Real Living (Philippines) - - Real Homes -

Wait­ing for the cof­fee to brew, sit­ting on a sun-drenched daybed un­der a soaring ceil­ing, De­bussy’s Clair de

Lune play­ing faintly on the ra­dio as one black cat si­dles up for a belly scratch and the other sur­veys the scene from the branch of a tree out­side. It’s easy to understand why “a sanc­tu­ary for the senses” is how Shel­ley Street de­scribes the tran­quil home that she shares with her daugh­ter Phoebe.

Shel­ley’s house, with its pared-down pal­ette, airy open spa­ces, glimpses of green­ery, and thought­fully edited con­tents, act as an an­ti­dote to both its lo­ca­tion— on the border of Cape Town’s fre­netic ur­ban fringe—as well as to the home­owner’s vis­ually-driven pro­fes­sion. A for­mer mag­a­zine stylist and cre­ative and cu­ra­to­rial con­sul­tant to South Africa’s top life­style, fash­ion, and fur­ni­ture re­tail­ers, Shel­ley now runs Space So­lu­tions. It's a cre­ative brand­ing stu­dio offering art di­rec­tion, graphic de­sign, mer­chan­dis­ing, and in­te­rior styling to a mixed bag of clients. Re­cently, she has also taken on sev­eral high-end res­i­den­tial projects, a di­rec­tion she de­scribes as “pleas­antly un­ex­pected.”

The house came into Shel­ley’s and daugh­ter Phoebe’s life at “just the right time” via a small clas­si­fied ad pinned onto a board at a lo­cal shop­ping cen­ter. “I post­poned an ap­point­ment, met the agent there, and told her to con­sider it sold,” re­calls Shel­ley. That was over 10 years ago, and the home, which dates back to 1873, has un­der­gone sev­eral ren­o­va­tions since then. “It sounds like such a dé­cor mag­a­zine cliché to say that it was dark and ne­glected and tum­ble­down in its orig­i­nal state, but that is the truth of it,” she says. “Though the po­ten­tial and char­ac­ter was al­ways there, which is why I fell in love with it.”

Huge steel win­dows were in­stalled, crum­bling in­te­rior walls re­stored, ex­te­rior walls built, ce­ment floors laid down, ceil­ings re­moved, and the lay­out con­verted to form a large open-plan liv­ing area in­cor­po­rat­ing a work space as well as two bed­rooms and a shared bath­room. “Even I was sur­prised by how high the ceil­ings turned out,” says Shel­ley. “There were also sev­eral trees on the property that have be­come a part of the space with the large steel-framed glass doors and win­dows. I love hav­ing the com­bi­na­tion of the vol­ume, the light that touches ev­ery cor­ner, and the lush green­ery out­side. It feels very far away from the city. It’s very med­i­ta­tive.”

Shel­ley’s rev­er­ence for sim­plic­ity is re­flected in a pal­ette con­sist­ing of white and un­der­pinned by strong black ac­cents, the sub­tleties to be dis­cov­ered in the lay­er­ing of color and tex­ture. “My per­sonal aes­thetic has al­ways been very con­stant,” she ex­plains. “I’d say my colors are ‘beach peb­ble’ shades rather than slav­ishly mono­chrome—white, ob­vi­ously, but also char­coals, grays, chalk. Look­ing around the house be­fore the shoot, I’ve re­al­ized that the faintest washed-out blues have some­how found their way in, too,” Shel­ley says with a laugh.

What’s im­me­di­ately ev­i­dent is that Shel­ley is not just a good cu­ra­tor; she’s an ex­cep­tional one, the many dis­plays and vi­gnettes con­firm­ing her coun­try-girl roots.


“I grew up in the Free State prov­ince, which is known for its mag­nif­i­cent light, wildlife, and un­spoilt wide open spa­ces, so it’s no sur­prise that I’m drawn to those el­e­ments.”

Her eye-catching col­lec­tions of ob­jects are very much at home in the most curious cab­i­net of cu­riosi­ties: an­i­mal skulls, bones and antlers, bizarre seed pods and burnt protea flow­ers, co­ral, shells and peb­bles—all dis­cov­ered on na­ture walks.

