Text Hilary Prendini Toffoli Styling and photographs Henrique Wilding The first thing you notice when you walk into Peter Rose’s airy studio apartment on the fourth floor of an industrial Cape Town warehouse is not the curvy, bronzed body of the headless Balinese maiden in the larger-than-life painting. Nor is it the massed clumps of giant orchid plants spilling out of large urns and baskets, a riot of gold and lime and burgundy. Or even the long, red velvet sofa beside the rough, pine-pallet coffee table. What immediately captures your attention as you enter this large, light-filled space is the glorious view of the mountain through the wall of windows opposite. These are large-paned factory windows, as bare of curtains as the untreated cement floor is bare of any covering, apart from an attractive Nguni skin or two. Essentially this is a workplace. That’s the gritty charm of it. Leather craftsmen once made belts here. Now it stylishly houses both Peter’s living quarters and his floral and landscaping business. He relishes the freedom of these unfettered 250m² of high-ceilinged space in Woodstock, having recently returned from a 10-year stint in tightly packed Singapore running Peter Rose Floral Design, where his long-term clients included major hotel groups Fairmont Raffles and Hilton. It’s an old building bursting at the seams with small businesses: every kind imaginable, from clothing, carpentry and tattoos to metalwork and acupuncture. There’s also a bakery, an art gallery and an art bookshop. A smattering of artists have studios where they tend to crash overnight but the only live-in residents are Peter and one other couple. ‘At the end of the day when the people leave the building, I have complete peace. No neighbours to worry about. If I have a party I can turn the music up and no-one complains.’ Since none of these units have sectional title, he rents the space. ‘My landlord was surprised that I wanted to live here, but Woodstock has always been a mixed-use district.’ In fact, gangland’s infamous Gympie Street is only a block away. Fortunately a security company has its headquarters in the building, with two staff members on duty 24 hours a day, and there is parking inside. Of course this grungy aspect is one of the reasons, along with proximity to the city centre, that Woodstock has become the brave new world for creatives to live and work and play. ‘You have to have a certain attitude to live here. While respecting the community, you have to be assertive. And be present. You have to walk on the street without shrinking against the wall,‘ he maintains. The space was not liveable as it was. Peter spent a considerable sum putting in a bathroom and kitchen and removing the walls of eight small offices. ‘I reused all that drywalling, doubling it up to make thick soundproof walls for the two bedrooms,’ he says. And he knew exactly how to add buzz to this vast white, open- plan area. ‘Everything had to be on a grand scale. Nothing small or subtle. And it needed to be pulled together with a primary focal colour.’ He chose a tone called Red Stallion and painted conspicuous features in key positions: the thick central column supporting the entire ceiling, all the doors, including the double wooden entrance, and the steel kitchen cabinet. ‘This way there’s a continuance throughout the space that makes it all work.’ What adds life to the studio are the intriguing variety of artworks from his sojourns abroad: three ‘high-heeled boot’ graffiti works by his Singapore fashion-lecturer friend Brian Forst, a Lady Gaga print that he won in a Singapore raffle, and Freddie and Eddie, two cheerful beaded goats bought on a pavement in Joburg. In a minimalist set- up these simple, unfussy pieces work well, complemented by the flamboyant touches of this master floral designer. Peter Rose, email@example.com
Peter’s Home Truths
This summer I’ll be cooking seasonally again, breathing in lots of South African creative energy and showing my overseas visitors just how beautiful the Western Cape is in December. It was always a dream of mine to live in an industrial space after having stayed in London and New York where they’ve truly embraced this way of living. The sound I wake up to is the warbling of my canaries who are now in frantic breeding mode. When I was living in Singapore for all those years I missed Cape Town so much I had to come back four or five times a year. My philosophy since my return is to keep things simple, to work with a core group of trusting clients who allow me maximum creativity. My one gift to myself when I moved into this building was my fabulous gas cooker. I should have had one years ago. My freezer is filled with food you can’t get in the Cape. My Joburg friends bring it for me when they visit: warthog meat from R&M Meats in Dunkeld West Shopping Centre and the best peri-peri chicken in the world, from Impala Meat Market in Northcliff Corner Shopping Centre. The new men in my life are my red bay horse, Alpha – I ride five times a week – and Oono, my Miniature Schnauzer. This article was originally featured in the November 2011 issue of House and Leisure.