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
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:
Cape Town city centre’s commanding Mutual Heights building was opened in 1940. Standing at a height of 97m, this Art Deco architectural landmark was originally the headquarters of the South African Mutual Life Assurance Society and was one of the first conversions of an office building for residential use in the CBD.
interior designer Charlotte Collins spearheaded the transformation of this Mutual Heights apartment. Its simple yet striking open-plan living room features black Calabash lights and a Clifford daybed, both from Bofred (bofred.co.za), a coffee table from Tonic Design (tonicdesign.co.za) and a luxuriously textured carpet from Hertex (hertex.co.za), while a houndstooth chair from Onsite Gallery (onsitegallery.co.za), provides a touch of graphic appeal. The mirror comes from a market in the south of France, and the Murano glass dish was snapped up at Russell Kaplan Auctions (rkauctioneers.co.za).
The visually arresting wallpaper behind the custom-made staircase was created from a shot by renowned fashion photographer Ulrich Knoblauch.
Dining furniture from In Situ Design (insitudesign.com) was selected for its clean lines.
An Art Deco ball lamp from Yesteryear Antiques in Joburg keeps company with a chair that was found via Instagram and re-covered in dusty pink fabric, and a Hertex rug and sidetable;
Softer elements such as a vintage-style mirror and glass ashtray lend the apartment a lived-in and homely look.
To bring in a dose of bright, natural green to the living area, Collins used botanical elements such as delicious monster leaves, housed in a giant glass vase.
Punctuated with gentle pastels in the form of a baby blue SMEG fridge (smeg.co.za) and soft pink and blue Le Creuset cookware (lecreuset.co.za), the kitchen is an uncluttered, airy space. Dark metal shelves and the marbletopped kitchen island – both bespoke – offer sharp contrast to the muted tones
The handsome black en suite bathroom showcases a custom-made round mirror, along with gold accents for a luxe feel.
A workspace in the main bedroom employs a sleek black metal table – also from In Situ Design – as a desk.
A simple palette bestows the main bedroom with a tastefully modern aesthetic. The Moore bench positioned at the end of the bed is from Bofred’s Clay collection, and the sunny yellow chair from In Situ Design on the far right adds a hit of colour. Collins discovered the metal sidetable next to the chair in Kalk Bay, and the fan was bought years ago on Rockey Street in Johannesburg.