It’s easy to see why Jason Ray fell in love with this light-filled Clifton apartment. From the moment you step into the 70m2 space you’re hit by the crisp scent of briny ocean and the beautiful vistas beyond. But despite the pitch-perfect panoramas of the Atlantic Seaboard, this is no typical beach house: ‘There’s not one cream thing in sight,’ laughs Jason, owner of advertising agency Radar, who sought the expertise of seasoned interior designer, and director of JP inc. Communications, Jean-Pierre de la Chaumette to turn the small spot into a home that maximized on spatial planning and exuded style. We asked Jason and Jean-Pierre to get together and talk about the development of this coastal abode, a home that’s as cool and cosy as it is contemporary.
Jean-Pierre de la Chaumette: Have you always lived in Cape Town? How did you come to find this place in Clifton?
Jason Ray: I grew up in Dorset in the UK. At 23, I came here and fell in love with post-1994 South Africa. It was so very different from anything I’d experienced before. As for the Clifton apartment, I found it by complete chance. I was on a Sunday drive and drove past the show day board. I walked in and it wasn’t love at first sight. It was pink and damp and very small. However, I stood on the balcony and took in the vista and thought, I think I have found it.
J-P: In my mind the living room is the epicentre of this home. Which area do you love the most?
JASON: I love the patio. Besides the stunning sea views, I love sitting and watching the people bustle below. It’s noisy here. I like that. I like to be around people on the move… a skateboarder here and a cyclist there.
J-P: Is there one particular piece – art, furniture or otherwise – that you are most drawn to in your home?
JASON: I have a painting of my dog Mac that I treasure. It was painted from a photograph and given as a gift. I vividly remember taking the photograph and, of course I just love my dog. The other thing I really like is that so much of the furniture was knocking about the store room. It just needed to be dusted off and then reupholstered, and so forth. I love that almost nothing is new in the apartment.
J-P: How does it compare to other places you’ve lived in?
JASON: Two firsts: it’s the first apartment I’ve ever lived in and it’s the smallest. It was challenging at first – did I mention that my dog is a bullmastiff? – but mostly because small spaces require discipline. I have grown to love that.
J-P: We’ve worked together on your living/work space in Maboneng and your offices in Bo-Kaap. Obviously they are worlds apart, but what do you like best about the Maboneng and Bo-Kaap spaces?
JASON: Maboneng allows me to experience a city life that is crammed full of creativity. The precinct inspires me and I like being in downtown Jozi. The space is a big industrial loft with a view of a derelict building that is home to hundreds of pigeons. It’s beautifully gritty and I dread the day that it’s renovated. As for Rose Street in the Bo-Kaap, the first record of the building is in 1817 when it was a wooden Clog Factory, so it is steeped in history. The building has always housed artisans and artists so it’s a privilege to have our creative studio there. This building was definitely love at first sight.
J-P: So how does Clifton compare or fit into the mix?
JASON: Clifton is the antithesis to the rest of the properties. It feels like I am on holiday when I am there – the best way to feel in your own home!
J-P: Has your career in advertising influenced your personal style?
JASON: Being exposed to different creative influences makes you open to change and new stuff. I think my job has made me less afraid of experimenting. I’ve also realised the importance of finding people that you like working with and trusting them with an open brief. I would like to think that I don’t prescribe the outcome and I love the surprise of that.
J-P: You’re an avid art collector. How did an interest in the arts manifest for you?
JASON: It started about 10 years ago whilst in an edit for a TV commercial. Stacked up against a wall was a collection of pieces by Cameron Platter. I immediately bought one – this piece is called ‘Showdown’ from a series called My BM is Bigger than Yours. I proudly took it home and hid the price tag away. That was the start. Since then, I’ve been fortunate enough to be friends with a curator of one of this country’s most prestigious galleries. Knowing the depth (or should it be shallowness) of my pockets, he takes me to a lot of underground galleries. He exposes me to young raw talent that allows me to afford another piece and fill the walls of the agency… and every so often my home. The collection is contemporary and South African and rather mad. It’s hard to define it.
J-P: Is there any particular artist or artwork you can’t wait to add to your collection?
JASON: Sculpture really interests me at the moment. I am going to leave the ‘framed’ and start exploring that.
J-P: What does colour mean to you?
JASON: Did I tell you I am from Dorset?! Growing up, our house was always neutral and painted in the creamiest shade of magnolia – and still is. I wanted my spaces to be full of color and not to take themselves too seriously. I don’t wear a suit at work and don’t want to wear one at home either.
J-P: The most important thing with the design was to create an idiosyncratic space that represented your personality. Would you have done anything differently?
JASON: No this was perfect for this apartment. I like the little surprises and the fact that things are slightly off-centre. I also like the fact that its not a typical beach apartment. And there’s not one cream thing in sight.
J-P: That’s really poignant considering the large cream sofa that used to dominate the living room. We managed to rid you of your cream childhood crush – so what’s your favourite colour right now?
JASON: It’s probably not fashionable but I like two colors very much at the moment: the green of the interior at Hemelhuijs restaurant and a deep mustard, which you recognised in the armchair in the lounge.
J-P: In curating this space I was inspired by your willingness to take bold risks. What inspires you in your living space?
JASON: I always think that one should not be scared to play. Homes are supposed to evolve. I have lived in so many different places and in different styles, and I like that. I don’t want furniture and things for life. This suits me right now and is perfect for this apartment. The next one will be different. I am still finding my style but maybe the joy is that I don’t have to settle for one. The one enduring thing however, is the funny feeling I get when I find another Mid-century piece!
J-P: Trust that feeling!
J-P: What are your criteria when choosing an interior designer?
JASON: This is the third project we have done together in as many years – and we’re about to start the fourth. That says a lot. I chose someone like you you because it doesn’t feel like work. We have complete trust between us. My loose briefs are treated exactly like that. I love that there is no ‘client pandering’. We speak plainly and often – that’s the key I think. In all three projects there has only been one thing I have not liked. <Laughs> This is the first time I am telling you this.
J-P: What didn’t you like? Nobody wants to make the same mistake twice!
JASON: There were two pieces of art you bought that didn’t quite resonate with me. This made me realise that you can’t always ‘outsource’ the acquisition of art. They’re by no means offensive but it did make me realise how subjective art is and that, in this particular case, I should’ve been more involved.
J-P: Well, lesson learnt for both of us then.
J-P: Even though we’re in Clifton, the home doesn’t have that typical Clifton feel. Is that something you intentionally wanted to achieve?
JASON: Yes, absolutely consciously. I also don’t do a fast walk nor am I permanently tanned.
J-P: We worked with Peter van Wyk from Maxim Project Management on some small renovations that made a big impact in the apartment. What aspects stand out as being successful in making this small apartment work even better for you?
JASON: Besides having a great aesthetic eye, Peter is also about the details, which is important in a small space where imperfections have nowhere to hide. Most of all, he was committed to listening to us. He came up with some genius ideas for the flooring and the bathroom that made a big impact on making this small space work well for me. The wet-room inspired bathroom makes better use of the diminutive space while the use of the same flooring application throughout the apartment, including the patio, opens up the space even more. I felt that after the work he did on our Rose Street offices he was the perfect partner for this project.
J-P: I can imagine summertime here will be spent on this balcony. How do you like to spend summer holidays?
JASON: I like to be disconnected from my laptop and preferably a phone – that’s a holiday. Just throw in a remote spot, some adventure, and people that are easy to travel with and that’s a good holiday for me. I am aiming to achieve all that without leaving my apartment this summer.
J-P: What do you enjoy most about working with an interior designer like me?
JASON: It’s always fun but purposeful. We both expose ourselves to try new things. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Oh and of course, I love that you don’t ask permission. I know that there will be a whole bunch of things that I’ll only see at the end, and it’s always a good surprise.
J-P: I think it’s good not to be in your comfort zone all the time – I am happy that we pushed ourselves. Do you recall me having a huff when you arrived prematurely at the apartment while I was in the middle of doing final styling for the reveal?
JASON: How could I forget? <Laughs> You locked me out of my apartment! I had to go and while away a few hours while you put the whole thing together. I am never doing that again… offering to help with a bottle of wine, I mean!
J-P: What’s the best thing about Cape Town for you?
Orginally published in HL December 2016.