Of all the bays scattered along the coastlines of the Cape Peninsula, one of the most appealing is the circular stretch of blue water fringed by mountains, known as Hout Bay. Craggy cliffs named after the captain of an English ship becalmed here in 1607 sharply fall hundreds of metres into the surging Atlantic. It’s that view of Chapman’s Peak that first attracted Kevin Weller and Dylan Thomaz – his surname is Portuguese – to their two-bedroom apartment across the road from the beach.
High up on the edge of a large modern townhouse complex, the property is small, about 84m², with the only light in the living room coming through the glass sliding doors opening onto the balcony. ‘The building had a closed-in feel when we bought it,’ says Dylan, ‘and the dull, boring tiles throughout didn’t help.’
But if anyone knows how to make the most of small spaces, it’s this busy interior designer who has worked as a visual merchandiser and trends manager for a major homeware retailer, and now has his own art gallery, Studio Dylan Thomaz, in Cape Town’s Shortmarket Street. Kevin is a financial consultant and the pair spend a lot of time commuting for work between the Cape and Gauteng, which is where they both come from. As a result, a lock-up-and-go suits them well – but this one seriously lacked style.
First they attacked the floors, laying ceramic tiles with the engaging appearance of cracked and aged travertine throughout the apartment. On the balcony, they went for tiny teak parquet puzzle pieces from Thailand that can be clipped together.
It was the blandness of the confined main living area that was the real challenge, though. ‘Since we don’t have a TV, we needed to create a focal point to anchor the space,’ explains Dylan. The solution was a faux fireplace mantel with a tall metal basket filled with logs placed underneath it. It’s an installation that adds character. The rest of the area was built around a modular corner sofa by Bauhaus that immediately imparts an upbeat, modernist feel to the entire apartment.
Understated glamour is a vital part of Dylan’s decor mix. Two charming, plump boudoir chairs upholstered in greyish, petrol-blue velvet sit on either side of a black metal cabinet topped with a dramatic clump of orchids. A replica of a Charles and Ray Eames moulded plywood chair completes the picture, with a tall mirror propped against the wall to cleverly expand the space.
Simplicity is key here, and the overall aesthetic reflects an unfrilly mood and cool ambience. What brings everything together is the streamlined kitchen. Its concealed storage keeps the place organised, while the central island with a Caesarstone counter top acts as both a dining area – with four powder-coated metal Tolix bar stools – and a cooking station, containing an electric oven and four-burner gas hob. The 5kg gas cylinder is hidden in a drawer below and all the other major kitchen appliances are also built in: the dishwasher is in a cupboard below the washer and dryer, and the fridge and freezer in another cupboard alongside. Adding an edgy feel to this multifunctional kitchen area are the LED strip lights under the shelves and the sculptural molecular chandelier above the island.
Given Dylan’s occupation, it’s unsurprising that artwork plays a significant role in the decor throughout the apartment. ‘Art brings people happiness and everyone should have happiness in the home,’ says Dylan, who also paints. In the main bedroom, the eye is immediately drawn to one of his black-and-white abstracts, which helps make the room seem bigger. The living area features two other striking black-and-white artworks – one is a series of ghostly white spirals on black, created by digital painter Gregory Stark using a robotic arm, and the other is a depiction of dolphin and seal skeletons by Cape Town artist Kurt Pio.
Pio is one of Dylan’s favourite artists, as is Lisette Forsyth. She has exhibited at his gallery and her artworks pop up all over the apartment in a variety of media. Many of the pieces displayed in the space are small-scale, such as Sarah Pratt’s quirky Tintin lino print, Corné Theron’s engaging underwater swimmer and Craig Actually Smith’s colourful surfers by the jade-blue sea. In short, the couple has managed to include a mind-boggling amount of art on the walls of this compact apartment and yet none of it looks unhappily squeezed for space.
This home originally appeared in House & Leisure's March 2017 issue.