Neutral tones and vibrant accents complement one another perfectly in the Fourways home of branding expert Sylvester Chauke.
Visit the Contemporary, Art-Filled Joburg Home of Advertising Pioneer Sylvester Chauke
'I grew up in a very colourful home in Protea North in Soweto. My mother’s house is cream and beige, with a red wall there, brown floors, a red floor here… and every time I visit, I tell her it’s too much. I always say, “Let’s paint the walls grey!” and she always screams, “No ways!”’ laughs Sylvester Chauke, founder of pioneering agency DNA Brand Architects.
Sylvester’s current home in Fourways in Johannesburg is the complete opposite of his childhood abode. The well-considered entrance sets the tone for a contemporary and completely renovated space, and features grey walls, a blue Dokter and Misses lamp, a leather and velvet armchair, and a vase of leafy foliage balanced on a wooden sidetable – all perfectly offset by a giant Nelson Makamo painting.
Sylvester shares the space with his husband Tumelo Mmusi, a brand manager, and their three dogs Xiluva, Nyiko and Muschka. The double-storey house is in a quiet corner of a charming residential estate close to the countryside, but despite Sylvester immediately connecting with the property four years ago, he was unconvinced by the neighbourhood.
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‘It was the house that made me accept the suburb,’ he explains. ‘I never thought Fourways was the area for me – there was no Tashas or Exclusive Books close by – but since moving here, there has been lots of interesting development happening. It’s much like when I lived on the farm side of Fourways, and they were still busy building conveniences like Montecasino and Design Quarter.’
The architectural bones of the house were good (and non-traditional enough for it to be appealing to him) but Sylvester says he changed pretty much everything else before moving in. ‘It just needed a more modern feel,’ he adds. The colour scheme in the house is predominantly grey, with a dark concrete floor, smoke-toned kitchen cabinetry and walls painted in a dove-grey shade.
This bold use of a single colour sets a base tone for the entire house, from where Sylvester adds colourful touches and layered texture. There’s tan leather furniture, romantic velvets, white bedding, and glass and chrome surfaces, as well as regular pops of bright red and turquoise accessories throughout, which help lift the neutral background. ‘But,’ Sylvester warns, ‘the base needs to be calm and cool for it to work.’
Luckily, Sylvester Chauke and Tumelo Mmusi very much share the same aesthetic when it comes to style and decor. ‘Tumelo brings in the light, always sliding the doors wide open to give you a feeling of living in a bigger, very airy space,’ he says.’ For Sylvester, it’s Johannesburg itself that brings constant inspiration – both in decor and in life. ‘I love Johannesburg,’ he says. ‘Growing up in Soweto, the city was such an aspirational place. A trip to town always came with new clothes or a takeaway from Chicken Licken. I love the hustle and bustle, the diversity, the colour, languages and cultures, and the people it brings together. You’re forced to interact and then you become more colourful as a result – and if you’re interested in other people, you’ll be able to speak many different languages and get along with and engage with people from every walk of life, at every single level of a community.’
Having found his career calling on the set of a television commercial he was cast in at a very young age, Sylvester graduated top of his brand and communications class at the University of Johannesburg. He started his own agency six years ago, having previously worked at ad agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather and FCB, and has been both national marketing manager at Nando’s and director of marketing and communications at MTV Networks.
‘There’s a clear need for African and South African stories to be told. At university, we learnt about David Ogilvy and Charles Saatchi, but we didn’t study great black marketing professionals. Now, our job at DNA Brand Architects is to showcase them and how they have paved the way,’ he says of his young company’s ambitious vision. Sylvester’s home is an extension of this drive to live authentically and well – a message you can feel in every part of this unique and creative space.
Take a video tour of Sylvester Chauke and Tumelo Mmusi's home here: