The splendour of South Africa’s Scandinavian treehouse

by Ofentse Sefolo
The splendour of South Africa’s Scandinavian treehouse

Villa Verte, or the Scandinavian Treehouse as it is affectionately referred to by its owners, is the latest ground-breaking project by Thomas Leach Architects. They are renowned for their passion to design contemporary buildings that interconnect with nature and express the naturality of the site.

Villa Verte (Green in French) is a luxury villa for rent situated in the beautifully leafy valley of Hout Bay. It has been meticulously designed to fully capture the splendour and beauty of the site, with its sweeping mountain and valley views.

Tranquillity is key at this private estate. Architect Thomas Leach has created a truly exceptional design that is sensitive to the surrounding forest and mountain peaks above the valley of Hout Bay.

Capturing the essence
Leach says the radical concept design would have scared most clients. However, in this instance the owners, American power duo Jim Brett of Anthropologie and West Elm, and Ed Gray, previous owner of a luxury home furnishings store in Philadelphia, fully supported and embraced the architect’s vision. He created a treehouse-like building that balanced on the site, connecting the building to its natural surroundings.

Leach says: “A curving radiused plan cemented the concept idea, the curved shape was a nod to the existing next door Villa Maison Noir (also owned by Jim and Ed) that is enclosed by circular walls and pond. The owners love everything that the circle represents: Equality, inclusivity, unity, sustainability and, of course, the circle of life.”

Perhaps one of the most striking features of this design is an expansive curved living area that necessitated a sloping roof to be faceted on the curved shape and is expressed with a delicate timber slat ceiling on the inside. Overall, the house is conceived as a sculptural expression of its parts, so the five bedrooms are expressed as separate cantilevered pitched roof elements, as opposed to a single dwelling.

Standing seam sheeting
This unique design called for a specialised roofing solution. Leach turned to the expertise of Peter Anders from HH Roofing, who has been trained in Germany, to enable his knowledge of “standing seam roofing” to be applied to BlueScope Steel’s COLORBOND®, which is a flat coil system that Anders custom-made especially for this roof.

“The material has a minimalist clipped look and does not have any fussy flashings, delivering a very crisp and clean look – only in the manner that standing seam can. It utilises BlueScope Steel’s COLORBOND® as a flat metal sheet which is the only product that can deliver this look at this price point,” Leach explains.

In total, 636m² of the standing seam sheeting, including the cladding, was used for the living area’s 20 degrees roof and for each of the bedroom roofs of 40 degrees each.

Green grandeur
Leach says the other challenge was that the site faced south, and the north views are high level views up the steep slope towards the mountain peaks. To address this, he incorporated very tall clear-glass windows in the curved central living area that is angled towards the mountains, which brings warmth and light into the villa. With each of the bedroom pods facing south, he created an expansive view into the treetops – creating the feeling of being in a treehouse or a forest.

The villa’s green theme and cinematic concept join its interior spaces together. It was further enhanced by the placement of lose furniture and freestanding art, together with the use of distinctive green-coloured textured wall plaster.

Special touches
High windows and glass doors across its voluminous ceilings draw in plenty of warmth that toasts the abundance of natural timber. It is bringing warmth to the raw, honest and minimalist way in which the concrete is used throughout the villa.

Double-glazed windows deliver insulation, with the floors decked in the most exquisite in-situ concrete terrazzo panels.

A beautiful kitchen with a large white floating island and eye-catching brass-clad complete the interior living space.

The bedrooms are exquisite, with the interior styling featuring striking wallpapers which were chosen for each suite, where each one is named after a local plant or flower. Taking its cue from the name Villa Verte, green and the colours of nature are the overriding theme throughout.

Floating above the trees
Large sliding doors open out onto the terrace, where a heated swimming pool backs onto the forested hillside. The surrounding trees encase the property, keeping it separate from its neighbouring mother villa, Maison Noir, that sits quietly in harmony below.

Taking 18 months to complete, the 850m² double-level Villa Verte features a small yoga studio as well as a two-bedroom flat. It must be one of the most beautifully sensitive architectural designs, allowing the building to effortlessly connect with the natural surroundings, creating a magical oasis of tranquil escape.

For more information, visit:
Thomas Leach Architects – www.thomasleach.co.za
Villa Verte – https://maisonnoir.co.za/villaverte/

Photos by Raphael Hellman

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