Eclectic Durban Home

Text Catherine Kowalski Styling GianPaolo Photographs Clinton Friedman When Durban fashion-design couple Gideon and GianPaolo first moved into their Morningside home they carefully selected items according to the ‘baroque style’ they were after. ‘Then about five years ago we decided to change it all,’ says GianPaolo. ‘We needed some fun and colour in our lives, and gave all the Persian carpets and antiques away.’ The result is a mix of beloved family heirlooms and the indulgences of a magpie, with a pinch of wit. Their two-bedroom home is filled with the treasures they have collected from everywhere, from religious iconography bought in a basement in Rome to trinkets found at SPCA sales. It’s mad, bold and totally refreshing. Decorative pieces with sentimental value rub shoulders with travel tchotchkes such as a metal shop sign plucked (with the owner’s permission) off a tree in Zambia. ‘Our stuff comes from travelling, from meeting different people, together with a lot of our past,’ says Gideon. ‘I’m inspired by the past. Like fashion is reinterpretation, so is this house. It’s always evolving, never perfect.’ Far from being claustrophobic, their home is welcoming and relaxing in a way that sparsely furnished spaces struggle to be. Most of what was kept was painted, such as the now neon-pink barrel chair in the library. Eclectic, kitsch and irreverent it may be, but pretentious it certainly is not. Here four dogs and three cats – who, like every item in the home, made their way here via a story – have free rein. It’s truly representative of the couple and the lives they’ve led. ‘I’d describe my style as junk-style,’ says Gideon. ‘Very little here is valuable. It’s basically recycling. It may be on display, but nothing is too precious.’ ‘Our possessions are made up of small memories, items from our childhoods or bits with sentimental value,’ says GianPaolo. ‘So much of our stuff comes from our grandparents and parents.’ References are regularly made to family members, such as the TV unit refurbished by GianPaolo’s brother, who also found the driftwood that decorates part of the garden, or Gideon’s fondly remembered grandmother who lived with them for ages, and whose furniture features in several rooms. They are both too sentimental to be minimalist. Instead of going to war with the garden, which almost grows before your eyes in this part of the world, they’ve let it envelop the space. Large leaves of banana plants and wild strelitzias trail over the windows, creating a cool and welcoming refuge from the busyness of the heaving tropical city on the pavement outside. While the current trend is to open up living areas to create the illusion of more space, in this home the kitchen, living room and library are distinct rooms. Here they read, or watch one of the British series they are obsessed with, such as Five Daughters or Downton Abbey, or cook the Mediterranean-style food they love in their bright yellow kitchen. The library is categorised according to their interests. ‘I hate the idea of the Kindle,’ says GianPaolo, because they believe that books should be accumulated and enjoyed. In a similar way, their art collection covers the walls and is propped up on tables or against books, and coloured bath-salt bottles twinkle in the light of the entranceway and spill onto the top of old Deco-style cupboards. It’s not clutter; it’s about surrounding yourself with objects that you love, that make you smile. ‘You can’t have a home without pets, art and books,’ says GianPaolo, who sums up their approach best when he says,‘Life is so full of drama. Just have some fun.’ GIANPAULO’s HOME TRUTHS The best thing about spring is the unfolding leaves in new colours, and cocktails at sunset. Durban is never boring, always evolving and incredibly dynamic. I’m inspired by music, installation art and food. Our favourite time of day is when we can sit outside after work, catch up and plan future adventures in the world of fashion. Weekends are for family lunches, reading and trying to sleep in. What I love about our home is that we can continually move pieces around and always add or take away, as no piece was customised for a particular place. Deciding to redo it has made us realise that nothing is set in stone, design-wise. My favourite room is the library – each section has its own story. Design advice I like to dispense is always choose what you enjoy and love. Trends go out of fashion and minimalism is for hospitals! Style means being true to yourself, what you enjoy and what makes you happy. I can’t live without vintage fabrics and books. My philosophy is to have a sense of humour and use everything – life is too short to keep showcase pieces. For us entertaining is always about close family and friends. We usually serve cold Lambrusco and bruschetta. My favourite local artist is Marjorie Bresler. This article was originally featured in the September 2012 issue of House and Leisure.