houses, small spaces

Compact Illovo apartment

Styling Leana Schoeman; Photographs Mark Lanning


WHO DEAN BLUMBERG AND PHILIPPA HEAL

WHERE JOBURG

SIZE 156M2

A small apartment perfectly suits the lifestyle of young Johannesburg couple Dean Blumberg and Philippa Heal. Both of them work in advertising – Dean is the director of the recent controversial Nando’s ‘Last Dictator Standing’ advert – and are self-confessed workaholics. He is frequently away on shoots, and the couple like to travel together in their spare time, so the convenience of a lock-up-and-go flat is just what they need.

‘I also love the sense of community that flat-living offers,’ Dean says. Philippa agrees, saying they appreciate having people around them, and the easy acquaintance and sense of community that comes with bumping into neighbours in the lift.

Illovo is sought after for its well-maintained apartment buildings, so the suburb was an obvious starting point when the couple began house hunting. They moved into the first flat they looked at two years ago. ‘I love living in Illovo because I feel part of the whole Joburg spectrum, from town to Sandton,’ says Dean. ‘Our area feels like the middle of the thriving new Joburg. The evolving youth in the neighbourhood is changing the old into new and making the area very exciting.’

One of the flat’s previous owners was an interior designer who had carried out smart alterations, so the stage was set for their dream home. ‘All the necessary walls had already been bashed down, so we repainted everything, got designer Joe Paine in to create some extra cabinets and interesting features for us, and started filling the place up,’ Dean says.

When they moved in, Dean and Philippa started from scratch and chose every piece of furniture in the apartment anew together, bar one heirloom. ‘We’re slowly letting the flat evolve, and we buy stuff as we see it,’ says Philippa. ‘And when we see something we really love, we make an effort to buy it.’  The couple admit to being hooked on buying antiques, and they do a lot of their shopping at Joburg’s annual Antiques Fair and at stores such as Die Ossewa Antiques and Jeremy Stephen Antiques.

‘We’ve become slightly obsessed with a particular style,’ says Dean, pointing to the mid-century Scandinavian furniture scattered around their apartment. They’ve also managed to find original Helmut Newton negatives from an ad campaign shot in the photographer’s Paris apartment, a Bel Geddes chest of drawers and vanity in the bedroom, and dining table chairs that started off life at a restaurant in Copenhagen. Details such as the ziggurat legs on the kitchen counters, carefully assembled vignettes on every surface and a bold, yet careful, use of colour are testament to the couple’s perfectionism and distinctive style.

They’ve also managed to make the space suit their practical needs. Philippa and Dean each have their own office space in the apartment. ‘There’s not a day that I don’t work at home,’ explains Dean, which justifies the careful attention to design in his study, where he spends so much time. ‘When we get home in the evenings we usually sit on the balcony together for a catch up, then we’ll go our separate ways, usually to our respective desks, until dinner time.

Too often balconies take a back seat when owners kit out their new space. Not so in Dean and Philippa’s case. They overcame the challenges offered by a small space and, with the help of local designer Joe Paine, created a colourful labyrinth on their patio that brings nature directly into their home. ‘Thanks to the balcony and the study, the flat’s big enough to feel like we each have our own space,’ says Dean.  Joe Paine, joepaine.com 

DEAN AND PHILIPPA’S  HOME TRUTHS 

Living in a small space works for me because I prefer intimate, cosy spaces, I travel and I’m a lock-up-and-go kind of guy (Dean); I don’t like being alone in big houses, and a small space has the added bonus that I always know where things are (Philippa). My handy storage tip is make use of every crevice (Dean); use the floor for books and art (Philippa). The first thing we do when we get home is play with our cat, Huxley, and a laser beam (Dean and Philippa). The place I’m most inspired by is Deià village, Mallorca, Spain (Philippa); locally, Joburg City, and abroad, the streets of New York City (Dean). My favourite item in the flat is my series of Helmut Newton photographs, after Phil and the cat, that is (Dean); a Buddhist thangka painting I got in Kathmandu, Nepal (Philippa). My most impulsive purchase was our Marcel Breuer Laccio coffee and side tables (Philippa); a Playstation 3 (Dean). Top of my playlist is Woody Allen’s Without Feathers (Philippa); comedian Patton Oswalt’s live album, Finest HourMy signature dinner party dish is seared salmon on warm rice with donburi sauce (Dean); roast chicken – it’s the easiest (Philippa).

This article was originally featured in the March 2012 issue of House and Leisure.