House and Leisure (South Africa) - - House Athol - TEXT LAYLA LEIMAN PHOTOGRAPHS ELSA YOUNG

THIS Parisin­spired ATHOLL HOME IS A stylish show­case OF CON­TEM­PO­RARY ART and cut­tingedge DE­SIGN

My dream was al­ways to live in Paris in an 18th-cen­tury apart­ment with mod­ern fur­ni­ture,’ says the owner of this dou­ble-storey house, lo­cated in a small com­plex tucked away in Atholl, Jo­han­nes­burg. While the style of the com­plex is JoburgTus­can, the home is a care­fully con­sid­ered space where clas­sic Euro chic meets to­day’s pro­gres­sive South African de­sign. When the own­ers put in an of­fer for the house a few years ago, the only thing that ap­pealed to them about their in­vest­ment was its prime lo­ca­tion. They had pre­vi­ously rented fully fur­nished apart­ments, so when they took own­er­ship, they moved in with­out a sin­gle item of fur­ni­ture – not even a bed. But the owner is an ad­ver­tis­ing art di­rec­tor, so at­ten­tion to de­tail and de­sign is part of her DNA, and she im­me­di­ately set about reimag­in­ing the in­te­ri­ors and re­mod­elling them into her ideal Paris-in­spired re­treat.

From the out­set, the own­ers opted to fo­cus on ef­fect by get­ting the ba­sics right – such as in­stalling wood-look her­ring­bone tiled floors and qual­ity fit­tings through­out. Then they in­tro­duced the de­tails. Cos­metic struc­tural changes saw pil­lars re­moved to create space, the kitchen re­con­fig­ured and larger win­dows added to let in more light. The real trans­for­ma­tion, how­ever, was in the decor.

Part­way into the project, the owner called in in­te­rior de­signer Fanie van Zyl to help hone her aes­thetic. ‘Good de­sign is a bal­ance of mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine,’ she says, and Van Zyl, who brings with him a wealth of in­dus­try knowl­edge, was able to help her achieve that. Over the course of al­most two years in­volv­ing close col­lab­o­ra­tion, they se­lected each item of fur­ni­ture piece by piece from award-win­ning lo­cal de­sign stu­dios and pre­mier decor re­tail­ers, as well as adding im­ported sig­na­ture items. All of the tex­tiles, tim­ber and fin­ish­ings for the fur­ni­ture and soft fur­nish­ings were cus­tomised, and what couldn’t be sourced, Van Zyl de­signed him­self and had man­u­fac­tured specif­i­cally.

‘The owner had a very good idea of what she wanted,’ Van Zyl says, ‘and get­ting in­side her head to un­der­stand her ap­proach was a cru­cial part of the project. It’s al­ways re­ally im­por­tant


All colour ac­cents were in­flu­enced by art­works in the own­ers’ col­lec­tion: just off the liv­ing area, a pow­der-coated metal green drinks cab­i­net references Alexia Vo­gel’s large paint­ing ‘Way’ in the din­ing room; an An­drzej Ur­ban­ski ab­stract is ex­hib­ited in the en­trance hall on a fluted wal­nut dresser by Tonic De­sign (ton­icde­ along­side a Snoopy ta­ble lamp by Achille and Pier Gi­a­como Castiglioni for Flos ( and an Ike­bana Hat vase by ce­ram­i­cist An­drew Wal­ford.


Large her­ring­bone wood-ef­fect floor­ing was used through­out the open-plan space for a co­he­sive feel; shades of blue are present in the liv­ing room, as seen in the navy vel­vet sofa from Tonic De­sign; a Gre­gor Jenkin ta­ble makes a grand state­ment in the din­ing area-cum-kitchen.


to cap­ture a client’s style and essence. A home should re­flect the owner’s per­son­al­ity so that when some­one walks into it, the space feels con­gru­ent with the peo­ple who live there.’

The in­te­ri­ors draw in­spi­ra­tion from French ar­chi­tect Joseph Di­rand, echo­ing his sig­na­ture un­der­stated look. Mar­ble is a key mo­tif in the house, and when it is paired with plush tex­tures and a re­strained colour pal­ette, the re­sult is a lux­u­ri­ous and in­ter­est­ing abode full of char­ac­ter. ‘I love cu­rated and con­sid­ered homes,’ says the owner. ‘I’m ob­sessed with an­gles. Ev­ery an­gle has to look good.’ In the dou­ble-vol­ume liv­ing area, ver­ti­cal lines, muted tones, sump­tu­ous tex­tiles and con­trast­ing ma­te­ri­als in­ter­play to achieve a clas­sic yet con­tem­po­rary ef­fect. The mod­ern, sleek black-glass and tar­nished-brass cof­fee ta­ble from Tonic De­sign, for ex­am­ple, re­flects the tra­di­tional white mar­ble man­tel­piece, while wood and ceramic ves­sels add an­other tex­tu­ral layer.

Art fea­tures promi­nently in the home, and both an­chors and ac­cen­tu­ates the decor. Van Zyl played a key role in sourc­ing pieces for the col­lec­tion, which in­cludes works by lo­cal tal­ents such as Mia Chap­lin, Alexia Vo­gel, Michael Tay­lor, Peter East­man and David Gold­blatt. Like ev­ery­thing else in this house, the art­works have been placed to har­monise with the sur­round­ing fur­ni­ture and space. In the din­ing room, Vo­gel’s ‘ Way’ paint­ing has been thought­fully po­si­tioned at the head of a Gre­gor Jenkin ta­ble, in­ject­ing the space with pat­tern and colour. The same can be seen in the liv­ing room, where Zim­bab­wean artist Dan Hal­ter’s edi­tioned linocut print ‘Dom­bore­mari (Blue)’ per­fectly com­ple­ments the navy couch and pair of mar­ble-ef­fect chairs by Anatomy De­sign for South­ern Guild. An ab­stract work by An­drzej Ur­ban­ski rests on a fluted wal­nut server by Tonic De­sign in the en­trance hall, pro­vid­ing a bright burst against the char­coal wall.

The ef­fect through­out is per­sonal, taste­ful and re­veals a gen­uine ap­pre­ci­a­tion of de­sign and art. ‘I saw this house as an art project,’ says the owner. ‘I loved the process of de­sign­ing and cre­at­ing it.’ ze­roze­

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