Van der Merwe and the family realised early on that the rooms would stand fairly pared-back furnishing because of the ‘rich surface, materiality and details’ of the house itself. The white interiors brought to mind early 20th-century Scandinavian schemes, and the light, functional furniture that revealed the first rumblings of modernism. They decided to take their cue from the simplicity and purity of those early designs, but skipped forward a few decades and revisited the same principle in its more contemporary manifestations.
Sticking with Scandinavia, and contrasting the furnishings with the ornamentation in the architectural detailing, Van der Merwe and the family selected pieces with strong sculptural, contemporary forms. The likes of Hans J Wegner’s Colonial Chair and Frits Henningsen’s Heritage Chair for Carl Hansen & Søn, with its seductively curved, body-hugging form, made for a harmonious contrast with the home’s historical features. The family also commissioned a number of custom-made pieces from Tonic Design, such as the solid, asymmetrical ‘slightly freeform’ dining table. These were supplemented with other examples of local, clean-lined design, such as a cabinet by Dokter and Misses.
‘Then you can add contemporary art,’ says Van der Merwe, drawing attention to works by artists such as Andrzej Urbanski and Peter Eastman. Additional colour was added to the fairly neutral base of greys, with soft blues and greens in the furnishings.
The clean minimalism of the interiors ends up enhancing the building’s features, contrasting with them rather than competing, and at once honouring the past while giving it a new lease on life more than a century after it was built. tonicdesign.co.za