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.
'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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.