Longtime friends reunite to transform an 80-year-old cottage in Cape Town

neo maditla
2 min readJul 14, 2021


Photographs by David Southwood via Douglas & Company website.

Derek White was only in his second year of college when he “started vetting architects” for his future home. “That’s when I met Liani — I don’t know if we would have been friends if we didn’t share a sense of aesthetics,” Derek says wryly as Liani Douglas listens in. But friends they became, and some 14 years later, when Derek came across a dilapidated, 80-year- old cottage in a spectacular location, he called Douglas & Company, the architec- tural firm Douglas founded with her husband, Jan.

At the foot of Table Mountain, Cape Town’s Newlands Village is an idyllic, slop- ing suburb lush with greenery. Residents live along oak-lined streets and have access to the region’s natural splendor: Newlands Forest, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, and hiking trails up the mountain are all just beyond the front door. For Derek, a legal consultant, his partner, Jean Banks, a lawyer, and their two Italian Spinone dogs, Ben and Quinn, the single-story cottage that they found there presented a huge opportunity.

But aside from its prime location, the unloved, roughly 860-square-foot structure was in bad shape. “It was actually very depressing, and part of the appeal was the challenge of turning it into something else,” says Derek. A less appealing challenge in Newlands was obtaining approval to build or renovate on a heritage site saddled with strict codes, a process that took Douglas and the couple about a year in and of itself. Another challenge — this one a little more fun — was determining how to make the most of its compact lot.

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