The family home that film producer Anna Mira D’Ecole and her film director husband Jorge Rubia share with their twin daughters, Greta and Sofia (10), strikes an incongruent pose in the Cape Town neighbourhood of Newlands village where genteel Victorian homesteads, faux Georgian mansions and Cape Dutch hybrids abound.
With its curvy white walls and exaggerated arches overgrown with ivy, the house has a compelling charm heightened by the way in which it’s cleverly set back from the road with a wide, boulevard-style entrance leading grandly up to the front door.
Designed and built by architect Peter Robson in 1970, the abode was bought by Jorge in 1990 more for the extravagance of its spaces than aesthetic reasons. ‘It was a typical Spanish-style adobe house that, despite its dark, cavernous rooms, had ample space for a home office and studios where I could indulge my practice of the arts,’ he says. Born in Barcelona and with a peripatetic childhood spent in various South American and African countries, Jorge’s irreverent eye had finally found a place where, in homage to the home’s architectural roots and inspired by Frida Kahlo’s house in Mexico, he could paint the walls blue and layer them with his collections of Art Deco furniture, African art, acoustic guitars and old cameras.
But things took a turn in 2001 when Jorge fell in love with Italian- born Anna while on a job in Cairo. Anna, who studied set design in Milan at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, possessed an ordered, style-driven aesthetic which, then as now, was in total contrast to Jorge’s love of chaos. Three months later they were married, with Anna swapping the contemporary calm of her Milan apartment for the colourful clutter of Newlands. ‘Our styles were worlds apart,’ she says, ‘but while the interiors didn’t resonate with me, the generosity of space the house offered did, particularly compared with what I was used to living in, in Italy.’ Over time, Anna toned down Jorge’s penchant for colour by opting for a clean palette of white and grey, although the original brown Bakelite floor tiles and dark wooden doors had to remain until they could renovate.
The next few years was a busy time for the couple, with Jorge traveling constantly while Anna continued with Cartello Directors, her agency that represents international directors. Then, in 2004, Anna founded Bang Bang Films, a service production company renowned for sourcing the best crews to shoot in the most obscure places that flourished thanks to her impeccable aesthetic and reputation for ‘having one of the best little black books in the business’. So much so that an office overhaul with a separate street entrance and easy access to the house became a necessity in 2010.
‘Our twins were born in 2007, so it was important that I had a professional set-up at home that allowed me to be close to them,’ says Anna. Another renovation followed in 2012, where they opened up the spaces to let in light and create more of a connection to the garden. ‘We initially toyed with changing the house substantially and removing some of the curves to make it more symmetrical and square, but we’d have had to demolish the house and blow our budget, so we decided to work with what we had,’ she says.
In the end, they made few structural changes, letting the curvaceous nature of the house dictate what they could and couldn’t do. ‘As such, the biggest transformation was when we laid the oak wooden floors and painted all the teak doors white,’ says Anna.
Today the abode is a clever contrast of organic lines with modern design that enhances the beauty of the interiors, while lightening things up significantly. Thanks to Anna shipping the entire contents of her Milan apartment to Cape Town, names such as Cappellini, Le Corbusier, Gio Ponti, Marcel Breuer and Achille Castiglioni add a certain gravitas to the whimsical, yet solid nature of the architecture. The same is true of the antiques that come from Anna’s family home and Jorge’s collections which still remain, although now cleverly regrouped by Anna in cabinets or as a focal point in one area. ‘I learnt a lot from my friend Charlotte Mello Teggia, who’s a fantastic interior designer and taught me how to mix things,’ says Anna. ‘I didn’t want a super-minimalist space filled with designer furniture, but rather a collection of disparate things we absolutely love that, when put together, could work as a canvas for our life.’
That’s been perfectly achieved, for this home is nothing short of a bravura display of Anna and Jorge’s considerable creative clout. n bangbang lms, cartellodirectors.com