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With its intuitive mix of international and local design, this Joburg home is a spirited space…

Text Tess Paterson Styling Leana Schoeman Photographs Patrick Toselli

There’s a sound like rolling thunder as two-year-old Max cruises into the living room, his black plastic motorbike speeding across the wooden floors. Asha, his four-year- old sister, is adjusting a string of heart-shaped lights suspended from a cabinet, a pet hamster stashed inside her T-shirt. ‘Of course it had to be child friendly,’ says Johannesburg-based journalist Andrea Nagel of her relaxed and spacious Melville home. ‘The sofa doubles up as a trampoline and jungle gym,’ she explains, patting the durable khaki fabric. ‘I update it with colourful cushions so that it’s not too neutral.’

As a senior features writer for The Times newspaper, as well as an established DJ, Andrea’s schedule is a demanding one, and her home is both a welcoming family space and quietly stylish haven. ‘The house dates back to 1903, and was originally one of two semi-detached, mirror-image buildings,’ she explains. Over the years the two were joined, and the upshot is a home with gracious proportions and far more space than is the norm in this neighbourhood. Flowing onto a sunny north-facing veranda, the open-plan living and dining area has a beautiful view of the Melville Koppies.

Describing her style as ‘completely unplanned,’ Andrea’s discerning eye and love of local art and design is apparent throughout. ‘I was walking past Sue Pam-Grant’s studio down the road and I was instantly drawn to these,’ she says of the two dramatic figure studies in the living room. Lamps and books cover a steel table by Gregor Jenkin; two colourful paintings by friend and artist Wayne Barker hang in the bedroom. One of Andrea’s favourite pieces, a figure study painted by her aunt, artist Helen Joseph, fills the wall above her bed. ‘I have great admiration for South African design, and I think we compete with the best in the world. I also believe that if you know who created the piece, it resonates so much more within your space. And that’s particularly true of art.’

Creating an elegant, almost Paris-apartment feel, the lofty pressed- steel ceilings, original fireplaces and dark timber floors are a perfect foil for Andrea’s instinctive, eclectic decor. ‘It’s a complete mixture,’ she admits, ‘and if I see something I like, I’ll make it work. I just can’t do matching fabrics and wallpaper.’ A huge fan of the Kartell brand, she queued from seven in the morning at a sale to buy the dining-room chairs by the Bouroullec brothers. ‘My home is a mix of classic well-made pieces and more budget items. I love flea markets and second-hand stores; it doesn’t all have to be top of the range,’ she says. Adding bright punches of colour to the neutral shell are patterned kelims, a pair of peacock-blue velvet armchairs and curvaceous pendant lamps by Ferruccio Laviani.

Ceramics are another of Andrea’s passions, and she’s curated deceptively simple still lifes above cabinets and on mantelpieces. ‘I love ceramics, particularly those by John Bauer, where each one tells a story. Lamps are also essential, as are candles or a string of lights. They add a wonderful mood, especially when we have supper on the veranda.’

While this space has both style and flair, it’s above all a family home. ‘We enjoy a totally indoor-outdoor way of living, with plenty of space to run around in,’ says Andrea. ‘It’s a work in progress – the longer we live here, the more it feels like home. And it’s definitely not precious. If Max or Asha want to write on the walls or put stickers on the windows, they’re free to do just that.’

ANDREA’S HOME TRUTHS

The best thing about living where I do is the community feeling in the area. It’s great to be on the doorstep of The Service Station, Black Coffee, Love Books, Suzaan Heyns, Superella and Sue Pam-Grant. I’m permanently broke as a result, but happy.
My favourite room is
my bedroom for its gentleness. There are great views of the Melville Koppies, which glow orange in the early morning, and if you look the other way, the buildings of downtown Joburg look golden at sunset.
I’m drawn to fine ceramics, particularly those of John Bauer whose delicate bowls embossed with lace and mystical figures are artworks that you can put your olives in.
This summer I’ll be
entertaining outdoors – very casual – with great music, delicious food in plentiful amounts, drinks (preferably champagne or cocktails), soft lighting and, most importantly, wonderful people – the more the merrier.
My most rash purchase was a silver vintage Vespa, which I love, but hardly ever use. Who wants to cross Jan Smuts on a Vespa?
I’m always coveting photographs by Marianne Schwankhart, my colleague at The Times, and Thys Dullaart. And I love artists Wayne Barker and Alexandra Ross’ work. They’re my favourite artists worldwide.
My favourite getaway
is Kubu Island in Botswana. An island of baobab trees in the middle of miles of saltpans. It’s surreal, beautiful, secluded and totally remote. It’s the most romantic place I’ve ever been.

This article was originally featured in the November 2011 issue of House and Leisure.