Living the high life on Westcliff Ridge
Set into the rocky slopes of the Westcliff Ridge, this sleekly contemporary home is all about space, light and views.
A Westcliff Ridge Welcoming
Driving up the almost perilous slope towards the hilltop home of Giovanni and Tessy Bonavera, you just know that the views are going to be extraordinary. Cleaved into the steep northern face of the Westcliff ridge and towering over one of the suburb’s loveliest streets, this imposing structure was designed with big-sky vistas in mind. Standing at car-park level you are dwarfed by the glass-and-concrete cube suspended above you, and a canopy of green that unfurls towards the Melville Koppies. It’s breathtaking, especially on a crisp Highveld morning, but it’s just a taste of the spectacle to come.
Creating an Opulent Open-Plan Home
Collaborating with Enrico Daffonchio Architects to create a spacious and contemporary four-bedroomed home, the couple shared a clear, decisive vision. ‘Overall we wanted a sense of space and light,’ says Giovanni, who moved to SA from Genoa in 1983. ‘Our idea was to create an easy, open-plan space on the first level with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that completely open up to the outside.’ One floor up, accessed via a steel spiral staircase, are the four luxurious bedroom suites. Climb a few steps further and, like a scene from The Big Lebowski only cooler, you’re on the rooftop pool terrace. Look north and you could almost reach out and touch the largest man-made forest in the world. Turn to the south and the spacious gazebo connects seamlessly to a natural hillside garden and the unmistakable Jozi skyline.
Bringing Modern to Westcliff Heritage
While this suburb is renowned for its heritage homes such as Sir Herbert Baker’s Brenthurst and Villa Arcadia, Giovanni and Tessy’s tastes are emphatically modern. ‘It’s intentionally masculine in style,’ says Enrico Daffonchio, ‘with a predominance of glass, steel and concrete. That said, we always take the opportunity to create something sculptural. Features such as the spiral staircase, bespoke circular sofa and Tom Dixon pendants add elements that are sensual and curved.’ Enrico’s vision lay not only in framing the remarkable views from every room, but in creating a backdrop that would allow the landscape to come to the fore. Overscaled porcelain floor tiles create a sleek canvas throughout, the gloss finish contrasting with exposed concrete beams and velvet upholstery. ‘It’s about big, high-ceilinged spaces that are airy and light,’ says Enrico, ‘yet it still feels like a home.’
With such abundant use of glass, Enrico included passive architectural features to maintain a comfortable year-round temperature. ‘The first floor is set back four metres from the level above it, and there are few windows on the western side,’ he explains. ‘On the eastern side we added vertical wooden louvres to control the morning light, and throughout there are automatic screens on the windows.’ Solar geysers, double glazing and underfloor heating via heat pump add to the home’s energy-saving credentials.
When it came to the interiors, Tessy and Giovanni imbued the pristine space with modern classic pieces. The palette is predominantly black and white, with bright artworks adding occasional jolts of colour. And in keeping with the contemporary ethos of this home’s interiors, a plethora of bespoke cupboards helps to retain a sense of orderly, clutter-free calm. Ultimately though, the enjoyment of each room stems from its natural surroundings, and the couple approached landscaper Tim Steyn to marry the modern structure with its rocky, unkempt setting. ‘We felt that the style of the house called for a departure from the English country gardens that complement the more historic local architecture,’ says Tim. ‘Rather than terracing the slope, we left the steep, rugged embankment. The result is a stark contrast between the clean horizontal lines of the house and the rough, textural landscape. It’s mostly indigenous, and we planted groupings of veld grass to give a bold effect, rather than mixing numerous species.’
As entertainers’ homes go, this one is hard to beat. From the lofty rim-flow pool to the roomy hi-tech kitchen, it’s a space to connect with friends and family. ‘The views are wonderful at all times of the day,’ says Giovanni. ‘But it’s the sunsets that are truly spectacular.’
Benefits of Westcliff Living
Drawn to the established verdancy of Westcliff, Giovanni Bonavera bought this property in 1990. ‘I lived in a traditional house next door and knew that when the time was right I would build a home that capitalised on the suburb’s incredible views.’ Giovanni has business interests in Parktown, just a few minutes’ drive from his home. ‘Apart from the quiet, secluded ambience, Westcliff is extremely centrally situated. In the past it was home to many of the Randlords who enjoyed its proximity to the heart of Joburg. Today, with the expansion and upgrade of Newtown and the Maboneng Precinct, there’s a renewed interest in the city centre.’ Close to the M1 highway, it’s an easy hop to the shopping hubs of Rosebank and Sandton, as well as some of Joburg’s finest schools, including The Ridge and Saint John’s. One of Giovanni’s favourite places to take visitors is The Westcliff Hotel.
- Christies International: christiesrealestate.com, web reference 0243. Asking price R25 million.
- Enrico Daffonchio Architects: daffonchio.co.za
- Westcliff Hotel: fourseasons.com/johannesburg
Text: Tess Paterson
Photographs: Elsa Young