The Jo’burg apartment of decorator dean van aswegen is a masterstroke in edgy, monochrome interiors
The high contrast dichotomy of decorator Dean van Aswegen’s Jo’burg apartment
from styling shoots at this decor magazine to masterminding large-scale residential projects for clients, dean van aswegen’s career trajectory has been one underpinned by evolution. his design style, too, has grown and matured over time, reflected in his ever changing home in Johannesburg.
‘I’ve gone through quite a few phases with this apartment – different colour floors,
strong colour accents, some quite opulent over-the-top periods,’ he comments. But it seems that, for now, he’s enjoying a more pared-down approach to his space. ‘I find more and more that after the sensory overload that is a day of wading through fabric swatches and wallpaper samples I want to come home to something simpler and calming,’ he explains. This translates into a monochromatic palette and just less in the rooms overall. ‘I’m getting better at editing. even though it doesn’t look like it,’ he laughs.
he was fortunate in that the space itself, in one of Jo’burg’s best preserved and most picturesque period apartment blocks, has ‘good bones’, as they say in real estate terms, and was a beautiful shell from the start. so a more minimal approach really works. ‘I was lucky – the apartment is on the side of the building that has amazing shutters, which means I don’t need curtains. The ceilings are high; the light is amazing. and the bathroom has the original black and white tiles,’ he elaborates. all conducive to his monochromatic and elegant bent.
‘the common denominator for me is clean, sexy lines. in two words: minimal luxe’
he has a flair for the dramatic, though, so his space was never going to be minimal by relative standards, despite his new less-is-more mood. he modifies the description slightly upon reflection: ‘I think the common denominator right now for me is clean, sexy lines. In two words: minimal luxe.’ Metallics feature, as do period furniture and vintage shop finds – the result of his favourite pastime: rifling through bric-a-brac stores in search of oddities. ‘I like to have things that no one else has, that are a bit offbeat, even a little bit weird,’ he adds.
What makes him an excellent stylist and designer is how well he weaves together all the disparate pieces. contemporary, custom and quirky all live together in a way that’s surprisingly coherent despite the contrast. his approach with clients is the same – he creates a look using layers, which give his spaces depth. ‘I use a lot of black and tend to steer clear, generally, of anything too “pretty”,’ he adds. But in his own space he pushes this look a little further. ‘I can afford to go a bit edgier in my own space. I like to think of it as a little Patrick Bateman, a little
Bruce Wayne – dark and masculine, but sophisticated,’ he summarises.
his favourite spaces and pieces are those that cater best to daily rituals and routines – his new much-loved ‘dining nook’ complete with built-in banquette is perfect for small dinner parties. ‘I don’t need a table for 16. I prefer small groups of friends myself, so I designed it to be intimate and cosy, to fit in with my own lifestyle,’ he explains. Likewise a sofa perfectly proportioned for naps, and the vintage drinks table he found at a store in Parktown north that sits in a mirrored alcove, the perfect way to make an occasion out of cocktail hour.
he’s big on customisation for projects too, designing special pieces whenever possible rather than buying off a showroom floor. ‘I like finding or making unique pieces – the worst thing possible would be to create a look that feels generic in any way,’ he comments. unlikely, from someone who’s such an original himself and who has mastered the art of subtle reinvention.
the living room features a Jean Prouvé chair, a custom couch upholstered in fabric from warwick fabrics and a vintage coffee table
right and below in the living room, dean designed a banquette seat and table for informal gatherings; a lady skollie artwork hangs above the bar
above in the entrance hall, guests are greeted by a ceramic chinese foo dog and murray kruger artwork. the mid-century light is from decade
left and below in the bedroom, a large Print by lemon overlooks the bed, which is upholstered in Jim thompson fabric from t&co and the charcoal linen is by ginger cat; the home office with brass and travertine lights by oluce in the background
above coffee table books and flowers on an eero saarinen for knoll side table
Jean Prouvé chairs and a side table by lemon on the balcony, which overlooks an internal courtyard