'I moved from the forest and the birds into the heart of the city,' reflects Rohan Horn of the sea change he made not so long ago. It's true his view isn't what it was but his previous home, an 1890s carriage-maker’s house in the densely treed suburb of Westcliff, and the hip urban loft he resides in now do in fact share common ground. Rohan puts it down to authenticity – it's what he loved about the Sir Herbert Baker manor house he left and what he was drawn to in this converted apartment. The two share a sense of originality that’s lacking in many cookie-cutter Joburg homes.
Rohan, a creative director for one of the country's hit TV series, is no stranger to looking at a scene with an inventive eye and bringing the magic, a skill that doesn’t go amiss in his new apartment in Milpark’s trendy factory-turned-apartment-block The Refinery. First impressions are that you’ve stumbled into some gallery owner’s stylish New York abode. It’s the postcard manifestation of edgy loft style, with ceilings that soar overhead, original industrial steel windows and a stockpile of art in one of the area’s go-to blocks for creative minds.
The intoxicating smell of Bean There Coffee Company’s coffee roastery lingers in the air from neighbouring 44 Stanley and the hum of the metropolis has replaced that of the birds but it’s a city soundtrack he’s come to love. Tall French doors make the most of the west light that washes over the painted concrete floors and a small balcony is just big enough for entertaining friends. A series of walls delineates rooms and a clever change in level between the dining and living areas separates the adjacent zones spatially.
Rohan’s combination of distinctive design pieces and his stellar art collection is a high-octane match tailor-made for an industrial setting. He’s a collector at heart – of second-hand furniture, bric-a-brac and, not least of all, artworks. Steering clear of name brands, his interior beat is more idiosyncratic and less of a ‘look’. ‘I don’t have a specific style, I just like beautiful things,’ he explains, spurning the ