Mark Stillerman’s passion in life is to buy old buildings − both blocks of flats and businesses – in Johannesburg’s inner city and turn them into affordable accommodation. ‘I think about how people are living and I want to make it more comfortable and homely for them,’ he says. He applied the same principles to his own compact flat in Melrose, which he bought on auction, but with a slightly edgier look in mind.
Although the double-volume apartment originally had a mezzanine level, Mark believed the space could be used more effectively, which is why he asked architect Jason Berchowitz to help. He wanted to create a second room in the loft area, and have both spaces adjoined by a bridge. Aimee Henning of Malica Design was recommended by Jason and brought in to make the home more liveable. Her brief was simple − ‘an industrial, contemporary space’ − and she was pretty much given free rein.
To add on another 20-odd square metres to the original 100m2 footprint, the orientation of the staircase to the mezzanine was turned around, allowing for two areas to be created upstairs linked by a steel and timber walkway. ‘I saw something similar in a hotel in Israel,’ explains Aimee. ‘As soon as I saw Mark’s flat, I knew it would work, and I particularly like that the partition has made a feature out of something that could have been quite mundane,’ she adds. Strategically hanging various mirrors on the walls makes the upstairs area feel even bigger.
‘My style is modern and edgy but still conservative, and I feel that the interiors in my flat really reflect this. I love that the overall look is modern with vintage touches.’- Mark Stillerman, homeowner
The new addition to the mezzanine level in turn drove the industrial look and feel of the flat. The pitched ceiling upstairs was more suited to a seated area, so the natural evolution of the extension was to have the lounge on one side of the bridge, flanked by Mark’s study on the other. The bonus is that the bridge also created a physical divide between these rooms. From that point, everything else Aimee chose was to make the most out of the
Another design triumph was staining the existing pine flooring upstairs in a grey hue so that it worked with the rest of the house. ‘It was an inexpensive way to make the most of the pine, plus it created a modern twist on something that often looks quite dated,’ explains Aimee. The challenge with an industrial contemporary look is that it can feel cold and stark, but this was easily remedied.
The CreteCote floor and existing tongue-and-groove primed wooden floor on the mezzanine level were juxtaposed with heavy pile carpeting, which transformed the bedroom into a ‘plush hotel room’ – exactly what Mark had asked for. As the aesthetic was quite masculine, Aimee intentionally kept the upholstery in the bedroom soft, adding a shot of yellow to lift the mostly grey palette.
‘I love the warmth that’s created by the carpets in the bedroom – it adds texture,’ says Mark, who also converted the second bedroom into a luxe walk-in closet. To tie everything together and enlarge the space visually, Aimee utilised light colours and light wood.
Aimee wanted the space to showcase Mark’s personality – passionate and edgy – but still ‘bring out the refined side of industrial’ in the individual items she chose. As the budget was fixed, she spent money on luxurious touches for the bedroom and bathroom, including the shower, which she custom-designed. The furniture, much of which came from Amatuli, allowed the contemporary look to be accented with robust undertones – but two key pieces came from Mark himself: the desk in his study, which is something he found on one of his sites, and the bold photo of the Joburg skyline taken by him and blown up, bringing him back to the city he loves and the spaces he works on.
Originally published in HL March 2015