A FRESH BEAT
Eva’s South African home is a refreshing blend of different interior and architectural influences. Get ready to embrace Scandi-meets-african style
Vibrant global influences meet a hit of cool Scandi style in Eva’s architect-designed residence near Johannesburg
eva Kavuma has a new phrase to add to the international interior design lexicon: Scand-african. It’s a look that’s still 100 per cent rooted in its South African setting, but draws elements of Nordic chic into the mix. ‘In the past, the stereotype of African interiors style has been rather overbearing – all chunky “ethnic” furniture and dark wooden masks,’ says Eva. ‘But that’s no longer true. This home shows it can also be light and spare, with clean lines and pale wood – all the things we usually associate with Scandi style.’
Eva’s eye for contemporary art – not to mention a selfconfessed weakness for ‘unique, beautiful and handmade’ pieces that she spots on her extensive travels – is displayed with a calm clarity that is mirrored by the house’s architecture. The property was designed by her good friend Anna Bailey of Claude/bailey architects: ‘Anna understood I wanted something beautiful, simple, easy to maintain – with nothing superfluous,’ says Eva. ‘The concept of Scand-african style gradually evolved as we worked on ideas together,’ she adds. ‘Now it’s finished, I’ll sometimes text her on a Sunday morning just to say, “I love my house”.’
Anna helped bring out the Scandi side, but there was always going to be a rich seam of international influences in this home. ‘I was born in Uganda, but I grew up everywhere,’ explains Eva. ‘I love a lot of different styles and materials and I’ve taken ideas from all the countries I’ve been.’ The list of places Eva has lived reads like a particularly eclectic global tour: England, Kenya, Ethiopia, upstate New York, France, Washington DC and then Johannesburg – plus she regularly travels to Asia and around Africa for work. So, in part, this house was about creating a ‘forever’ home for her and her kids Suubi and Pablo. ‘I wanted my children to have a place that they know is their home, so they have firm roots,’ Eva says. It’s fitting, then, that this eco-sensitive build is also all about the land: the architecture hinges on a long central wall that’s actually built from local rammed earth (aka pisé) and forms the ‘spine’ of the house. The family’s rooms radiate from this ever-present, tactile core. ‘At first glance, it might look like cement, but it feels totally different,’ says Eva. ‘Unlike cement, the earth-rich wall is actually warm to the touch. On another level, it infuses the home with a sense of nurturing. You feel it as soon as you walk in.’
The wall is a gentle granite-grey at its base, but its layers gradually ease into sandier tones at the top, drawing the eye upwards. ‘This is actually one of the smaller houses in the area, but the flow and height of the rooms mean you always feel a sense of freedom and space – and it’s ample for us,’ says Eva.
To add to this free-flowing effect, rooms are interspersed with outdoor courtyards and patios – which means, come sundown, Eva can choose between soaking in the bath or stepping out to shower under the stars. And instead of having anything as prosaic and narrow as corridors – ‘just dead space’ in Eva’s eyes – a large connecting area outside the bedrooms works as a quiet reading nook with a mini library.
In her Scand-african home, Eva isn’t afraid to mix budgets along with cultures, so a traditional Ghanaian stool sits alongside a sink-into sofa from Weylandts (think SA’S answer to West Elm) and Tom Dixon’s Beat pendants are partnered with the madcap upcycled creations of local lighting designer Philippe Bousquet.
Art also adds impact, with paintings that have personal meaning or stories attached to them. ‘I could never buy an artwork as something purely to fill a gap on the wall,’ says Eva. ‘I’m more likely to seek out the artist, fall in love with their story, then fall for their work.’ The bold image of a woman sitting on her haunches in the living room is a case in point. Eva went out of her way to meet the young artist, Ian Mwesiga, while on a trip.
With a brave spirit and a discerning eye, Eva has created a home that combines styles, without diluting the overall effect. ‘Pieces have been collected from different parts of the world – but in this setting, they all make sense together,’ she says. A global gathering, if you like.
See more of Anna Bailey’s work at claudebailey.com
‘this is one of the smaller houses in the area, but the flow and height of the rooms mean you always feel a sense of freedom and space’
bathroom ‘I love collecting fabrics and these little stacks under the basins contrast with the concrete,’ says Eva. Get the look The base unit is cast in eco cement by Afrisam.
master bedroom The lofty proportions continue in the bedrooms, where rafters intersect the earth-rich wall and natural shades add texture. Get the look The painting Pablo K on His Bicycle is by Joël Mpah Dooh of Eva’s son. The lamp is by Philippe...
outdoor shower A courtyard beyond Eva’s en suite gives her the option of enjoying an open-air shower. Get the look The stool is from the Ivory Coast.
dining area Bruce Clarke created the artwork. ‘His moving pieces explore communities that have gone through genocide, including Rwanda,’ says Eva. Get the look The artwork is by Bruce Clarke. The console is by Gregor Jenkin. The table is from...
kitchen Kitchen materials include sustainable bamboo, marble and a screed flooring. ‘The flooring throughout is a base palette that I can play around with, adding mats, hides or jute weaves, depending on the season,’ says Eva.
window seat Interesting nooks and spaces are interspersed throughout the house. Suubi hangs out and reads in this spot. Get the look The cupboards are made from recycled timber.
dining area Dining chairs criss-crossed with leather strips echo traditional weaving techniques, recast around contemporary outlines. Get the look The dining chairs are from Weylandts.
living area ‘My look isn’t all about hulking pieces of dark carved wood – it’s subtle and spare too,’ says Eva. Get the look The sofa is from Weylandts. The stools are from the Ivory Coast and Ghana. The artwork is by Ian Mwesiga.
living area ‘These armchairs are so deep, you have no choice but to lean back and relax,’ says Eva. A tall-chimneyed contemporary wood burner emphasises the soaring height of the space. Get the look The wood burner is by Morsø. The armchairs are from...
hallway Corridors feel like wasted opportunities for Eva, so the space outside the bedrooms is lined with shelves for books, artefacts and family photographs.
view to entrance hall ‘Rather than cold concrete, the wall is made primarily from rammed soil – far more natural,’ says Eva. This wall acts as the spine of the house. Get the look This is the Beat pendant by Tom Dixon.
Front door This home shows ‘how designs from different cultures can work together,’ says Eva, welcoming guests through an intricately carved wood door sourced from India.
deck A traditional seating pit is where Eva sits for her morning coffee and means the view from the living area isn’t blocked by furniture.