Architect Christoff Steyn's Compact Home is All About the Art

Bold colour choices and a water-themed art collection make this petite Bloemfontein home teem with sizeable character.

Micky Hoyle
Compact Home | House and Leisure
‘I have a thing for chairs,’ says Christoff Steyn, the owner of this 90m² townhouse in Bloemfontein. His beech-and-aluminium table is paired with Harry Bertoia side chairs for Knoll and a Louis 20 chair by Philippe Starck for Vitra. Artworks by Andrzej Urbanski (left) and Jaco Benade (right) decorate the living area’s walls in Plascon’s Bovine grey, while a Cecil Skotnes linocut hangs in the central passageway.


'Because I’m quite a big person, I tend to design big things,’ explains 2m-tall Bloemfontein architect Christoff Steyn by way of introducing his home’s interiors. Despite its 90m², the townhouse in the city’s newly developed northern suburbs comfortably accommodates three bedrooms while maintaining a generous sense of living space, partly thanks to a hefty couch he’s custom-designed, and a substantial beechwood door he’s transformed into a dining room table on sturdy aluminium legs.

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Beneath 'Waterweë', the large pastel artwork by Hanneke Benadé, Christoff's dogs Kyli and Xander lounge on the custom couch by Cinnamon Originals. The large floor rug is from HAUS by Hertex.


How to make a compact home really pack a punch: add some art

When it comes to grandeur in this compact home, it’s the 2.1m-long artwork by Hanneke Benadé presiding over a brown leather couch that packs the biggest punch. ‘I’d seen “Waterweë” at Oliewenhuis [Bloemfontein’s esteemed art museum] while I was still a student,’ Christoff says of the pastel painting depicting a linen-draped man lying in bath, which formed part of the Cape Town artist’s 2011 solo show. ‘It stuck in my mind, so when I began collecting art three years later and emailed Hanneke about any available work, I discovered that “Waterweë” had never been sold.’

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Christoff’s open-plan social space is made for entertaining.


It’s the first thing that catches the eye when entering the compact home, right before Christoff’s Italian greyhounds Kyli and Xander greet visitors – most often dinner guests. ‘I have a lot of foodie friends,’ Christoff says, ‘and because the restaurant scene in Bloemfontein is limited, we live around our kitchens a lot more.’ In his case, the kitchen from which he serves Yotam Ottolenghi favourites opens up to the living areas, making for interactive dining occasions amid his considered collection of art, design and decor pieces.

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As an architectural interior retail specialist at leading architecture firm Roodt Architects, Christoff boasts a significant portfolio that includes having worked on hotels, a radio station, the residence of the Free State premier and the preservation of historic buildings such as the Fourth Raadzaal, while also designing store interiors and currently undertaking the renovation of a mall.

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Plascon’s Moody Blue paint hue provides a backdrop for works by Willem Boshoff (top left) and Johan Steyn (bottom row), as well as Christoff’s travel photos. On the table beneath them, a Lunar sugar jar from the Cosmic Diner collection by Diesel Living with Seletti gleams alongside a charming Ritzenhoff Private Hero collectable by Dominic Pangborn.
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The study is home to a zigzagging Jieldé lamp by Jean-Louis Domecq and a Marcel Breuer chair once owned by Bloemfontein architect Bannie Britz. Artworks gifted to Christoff include a picture by Caroline Gibello (left) and a work by Keenan Julies (centre).


Christoff calls this compact home a temporary ‘in-between situation’, and dreams of building his own house in the future. But for now, he is content in this townhouse format, having turned one of the bedrooms into a study. ‘It never feels small,’ he says, looking around from one feature wall to another. ‘It’s a little box, but by using different bold paint colours, it looks bigger.’ Changing the walls to Plascon’s Bovine grey, and painting one living room wall in Moody Blue and a bedroom wall in teal Caribbean Current, Christoff has created floor-to-ceiling breadths of visual interest, carefully curating his artworks to converse with each surface.


‘A friend once pointed out that a lot of my art pieces are connected to water in some way,’ he smiles, admiring the blue walls that enhance this theme. His collection fills this compact home, and complements ‘Waterweë’ by including work by Pretoria artist Jaco Benade – of an empty swimming pool – and a seascape by Mallorca-based South African artist Johan Steyn, as well as a Cecil Skotnes linocut from his Wolraad Woltemade series, referencing the hero who died on horseback while saving shipwrecked sailors in Table Bay.

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Xander spreads himself across Christoff’s bed, whose white linen and mustard scatter cushions complement the accent wall in Plascon’s Caribbean Current.


In Christoff’s bedroom, a black vinyl cutout of an artwork by contemporary British artist Julian Opie, acquired during a trip to New York, is the focal point. He also turned his first-ever art purchase into a striking wall detail above his bed by sticking the work – featuring a reclining human figure that almost looks as if it is basking in seaside sun – onto white-wrapped MDF boards. Christoff pulls out his phone to show the next acquisition he has an eye on – a blue panelled work by Cape Town artist Morné Visagie. ‘But that’s going to need a bigger wall,’ he muses. A compact home can be a wonderful thing, but sometimes size definitely does matter.

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Christoff and Xander – who is described as having ‘a small footprint but a big heart’ – stand to the left of a Multilamp by Emanuele Magini for Seletti.
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Eclectic touches are present throughout the home, as seen on the server with its Inception dish rack by Luca Nichetto for Seletti and ‘Snooty’ (2014) laser-cut steel artwork by Marius Jansen van Vuuren.


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