A home for a heart that travels
This Cape Town-based residence hints at a glamorous jet-set lifestyle whilst retaining the essence of a real South African home.
Love at First Sight
‘What have I missed?’ asks Mogens Tholstrup, bursting in from a morning run, sweatband on his forehead and a bag of chocolate croissants in hand. An international businessman of Danish extraction, with a long stint behind him as one of London’s society restaurateurs, Mogens is eager to catch up with the conversation that his former-model wife, Gretha, and I are having. What we’re discussing is the beautiful home that the couple shares, a multistorey house perched high in Tamboerskloof, with an eagle’s-nest view of the Cape Town City Bowl and fringed by the iconic mountains of Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak. Looking for a new Cape Town base a few years ago, the couple decided to view this particular property even though their estate agent doubted that it was what they were looking for. The front door was forbidding; the exterior unpromising. But when they walked in and saw the whole of the City Bowl spread out before them, with the mountains of Devil’s Peak and Table Mountain rearing above it, they ‘just knew’.
Deal done, they then brought in an architect to retain the original multilevel structure while bringing in contemporary touches: longer, wider windows to maximise those stirring views; updates of the kitchen and bathrooms; extensions to the outdoor deck; and the replacement of thickly grouted terracotta tiles with sleek marble.
They have houses in several sought-after spots – Switzerland, Finland, the south of France – but this one, originally intended as a lock-up-and-go to replace their former Cape Town bolt hole, has become their favourite. And it’s easy to see why. It’s flexible enough to suit every season: a snug nest in winter, a cool retreat for outdoor living in summer – and interesting all year around.
SA Interior with a Global Touch
Gretha brought her innate sense of style to the interior, which has a serenity amid striking vignettes of drama. The mélange reflects the couple’s varied interests and wide-ranging travels: there are pieces collected from Scandinavia, Switzerland, South America and, of course, the Cape. The couple is an avid supporter of local design and art (all the artworks in the house are South African). Gretha has a keen eye for the unusual; she’s a collector who pursues a passion long before it becomes the ‘in’ trend elsewhere. There are precious coral pieces and collections of animal skulls and horns, ceramic pots, a curiosity cabinet…
Her next decor theme, she says, will be ‘green’ – not in the eco sense, but involving an imaginative profusion of indoor plants. And, because she favours texture over colour, the palette is limited to taupe, sand and stone. Brights feature in Mogens’ study, though, where the colour of his cherished Missoni cushions ‘really works!’
Home for the Heart’s Desire
The house is laid out so that they can indulge their own passions: there’s a well-equipped study for Mogens and a sleek, everything-to-hand kitchen for Gretha, who is a ‘superb cook,’ says Mogens. Her culinary inspirations change with their travel schedule: currently it’s Asian, alternating with Mediterranean. Yet it’s not a huge house. ‘We like smaller places,’ Gretha says. ‘Our home in Finland is about 200m2, for example. It’s more than enough … until the pieces I collect get too numerous. Mogens is a minimalist; I’m a maximalist.’
Small Home for Little Pleasures
Similarly, their preference is for small-scale entertaining. On a perfect evening, they might have a barbecue for a large group on the deck, but usually they prefer to host a dinner for six. ‘That’s about the perfect number,’ says Mogens. ‘It’s intimate and yet lively and interesting.’ They are both energetic to the point of restlessness: Gretha’s enthusiasms range from gardening (‘I love going outside every morning with my scissors to trim and tweak’) to photography; Mogens attends to business in most cities they visit, overseeing projects and planning new ones, and is a regular runner on the rigorous slopes of Lion’s Head. The house unquestionably suits the couple’s peripatetic lifestyle – it has the convenience and ease of maintenance that they were looking for, but it’s undeniably also a place where they truly are ‘at home’.
‘The interior has a serenity amid striking vignettes of drama. The mélange reflects the couple’s varied interests and wide-ranging travels’
Text: Deborah Louw
Production: Sven Alberding
Photographs: Greg Cox/bureaux.co.za