Urban Comfort

Text Sarah Buitendach Styling Leana Schoeman Photographs David Ross 'People might think that our space is formal, but it’s actually very relaxed,’ reflects wellknown interior designer Ockert Snyman of the Killarney, Johannesburg, apartment he shares with his partner, Jonathan Dixon. It’s easy to see where the impression comes from. With its dramatic grey-green walls and striking pieces of art and furniture, it certainly is an expertly curated and incredibly  well-resolved space. More importantly, though, it’s a comfortable, cosy and welcoming escape for the busy pair, who love nothing more than kicking back on their roomy grey-linen sofa with the latest DVD. Creating beautiful, livable homes is what Ockert does best. As one of the co-owners of Jacket Interiors, he’s designed everything from glamorous hotels to designer bedrooms, with his own home offering a further glimpse of his tremendous talent. He’s inspired, he says, by the likes of Ralph Lauren and Dutch architect and interior designer Piet Boon. ‘Piet’s work is so simple – it just works,’ Ockert observes. It’s not surprising, then, that his own work embodies a similarly uncluttered but layered and subtly masculine aesthetic. ‘When I moved in with Jonathan the apartment looked like it was inhabited by varsity students,’ notes Ockert with a laugh. ‘Apart from great bathrooms and the existing kitchen, there wasn’t much to talk of in the way of decor.’ What did exist, however, was a spacious flat with great bones and a most impressive view taking in the high-rises of Killarney and the endless manmade forest of the city’s northern suburbs. Ockert immediately set about transforming the space. He did so with beautiful, understated contemporary furniture and objects, grey-toned and wallpapered walls, and loads of natural, textured linens and luxurious velvets. But it wasn’t until last year that the pair decided to embark on major changes to the flat. ‘We took a three-week vacation to Brazil and, while we were away, the apartment was painted, new metal windows and doors were installed, and the balconies were revamped,’ says Ockert. It’s now what you might call a well-finished nest, where the couple can cocoon in style. Being on the top floor of one of the last residential buildings on the Killarney ridge, the apartment is perfectly quiet and removed from the hustle and bustle of the city below. ‘It’s a total sanctuary for us,’ Ockert says. That they have ‘pretty similar taste’ is a boon. ‘We collect a lot of stuff – things we love.’ This includes an impressive selection of art, from a graphic David Hockney print to William Kentridge originals, and an intricately detailed and expressive Alet Swarts oil painting. Because they’re frequent travellers, the couple do not entertain as much as they would like. ‘But when we do,’ says Ockert, ‘we have friends over for relaxed meals with special food – that’s my area of expertise, while Jonathan is the wine guru!’ When they want to spend downtime together, they like to soak up the city. Or better yet, stay in and soak up the watery Jo’burg winter sun that floods over their balcony into the lounge, enveloping everything in a warm, golden glow. Why would they want to go anywhere else? Jacket Interiors,   OCKERT AND JONATHAN’S HOME TRUTHS
  • My favourite spot in the apartment is the balcony, for relaxing on the day bed and staring out at the trees below (Ockert).
  • What I love about Johannesburg are the tree-lined avenues around Saxonwold and the Parks – just driving along them puts me in a good mood. I often take a scenic detour ( Jonathan).
  • Places that inspire me are New York City and Kenton-on-Sea – two opposites ( Jonathan).
  • The little luxuries and indulgences I can’t get enough of are scented candles and shoes (Ockert); sampling great examples of what the South African wine industry has to offer ( Jonathan).
  • My favourite winter comfort food is lasagne and crispy garlic bread ( Jonathan); soup (Ockert).
  • Downtime is spent mostly at home – watching TV, relaxing and reading the newspaper. Or we’ll head for breakfast at Grand Central or Tasha’s at Melrose Arch and then spend time browsing the stores (Ockert).
  • My ultimate winter escape would be a tropical island beach – anywhere with white sand and warm water to swim in ( Jonathan); a trip to the Greek Islands (Ockert).
  • On my bedside table is Possession by AS Byatt ( Jonathan); No Lifeguard on Duty: The Accidental Life of the World’s First Supermodel by Janice Dickinson. And I have my eye on the Amazon Kindle electronic book (Ockert).
  • I love to hate Greek palaces in the suburbs ( Jonathan).
  This article was originally published in the June 2010 issue of House and Leisure.