Tristan du Plessis’ Home is the Epitome of Pared-Back Glamour
With its predominantly black palette and chic additions, the Joburg home of interior designer Tristan du Plessis reflects his professional aesthetic.
It’s only been four years since designer (and 2018 House and Leisure Next Level alumnus) Tristan du Plessis founded his design house Studio A, but his fiercely glamorous aesthetic is already causing a serious stir in the industry. From richly detailed spaces like the newly completed Alice & Fifth private club in Sandton to more laidback – but no less luxurious – residential spaces, he’s arguing for a sumptuous simplicity that’s hard to find elsewhere.
The Johannesburg-born designer, who just turned 30, started his career as an intern at a construction company, where he was quickly promoted to design director. Since stepping out on his own five years later, his fledgling practice Studio A has grown into a thriving firm that is, at the time of publishing, operating in nine cities around the world. As well as taking on multiple design projects in South Africa at the moment, Tristan du Plessis has also just moved house from a downtown loft to this new place in the Joburg suburbs.
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After extensive renovations, his new house in the ‘village’ of Parkhurst has become a more inward-looking interpretation of his professional work – but it is just as spectacular. His overhaul of the three-bedroom property combines lessons from his commercial projects with what he loved about inner-city apartment living: Tristan du Plessis has taken the brass, glass and industrial-style open spaces and incorporated them into a suburban setting where his knack for dramatic colour and graphic lines meets natural, more homely elements.
‘Essentially, when I’m doing professional work, I design for an audience’s experience. But at home, I’m just filling the space with things I love and enjoy, which I think everyone should do,’ he says. ‘What makes it different to the way I designed my old apartment is that you have more freedom in a house to create a holistic experience because you aren’t bound by the body corporate or the other residents. So you have the opportunity to do anything you can imagine.’
Architecturally, the house plan rotates around a courtyard with its walls painted pitch black, and both the public and private areas open up onto the pool located at the courtyard’s centre. This dramatic, moody backdrop connects seamlessly to the interiors, which have also been built up from a dark palette – a feeling, Tristan du Plessis explains, that he’s become ‘at home with’ from his work designing high-end South African nightclubs such as Sumo, Harem and Taboo.
‘A dark palette is difficult at first if you don’t understand what it’s being used for,’ he says. ‘What I’ve learnt from designing nightclubs for the past five years is that you’re setting a stage for the light. That’s why it’s important to make sure you have enough natural light if you’re using it in a residential environment, and to make sure that your design makes the best use of the lights themselves.’
This play between dark and light moves throughout the interiors of his home. Hidden LED strips in the kitchen, for instance – tucked behind a giant piece of black marble at the back of black-glass cabinet doors, and below black veneer cupboards – create an entirely different atmosphere in the space when they are switched on. They move the interior away from the domestic into high-end restaurant territory, immediately bringing the home back to the pleasure of the food spaces Tristan du Plessis has been responsible for, like the interior of the new FYN restaurant in Cape Town.
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The all-black-everything kitchen was literally lifted from the showroom floor after debuting at Design Joburg 2018, where Tristan du Plessis collaborated with kitchen specialists blu_line, as well as Streamlight, True Design, Moroso and Diesel Living. ‘Nobody wants to be stuck in a small kitchen, facing the wall, with no interaction with your guests or family. So I approached the kitchen design as a space that should promote sociability,’ he says. Today, it’s the home’s locus, flowing outdoors to the deck in one direction and to the living room in the other, while also connecting to a meditation garden at the property’s rear.
In addition, the back end of the house has just become the new home of the Studio A office, an open-plan work-space where his team is preparing to launch projects like the forthcoming Italian design hotel Chapter Roma, a new restaurant in Bahrain called Clay, the Americano bar in Dubai, and a whole slew of other big-budget hospitality projects. Tristan du Plessis has brought his work life into his home life, but it’s a natural extension of who he is. ‘I don’t separate what I do from who I am,' he says. 'My work and I are one story, and I’m excited for the next chapter.’