There was once a boy named Julian who lived next door to a glamorous couple called the Schekters. The Schekters drove around in an open-roofed, vintage automobile, which made Julian think of Hollywood, and threw the most fabulous parties. Young Julian would secretly peer over the garden wall and imagine how wonderful it would be to be part of that whirl of sequins and cocktails. ‘I want to live there one day,’ he said to himself while gazing longingly through the palm fronds.
The years passed and Julian grew up to be a famous South African fashion designer. One day, Mrs Schekter, who was recently widowed and wanting to join her children in California, told Julian that if he still wanted the apartment he could have it for a third of the asking price. And now Julian, with his life partner, Kobus Venter, lives in that very home of his dreams.
If it sounds like a fairytale, wait until you see the apartment. Situated in one of the few remaining residential blocks in leafy Sandown, it is an aria to 1930s plushness, transporting you to an altogether more glamorous and varied aesthetic universe. Stepping across the portal, you feel as if you have entered some Greta Garbo wonderland of chic and mystique – that’s Greta Garbo in her androgynous New York pantsuits incarnation. ‘I’m way more partial to Manhattan thirties style, which was more masculine, darker and sexier than the Hollywood version, which I tend to think of as white and fluffy,’ says Julian.
‘For me, it was the ultimate era,’ he says. ‘Everything, from clothing to cars to houses, was magnificent in the thirties. People had manners. Everything was beautiful, from Cartier jewellery to Art-Deco furniture. And people had time for cocktails at sunset – people still had time to breathe. The war may have destroyed that lifestyle, but I remain an undying fan of the period.’
The apartment is a strong espresso-flavoured mix of ebony, chocolate brown and charcoal hues, with accents of Shanghai red bouncing off a profusion of mirrored surfaces. Julian’s love of chinoiserie is bolstered by the fact that his grandfather served in the Royal Navy and was based in China during World War II.
There are no overhead lights – only moody lamps, so all the objects spring to life in the evenings. That’s when the apartment is at its best as the backdrop to a decadent party when the walk-in bar, with its antique-mirrored interior, comes into full use.
The space used to be divided between two duplexes, but the previous owners, the legendary Schekters, ingeniously transformed it into one deluxe apartment, with the vast living area opening out onto a large, sparkling swimming pool.
‘It used to be a seventies-style interior with rounded haciendalike arches,’ says Julian. ‘We just squared off the arches, put in a new floor and smoothed the walls.’ Ta-da!
Although couture fashion was Julian’s first love, he extended this passion into a new realm in 2005 with the launch of Julian Décor in Parkhurst, where he specialises in uniquely designed and crafted furniture and objects, with a special focus on living rooms.
Julian and Kobus, who’ve been together for 23 years, are ‘both total shopaholics who love discovering beautiful pieces,’ says Julian. ‘So owning a shop is perfect for us, because we get to buy all these gorgeous objects. But we have a rule: we never buy anything we wouldn’t bring home.’
The home, which embodies years of impassioned collecting, is filled with the kinds of eclectic installations for which Julian is known. Clocks, reflective balls, crystal ashtrays, Deco statuettes, mirror-mosaic lamps, black wooden bird cages, shimmery feather lamps and twigs of bright orange coral are offset against a darkly elegant backdrop of silks and velvets in a display of glamorous individuality. ‘For me it’s all about the senses,’ he says. And who can argue with that?
Julian Décor, 011-447-1350, julian.co.za.
This home was originally featured in the August 2009 issue of House and Leisure.