city, houses

A Considered Curation

Elsa Young/Frank Features


When the owner of this art filled Forest Town, Johannesburg, home first viewed this property in 2011 it was a svelte yet empty shell designed for sale as two separate units. It’s testament to his vision that despite a distinct lack of extraneous details – no flooring, kitchen or fittings to speak of – the owner immediately saw possibility in transforming it into one dwelling for his own personal home.

This was no ordinary shell, however. The long, low box set out over two floors was designed by award winning architect Pierre Swanepoel of studioMAS Architecture & Urban Design in Johannesburg. Pierre is renowned for creating buildings in sync with both their urban and natural environments, and his designs are often described as a slow seduction because they reveal their genius over time.

‘I love how there’s a reason for everything in his designs,’ says the owner. ‘Nothing is there for the sake of it.’

white-insitu-1 A bridge walkway connects the main bedroom of this modernist urban dwelling in Forest Town, Johannesburg, to the study and gym across the courtyard.

The owner, who divides his time between Hong Kong and Johannesburg, was drawn to the lack of superfluous detail in the building’s living spaces and how they seemed to flow towards the generous central courtyard. With no front or back garden to speak of it also answered his need for security and sanctuary in a design that made the most of the 375m² erf’s size.

Undeterred by the unfinished state of the building, the owner moved in a year before he committed to any interior changes because he wanted to get a feel for how he’d like to live there. It proved invaluable. When it was time to reconfigure the 250m² living space he knew he needed a library, a gym, a study and a place to keep wine.

White-Insitu-2 The dining room table was custom designed, the Fly pendant lights are from Kartell (kartell.com) and the Cherner Chairs are from Crema Design (cremadesign.co.za).

Thus he placed the living areas on the lower level that leads out onto a covered deck and pool area. On the opposite side of the courtyard he put an en suite guest suite and a library while, upstairs, the main bedroom sits above the living areas with its en suite bathroom looking out onto the white stinkwood trees in the courtyard. Upstairs on the opposite side are a study and lounge area, as well as a gym.

As a self-proclaimed foodie, the owner admits that his main concern when he bought the property was how to create a central surface in the main living space that could function as dining table, kitchen counter and bar. It also needed to house essential appliances as well as his state-of-the-art technology with ease.

white-insitu-3 A wild-teak counter with industrial ovens defines the kitchen, which is clutter free thanks to ample storage concealed behind panels.

The resultant island, which is made of steel and hand laminated wild teak, may look simple but it has quietly informed the remainder of the living spaces. Designed by Pierre’s brother Francois Swanepoel, it houses an industrial style gas oven and four burners along with a hands free water supply, self-cleaning fat traps, drainage, pot and utensil storage, a reverse osmosis water purifier, five under-counter power points and even a Wi-Fi router.

When it came to the rest of the interiors the owner enlisted the expertise of Andrea Kleinloog of Anatomy Design who was brought in to give a fresh approach to the modern design.

‘I’m an art collector so I wanted a space that would showcase my art,’ he explains. ‘As there’s very little wall space here, mostly glass, it was not an easy task.’

Andrea surpassed all expectations. ‘It was my first major residential job so it was equal parts challenge and excitement,’ she says. ‘The owner is well travelled and has an incredible knowledge of design and art so it had to reflect that without compromising on warmth and intimacy.’

whit-insitu-4 Tables just where you need them, a lamp to read by and books within arm's reach - comfort is key in this corner. The Minotti Capri armchair and ottoman are from Limeline (limeline.co.za), the Gubi Grossman Grasshoppa floor lamp is from Tonic (tonicdesign.co.za) and the side tables form part of Vogel's Loves Me, Loves Me Not Table (vogeldesign.co.za).

Taking his preference for natural materiality and colours as a cue, Andrea created a super-neutral palette with reclaimed wild-teak parquet on the floors and four variations of Dusted Moss by Dulux on the walls. To that she added ‘an insane amount of cupboard space’ along the entire expanse of the back wall in the living areas to keep the focus inwards to the leafy courtyard while ensuring a clutter-free canvas for the art.

Andrea’s help in the purchase of key furniture pieces and fittings and her clever design choices throughout the home have contributed to making it the well ordered yet interesting space that it is.

‘Her eye for detail and responsive design ideas are ever present,’ says the owner. ‘Take the long white wall box next to the shower in the main bathroom – she cleverly added holes to all the shelves for aeration.’ Another clever addition is the bird bath basin in the main en suite bathroom that was sourced in answer to the owner’s wish for a basin large enough that he wouldn’t have to worry about wetting the floor. ‘He was very involved in the process,’ Andrea says, ‘and because of that the interiors are welcoming with a real sense of personality and humour.’

Pierre Swanepoel, studiomas.co.za; Andrea Kleinloog, anatomydesign.co.za