A group­ing of ce­ram­ics in­jects a rare pocket of vi­brant hues. This in­cludes an­tique Chi­nese pots and the work of her friend, ac­claimed South African artist Lovell Friedman. Art­works are a pas­sion but have been lim­ited to “non­color” il­lus­tra­tions, old etch­ings, and pho­to­graphs, with the ex­cep­tion of two water­col­ors in­her­ited from her Dutch grand­par­ents and a few lo­cal pieces in daugh­ter Phoebe’s bed­room. There are many beau­ti­ful African pieces too: carved wooden head rests, clay milk pots, and carved stone sculp­tures bought on lo­cal trav­els to the con­ti­nent. “I grav­i­tate to­wards things that are not mass-pro­duced, that have the mark of the per­son who made them,” ex­plains Shel­ley.

Among the or­ganic clus­ters of found, sal­vaged, and gifted ephemera are ob­jects that il­lus­trate Shel­ley’s de­sign creed: orig­i­nal, mid-cen­tury mod­ern Pan­ton, Eames, and Ber­toia chairs; Jurgen Bey’s mod­ern clas­sic Light Shade Shade Ø70 by Moooi; and the cen­ter­piece of the liv­ing area—an iconic beaded chan­de­lier by South African de­sign stu­dio Mud, bought by Shel­ley long be­fore the likes of Anthropologie and the Con­ran Shop dis­cov­ered their work. “I’m definitely a purist when it comes to that as­pect of de­sign,” says Shel­ley. “It has to be the real thing. If it’s a re­pro­duc­tion, I’d rather not own it.”

While the in­ner land­scape has a peace­ful­ness that bor­ders on the sa­cred, this is no monastery. “How could it be with a teenager run­ning around?” says Shel­ley. "We have our sim­ple rit­u­als like buy­ing fresh food from the mar­ket and cook­ing to­gether, me work­ing at my desk while Phoebe does home­work on the din­ing ta­ble or prac­tices her pi­ano, hav­ing an af­ter­noon sleep on the daybed in the win­ter sun, which is our ab­so­lute fa­vorite spot… The space is small, but we share it well. There really is nowhere else we’d rather be.” RL


The open-plan kitchen is the scene of many col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­forts by Shel­ley and daugh­ter Phoebe, and is an invit­ing but prac­ti­cal, util­i­tar­ian space. Float­ing shelves host ev­ery­day ob­jects as well as spe­cial col­lectibles and in­her­ited items. The pal­ette is largely all white with wood. The hand-carved African chair on one side of the kitchen is a fa­vorite of Shel­ley’s.

In the din­ing area, the weath­ered wooden din­ing ta­ble was found on a road­trip and pur­chased for the princely sum of R85 (ap­prox­i­mately 289 pe­sos), then strapped to the roof of the car and driven from one end of the coun­try to the other. Orig­i­nal mid-cen­tury mod­ern chairs, in­clud­ing a Ber­toia Side Chair and Pan­ton S chairs, pro­vide a con­tem­po­rary con­trast to its rus­tic fin­ish. A dis­play ta­ble pro­vides a sur­face for peb­bles, por­cu­pine quills, a sun-faded tor­toise shell, and a sculp­ture bought in Tan­za­nia. The lim­it­ededi­tion poster was bought at the Guggen­heim and is of the famed Woman Walk­ing by Al­berto Gi­a­cometti. The pen­dant shade is by Flos (avail­able at Shangri-La Plaza).

The all-white bath­room was fully ren­o­vated to in­cor­po­rate a con­tem­po­rary tub with an or­ganic form and a large win­dow fram­ing the view of an old tree. Shel­ley is strictly “anti-cur­tains,” so a high wall back­ing onto a neigh­bor’s property pro­vides pri­vacy. For a sim­i­lar tub, get the Sun­struck oval bath­tub by Kohler at Dex­ter­ton, Green­belt 5, Makati City.

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