De­signer Dicey du Toit’s abode in Port El­iz­a­beth com­bines sen­sual tex­tures with washes of colour


When Dicey and Tom du Toit swapped their Bauhaus home in Paarl, in the heart of South Africa’s Cape Winelands, for a 1970s house on the south­ern coast of the coun­try in Port El­iz­a­beth, it came with some cel­e­bra­tion for Dicey. The self-taught de­signer and dec­o­ra­tor was re­lieved that she could fi­nally al­low her own in­te­rior style to flour­ish. ‘Tom is an en­gi­neer, so he loved the Paarl house,’ she says of their former home, which was built by Lud­wig Mies van der Rohe pro­tégé Pius Pahl, the last ar­chi­tect to qual­ify at the Bauhaus, Ger­many’s in­flu­en­tial art and de­sign school. ‘It was an enor­mous glass house with only three solid walls. It was all about clean spa­ces, min­i­mal­ism and no clut­ter.’

Liv­ing in an all-white Bauhaus abode was some­thing of a shock to Dicey’s senses, which are in­stinc­tively drawn to colours and tex­tures. ‘ Noth­ing I loved fit­ted in there,’ she says, ex­plain­ing how new fur­ni­ture had to be se­lected to com­ple­ment the iconic ar­chi­tec­ture. ‘I had to re­design my­self to live in the space.’

When Tom opened an in­jec­tion-mould­ing com­pany just out­side Port El­iz­a­beth, it was a wel­come op­por­tu­nity to re­lo­cate and start play­ing house again – this time in a style more at­tuned to Dicey’s Ja­panese-in­flu­enced ap­proach to in­te­rior de­sign and ar­chi­tec­ture. The three-bed­room home on the edge of the Baak­ens Val­ley na­ture re­serve pro­vided the nat­u­ral set­ting that wel­comed her sen­si­bil­ity for stim­u­lat­ing sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ences.

Dicey’s work as an ar­chi­tec­tural her­itage spe­cial­ist helped her to in­stantly recog­nise the op­por­tu­ni­ties abound­ing in this old-new home, call­ing for a com­plete over­haul of the in­te­rior while re­spect­ing and main­tain­ing the mas­ter plan of the struc­ture. ‘It was be­ing used as a guest­house when we bought it,’ she says, point­ing out var­i­ous rooms that were for­merly closed up to one an­other. The home proved dif­fi­cult to nav­i­gate in this it­er­a­tion, with awk­ward twists and turns, and no nat­u­ral flow. It was im­prac­ti­cal, suf­fo­cat­ing and dark.


De­signer-dec­o­ra­tor Dicey du Toit; the koi, which Dicey views as ‘a liv­ing paint­ing’, were in­her­ited from the house’s pre­vi­ous own­ers. A bridge built over the pond runs from the front door to the back kitchen en­trance; lead­ing to the for­mal lounge is the din­ing room – through shutters in­serted in the en­try­ways, the spa­ces main­tain el­e­ments of pri­vacy and warmth. A rug from Wey­landts (wey­ was placed per­pen­dic­u­lar to the lay­out of the rec­tan­gu­lar Gre­gor Jenkin ta­ble (gre­gor­ ‘Shapes can do a lot for an in­te­rior,’ says Dicey; painted brick­work in the en­trance porch and pas­sage­way lends tex­ture to the in­te­ri­ors, as does the mo­hair skin on the bench, a prod­uct of Port El­iz­a­beth. The server on the far right was de­signed by The Col­lec­tion Stu­dio, and the pit-fired ce­ramic vase stand­ing on it is by Port El­iz­a­bethan pot­ter Donve Branch (don­ve­

It took Tom knock­ing on a wall for them to re­alise that many of the in­te­rior struc­tures were just dry­walling and, by bash­ing these down, they re­vealed the ex­pan­sive pas­sage­way that links the en­tire home. ‘That’s when it made sense to me,’ says Dicey ex­cit­edly. ‘Sud­denly the house had breath­ing space.’

