The Jo’burg apart­ment of dec­o­ra­tor dean van aswe­gen is a mas­ter­stroke in edgy, mono­chrome in­te­ri­ors

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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.

TEXT JU­LIA FREEMANTLE PRO­DUC­TION DEAN VAN ASWE­GEN PHO­TOGRAPHS ELSA YOUNG

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

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