‘It feels like you’re inside a cathedral,’ says interior designer Joe Jacob of the soaring double-volume space that envelops the open-plan living area. Part of a country-in-the-city estate in Irene, Gauteng, this new build is home to an attorney and her twin teenage daughters. The owner was drawn here by the peaceful atmosphere and walking-distance schools, and wanted to be surrounded by a sense of spaciousness and calm. Making clever use of a narrow stand, two lofty wings lead off the central entrance hall, with the bedroom suites on one side and the living areas on the other. ‘The ceilings are up to six metres high,’ the owner explains, ‘and, as soon as we moved in, I realised that my existing furniture wasn’t going to work. Joe knew just how to approach the dramatic scale and how the various spaces interconnect. He’s also a close friend so he understands our lifestyle. Ours is an open house – we often have friends staying over on weekends – but my daughters need their privacy for homework.’ Renowned for residential interiors that evoke an effortless lived-in glamour, Joe’s the go-to guy for when you want to kick back and put your feet up in style, or as he puts it: ‘Living that hotel dream but with your own stuff.’ The owner has a relaxed approach to decorating and allowed him carte blanche to create a space that was luxurious yet accessible. ‘Working with the double-volume spaces was a great opportunity to invoke that “wow factor”,’ he says. ‘We began by painting sections of the living room walls in a deep charcoal shade to ground the space and then added mirror detailing and over-scaled chandeliers.’ This approach worked successfully in the main bedroom, too, where a towering chimney wall dwarfs the furniture in an intriguing play on scale. A home designed for year-round entertaining, the open-plan kitchen, dining- and living-space opens out onto a covered patio. With its generous island, raw teak table and recessed splashback with hip subway tiles, the kitchen ticks all the boxes in terms of sleek good looks and practicality. ‘The concrete floor tiles and timber table have an old-world, almost farmy appeal, and we countered this with the contemporary chairs and bold photographic prints.’ Mirroring the kitchen’s dark accent wall, the living room’s focal point is the dramatic fireplace and mix of elegant, comfy seating. A pair of armchairs in Belgian linen offset French-style chairs in chic black-and-white stripes. To one side of the room a seagrass-papered wall and simple server create a low-key TV station that manages not to intrude on the space. ‘This room is both calm and comfortable,’ says Joe, ‘a space where the cats curl up and go to sleep. Nothing’s too precious or overdone.’ Upstairs, above the main bedroom, the guest suite introduces a splash of colour to the predominantly monochromatic interior. ‘The feeling we wanted here was of being in a classic old attic room but with an innate sense of luxury,’ explains Joe. In a quirky combination of textures, blue and white Ralph Lauren wallpaper is paired with a blesbok-hide carpet and a wingback headboard in sleek tan leather. It’s in the main bathroom where the art of luxury truly comes into its own. Clad in pale marble with frosted glass shower doors and a crystal chandelier, it’s a triumph of understated pampering – a striking addendum to the adjacent bedroom, another cathedral-like space. ‘This is a “barefoot” house,’ says Joe, ‘and it feels like a luxurious holiday home. But most importantly it really works for the people who live here.’ THE OWNER’S HOME TRUTHS Luxury means feeling comfortable. The best thing about living where we do is peace of mind and the proximity to the Gautrain bus. My interior design motto is barefoot and laid back. Small luxuries I couldn’t do without are extended leisurely lunches with good food and wine. I’m inspired by acts of kindness and humility in other people. My favourite room in our home is the open-plan living area where we get together to eat, entertain, do homework or watch TV. My secret talent is humility. Our entertaining style is very casual – in the kitchen in winter and on the patio in summer. I think up my best ideas when I’m in the bush. The best way to spend a weekend is with good friends and family, in nature if possible. An everyday luxury I could never give up is my iPad. On my bedside table you’ll find Time magazine and my Kindle. My all-time favourite luxury getaway is a Mediterranean cruise on a chartered private yacht. This article was originally featured in the August 2012 issue of House and Leisure.