houses, luxury

a kind of magic: tour a morningside sanctuary

Elsa Young



'I don’t like online shopping,’ says Dr Relebogile (Lebo) Shakoane-Nkuna. Preferring to wander around and shop at vintage stores, markets and auction houses, Lebo loves to feel fabric and furniture rather than scroll through catalogues and websites online, so her home is filled with the energy, colour and warmth of preloved decor pieces, many of which have added a distinctly modern style and elegant, olde-worlde charm to the Morningside sanctuary in Johannesburg that she shares with husband Chris and two sons Vukosi and Ntsako.

Born and raised in Mamelodi, Pretoria, and the daughter of an occupational nurse mother and radio veteran father, Lebo says studying to become a doctor was not her first choice. Nor was it her second. But she’s glad that she didn’t follow career aspirations in advertising or accounting – her first and second choices – because she says, ‘it gives me great pleasure talking to my patients and trying to help them. You really have to get to know the person because often when you go deeper than what they present you with, you find there are social and psychological issues that help with a diagnosis’. The general practitioner, who has been running her private practice in Highlands North since 2001, is also about to complete a two-year specialisation in aesthetic medicine and start an aesthetic practice.

Homeowner Lebo Shakoane-Nkuna considers visiting museums and art galleries as one of her hobbies, and it shows in her collection of artworks, which include ‘Makeba’ by Sam Nhlengethwa in the background.
Works by local artists Willem Boshoff, Zander Blom and Nelson Makamo, among others, elevate the TV room to dramatic effect. Scatters from Tonic Design, and a Kenzo Maison Yoko pouffe and throw by Etro, both from Apsley House, lend bursts of texture and colour to a couch from Future Classics, and the asymmetrical tables in the foreground are also from Tonic Design.

The small corner where she studies, not even a square metre in size and situated at the top of the staircase, could be described as a sample size version of her home. Local artworks and antique-framed art fill the walls, a modern desk and lamp centre the space, and vintage bric-a-brac add character and a kind of magic. And each room in her home serves a specific purpose.

‘The kitchen is where we usually eat,’ says Lebo. Working from Monday to Saturday doesn’t afford her much time to cook, entertain or socialise with friends regularly. She does have an enviable routine, however, which neatly accommodates her husband (they meet for lunch every Saturday after she finishes work) and her children, who enjoy Sunday lunch with her at Espresso Cafe & Bistro in Parkhurst or a home-cooked meal around the table – and herself: a keen runner who participates in a few marathons annually. Lebo runs at least 10km on a Saturday, works out with a personal trainer twice a week and does yoga on Sunday mornings.

‘When we’re entertaining, we sit in the dining room.’ Easily one of the most striking spaces in the house, it is anchored by a round glass table acquired from Bakos Brothers 17 years ago. It’s laden with tinted, vintage glass vessels and surrounded by leatherette armchairs. Alongside, the sideboard is home to antique vases, glassware and candlesticks, above which a large Nelson Makamo painting presides.

The living room, a cosier extension of the entertainment area, manages to be at once masculine with its angular lines, and soft and warm with its earthy tones.

The living room, a cosier extension of the entertainment area, hosts a sizeable work by Serge Alain Nitegeka and manages to be at once masculine with its angular lines, and soft and warm with its earthy tones – Lebo credits interior design studio Tonic Design with being instrumental in bringing the family’s decor vision to life.

The stucco effect on the walls in the living area provides tactile interest and a perfect backdrop for Lebo’s carefully curated art collection, including a pair of William Kentridge works hanging on the left.
On the landing, a petite space above Lebo’s study desk (also from Tonic Design) is home to artworks by Nelson Makamo, Blessing Ngobeni and Lucky Sibiya.
Underneath an artwork entitled ‘I’m Here to Enlighten’ by Nelson Makamo are two clay vessels and a Hawker bench, both from Tonic Design, and the bird installation on the extreme left is by sculptor Michele Mathison.

The main bedroom is where Lebo spends most of her time, reading, scrolling through her iPad, and soaking up the sun on the balcony. A pleasant light spills into the room, which is filled with issues of Porter, Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Wallpaper, as well as framed personal photographs and artworks that she’s acquired over the years from various fairs and hospices. ‘Sometimes you’ll go to these places and find nothing, and other times, you’ll find real treasures,’ she says, referring to a light green metal dress-form mannequin and a quaint fabric chair she found at a hospice a few years ago.

‘We really found this house by chance,’ she says. ‘We saw quite a few properties in our price bracket in Morningside, Dainfern, Khyber Rocks and Bruma Lake. We loved the main bedroom then – now I could do with more space,’ she laughs. ‘But coming from our townhouse in Vorna Valley, it seemed big in comparison. But everything is relative.’

The house was renovated quite substantially when they moved in – they removed pillars, replaced the staircase railing and got rid of the trellis security gates. ‘We put in a lot of glass to modernise the house and let in more light,’ she explains.

‘We spend a lot of time at home nowadays, as we don’t travel as much as we used to. I also don’t have much time to socialise. I enjoy my own company, though, and I relish doing things on my own. Besides that, I’m not crazy about entertaining – it stresses me out.’

As she says that, ‘Clearing’, a lithograph by Sam Nhlengethwa, which hangs in the kitchen, brings a smile to her face. It depicts a woman in a white dress carrying a tray and clearing a table of bottles and plates, looking particularly unenthused. It’s not a serious analogy of Lebo’s disposition when entertaining, but rather evokes some delight when comparing the two different women. The humour it elicits perfectly captures the occasional giggles that erupt from her when she recounts how she and her husband met, or recalls the pleasure of a rare find in an auction house.

Creating a blue thread in the dining room, Makamo’s ‘Blue Moment’ keeps company with a large 19th-century French urn from an antique fair and a pair of candlesticks, purchased on auction, atop a teal server from Tonic Design.
Glass and light combine to accentuate the abode’s contemporary interiors. Dining chairs from Tonic Design surround a glass table acquired at Bakos Brothers 17 years ago, and the glassware is vintage.
An ornamental pair of fighting cocks hold a stand-off under a peony-filled William Yeoward vase from Apsley House.
Large skylights allow nature and light into the main bathroom, which is home to a tub from Bella Bathrooms & Tiles and a table by Kenzo Maison, on which rests a Cire Trudon candle (both Apsley House). The vase is from an antique fair and the chair, another fortuitous auction find.


In the main bedroom, two lithographs of desktops from a Soweto school by artist Steve Tanchel preside over the bed. Muted tones in the room are enlivened by pops of blue in the scatters and a velvet ottoman from Casarredo. The lamps on each side are by Ralph Lauren and the throw is by Etro – both from Apsley House.