Deco in the City

An underwhelming city pad underwent a complete overhaul to reveal a contemporary space that is the ideal lock-up-and-go

Greg Cox, Valentina Nicol, Styling Chrizanda Botha


Positioned on the third floor of the imposing Mutual Heights building in the heart of Cape Town’s Darling Street, the luxe apartment of a city homeowner is a striking example of how a relatively small space can be cleverly – and beautifully – transformed. Not only did interior designer Charlotte Collins create a handsome yet warm and welcoming space for her client, but she also made sure the building’s exceptional Art Deco heritage was honoured. The result is an airy pied-à-terre that features many bespoke elements in a 125m² mezzanine space.

The assignment was anything but a simple lick and polish. Collins, of design studio Tidal Sea Properties, specialises in property renovations from construction through to interiors and styling. It was with this in mind that the apartment’s owner briefed her to transform what Collins describes as a ‘beige box’ into a fashionable and modern urban refuge. ‘I had 28 days to gut the entire apartment, and renovate and furnish it,’ says Collins, who adds that the home at that stage still had all its original fittings.


‘From melamine peach bathrooms to a matching melamine beige kitchen, there was no character whatsoever,’ she says. And she had relative carte blanche: ‘He wanted a high-end apartment with bespoke features on a budget, and was amazing to work with as he totally trusted me – I was left to just get on with it!’ she says enthusiastically. ‘While this is the best kind of client,’ she adds, ‘the more faith they have in you, the more the pressure is on to make the space amazing.’

The results are simply gorgeous. The serious wow factor comes from selected look-at-me features, explains Collins. ‘I think the standout piece in the apartment is the artwork on the staircase: a photograph taken by renowned fashion photographer Ulrich Knoblauch that I had made into a wallpaper.’ Other eye-catching pieces include the Moore bench by local design firm Bofred, which stands at the foot of the bed in the main suite. ‘I love this piece as it seems to take on the character of wherever it’s used,’ says Collins. ‘And in this particular case the bench took on an Art Deco feel, which is not its [ostensible] style at all.’

The two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment also features the building’s signature double-volume windows in the living area, which, as Collins discovered, are actually framed in brass – revealed after a deep clean removed years of oxidation and dirt. ‘They add such character and are what would have been essentially part of someone’s office back in the day,’ she says.

With regard to Mutual Heights’ iconic architectural status in Cape Town, Collins certainly paid homage to the era wherever possible. ‘Just alluding to the [building’s] history with small elements like the aged mirror behind the heavy industrial shelving really took the apartment from its beige-box status to something way more glamorous.’ The result is a sophisticated space that exudes liveable luxury for a busy, modern man about town.

To view more images of this home, browse the gallery below: