fynbos apartment development in Bree Street.

It is described as “a living, breathing building where the divide between nature and built blurs”. It is said to be the first biophilic development in Africa.

Bolus would also like to work on safari lodges. “I think this is because I am in love with being in the bush, where nature is so perfect, and architecture can emphasise this perfection if executed in the right way.”

​Read the latest Simply Green digital magazine below

Top renovation tips from Bolus:

1. Add value, improve views and light by ensuring the spacial planning is practical and incorporates aspects of the surroundings, such as views and nature.

2. If there is something special about an existing building, try to incorporate this into the design and enhance the feature.

3. Make the kitchen a feature. A kitchen is way more than a functional area. It deserves to be a focus and highlight of the home.

Latest trends according to Bolus:

A gold-framed mirror adds a hint of glamour to this bathroom. Picture: Supplied

Colour: I am surprised I would say such a thing, because I tend to design with a neutral palette, but lately we are using more colour, especially green, and I am loving how fresh and interesting our spaces are looking.

Make it personal: Don’t follow too many fashionable trends. Keep it simple, so it lasts.

Go green: Include permanent features of greenery internally and externally.

See more:

About Bolus:

Architect Lauren Bolus. Picture: Supplied

When Bolus first considered a career, she knew she wanted to do something creative. “I applied to study fine art, advertising and architecture. But, as I am an extremely practical person, architecture seemed to be a perfect fit as it combines creativity, practicality and a need for rational design thinking.”

After graduating from UCT in 2004 she did an internship in London and worked there for two years. Back in Cape Town, she worked for Fabian Architects for six years and 10 years ago started Make Studio in partnership with Fabian and Samuel.

Make Studio is the brand doing residential and boutique hotel projects while Fabian Architects do the commercial projects.

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