Con­nect­ing spa­ces by way of wooden shutters that can re­main open for con­stant in­ter­ac­tion, or be closed to cre­ate cosy pri­vate nooks, the home’s fluid flow is an ode to the Ja­panese phi­los­o­phy of func­tional move­ment re­sult­ing in per­sonal com­fort. The Du Toits in­ter­act around the orig­i­nal axis, each end be­ing vis­i­ble to the other, while the pas­sage­way peeks into var­i­ous liv­ing and work rooms. These in turn all lead to an out­door deck, which over­looks the ver­dant val­ley. The en­trance porch and kitchen were both opened up to the koi pond, and a bridge was built to link these front and back doors of the home.

As the owner of The Col­lec­tion Stu­dio, a decor and in­te­rior-de­sign prac­tice lo­cated in Port El­iz­a­beth’s pop­u­lar Rich­mond Hill, Dicey de­signs fur­ni­ture, tex­tiles, ceram­ics and wall­pa­per, match­ing these to client briefs. For her own home, she wished to cre­ate an is­land feel of re­lax­ation and ‘go with the flow’, and the sen­sory ques­tion­naire she usu­ally poses to clients worked well for this per­sonal project. ‘I al­ways ask things like “What noises make you happy? What tex­ture do you like? Do you en­joy me-time?”,’ she says.

Want­ing the sounds and tex­tures of na­ture to be part of their ev­ery­day life, she en­sured that all the rooms led to an out­door area, with the sounds of koi feed­ing in the pond or trees rustling al­ways within earshot. Lay­er­ing these sen­sa­tions with mo­hair rugs, vel­vet so­fas, Cem­crete floors and white-painted brick walls, the re­sult is a home that speaks of its own­ers’ love of au­di­tory, vis­ual and tex­tu­ral per­cep­tions.

The fur­nish­ings are a mix of old and new. A Gre­gor Jenkin din­ing ta­ble that Dicey had been eye­ing be­came a birth­day gift from Tom when they moved into the new house. It’s sur­rounded by orig­i­nal Vi­tra Pan­ton chairs, which trav­elled with them from their Paarl home. A Le Cor­bus­ier lounger that was Dicey’s 40th birth­day present rests

in the sun­room, while the for­mal lounge is filled with be­spoke pieces from The Col­lec­tion Stu­dio. This room of greens and blues is where Dicey’s ap­pli­ca­tion of vi­brant tones re­ally comes to life. ‘We see colour out­side in na­ture, so why not bring it in­side?’ she asks.

And it’s not just colour that has been brought in­doors; the plants have come in too, with ev­ery room hous­ing an abun­dance of pot plants. ‘A plant can be­come your best in­te­rior-de­sign fea­ture,’ she says. ‘They grow and change and are never stag­nant.’

Hav­ing felt that her pre­vi­ous home left her with no room for in­no­va­tion, Dicey has used her new space to ex­per­i­ment with green­ery, paint, fabric and floor­ing, cre­at­ing a home that looks, smells, sounds and feels just right. thecol­lec­tion­stu­

Dicey’s ap­pre­ci­a­tion of Ja­panese phi­los­o­phy is ev­i­dent in her book col­lec­tion. The sculp­ture, made by Mag­daleen while still at school, is one of Dicey’s favourite ob­jects; a cane arm­chair bought from a Malaw­ian in PE breaks from the vel­vet for­mal­ity in the liv­ing area. Along­side is an heir­loom cabi­net made for Dicey’s Ital­ian grand­mother by Ital­ian pris­on­ers of war dur­ing WWII; Cem­crete-coated bath­room walls and floors off­set the shade of green flank­ing the win­dows. The cane chair was bought at Colo­nial An­tiques ( Colo­nial An­tiques) and the san­i­tary ware is by Hans­grohe (hans­ A re­design of the main bed­room did away with the orig­i­nal walk-in cup­board, open­ing it up to be­come a soft and com­fort­able space. The nar­row win­dows on ei­ther side of the bed were placed dur­ing the re­fur­bish­ment, so that glimpses of the green­ery could be en­joyed. The ot­toman, head­board, felt throw and cush­ions were de­signed by The Col­lec­tion Stu­dio, and the re­uphol­stered vel­vet chair was a gift from Dicey’s fa­ther to her mother when she was born. T HIS PAGE, CLOCK­WISE F ROM LEFT OP­PO­SITE PAGE

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