play­ing by the rules

Faced with creative con­straints, de­signer John Jacob tri­umphs with this stylish sanctuary geared to­wards easy fam­ily liv­ing


Go­ing into this project I couldn’t have been less ex­cited. The client had bought a cot­tage at a steen­berg de­vel­op­ment and I couldn’t help think­ing: this is go­ing to be a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge. We couldn’t change any of the ar­chi­tec­tural el­e­ments of the build­ing, so our cre­ativ­ity was lim­ited to only re­work­ing the in­ter­nal fin­ish­ings and the join­ery. In the end it was the very fact that it was so con­strained that made it ex­cit­ing – in the end it feels fab­u­lous. With just a few well-ex­e­cuted tweaks I was able to make a very big dif­fer­ence to the over­all look and feel of the place and change the whole mes­sage.

The most no­table of these tweaks was to the win­dow heights, or un­for­tu­nate lack thereof. although I couldn’t change them ar­chi­tec­turally, by tak­ing the

‘In a way, it’s the wood that served as in­spi­ra­tion through­out the project ’

cur­tains up to the ceil­ing and adding a dummy blind to hide the in-be­tween wall space, you get a much grander im­pres­sion. a cur­tain isn’t a cur­tain, it’s a pro­por­tion – and it’s this, not the fabric, that com­pletely changes the way peo­ple un­der­stand a space.

Be­cause the first floor, which you en­ter the house on, was an open-plan area, I wanted to cre­ate a sep­a­ra­tion be­tween the en­trance and the lounge. hence the Pierre Cronje shut­ter de­tail that also runs to the ceil­ing, both max­imis­ing ceil­ing vol­ume and cre­at­ing a fo­cal point that de­fines the two spa­ces. Why this de­tail works so well, and what I love, is that it has a light­ness to it and it has this in­cred­i­ble sage colour. Pierre cre­ated this green-tim­ber look by lightly brush­ing the oak with paint and then ap­ply­ing a black oil that re­ally ac­cen­tu­ated its grain. he made all the fur­ni­ture for the house, so there’s a depth and a solid­ness to ev­ery­thing that re­ally res­onates with the space.

of course, this brought up the next ques­tion: what are we go­ing to do with the in­te­ri­ors? I used the steen­berg de­vel­op­ment, with its mod­ernist Cape ver­nac­u­lar-style ar­chi­tec­ture, as the start­ing point, opt­ing to pay homage to the set­ting not in a slav­ish, clichéd way but rather in a more sub­tle one. There is a steven gam­brel sen­si­tiv­ity to it: quite square pro­files that are not overly de­tailed. This way the clas­sic qual­ity of the in­te­rior wouldn’t fight with the moder­nity of what’s hap­pen­ing

out­side but still take it to a soft place. I wanted to in­tro­duce a lit­tle bit of this into the space by mak­ing the fur­ni­ture pieces un­recog­nis­able and not rigidly in the Cape style. There’s a bit of fun, too. Take the pineap­ple lamps: they have a Cape-ness to them but at the same time they wouldn’t look out of place in a de­cid­edly amer­i­can in­te­rior.

I never pan­der to the clichés of dec­o­rat­ing. In terms of my work that’s how I ul­ti­mately de­fine what I do. I try to do this by cre­at­ing homes that are un­recog­nis­able with re­gard to trends but rather have a sense of in­tegrity. I want to say some­thing dif­fer­ent. In this house I did that by us­ing a warm sand­stone for the floors and a lot of burnt si­enna in terms of coloura­tion. To this day it still strikes me as odd how ter­ri­fied peo­ple are of us­ing warm colours. Why yel­low hasn’t en­tered main­stream dec­o­rat­ing I’ll never un­der­stand. grey died a long time ago.

a suc­cess­ful in­te­rior also needs to have a strong con­nec­tion with the out­side – a view, some­where to es­cape. and if you don’t have these views, you need to fake them. Con­cern­ing the gar­den here I wanted to set up per­spec­tives from the in­side of the house to the out­side. hedges hide the sur­round­ing walls and fences, and I de­signed this rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of a Lu­tyens bench that dou­bles as a trel­lis and be­comes the gar­den’s fo­cal point.

Work­ing with Pierre was an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity to in­cor­po­rate patina into the in­te­rior. The fur­ni­ture isn’t overly com­pli­cated or or­nate, it has a square­ness to it that avoids pas­tiche. From the join­ery to the wax­ing of the oak and the black oil that ac­cen­tu­ates the grain, there’s so much in­ter­est in all of the sur­faces that we’ve used. There’s an hon­esty to the ma­te­ri­als be­cause these pieces have been so made to ex­press the tim­ber in its many dif­fer­ent shapes and forms.

In a way, it’s the wood that served as in­spi­ra­tion through­out the project. From the up­stairs bed­rooms you get these in­cred­i­ble views over the pine trees with their lovely grey and umber bark and virid­ian leaves. I used these colours to in­form the pal­ette of the in­te­rior, cre­at­ing a deeply green ex­pe­ri­ence with shades of sage and pis­ta­chio off­set by a dark rich­ness, which you see com­ing through in the ground-level study. It re­ally makes the house tell a story and shows you its re­la­tion­ship with ev­ery­thing around it. John Jacob In­te­ri­ors john­ja­cobin­te­ri­;

Pierre Cronje pier­

right 17th cen­tury dutch-style art­work in the stair­well be­low a bath­room de­tail op­po­site page one of the up­stairs bed­rooms

the ground­floor study is ex­pressed in mood­ier tones to cre­ate a co­coon­ing ef­fect

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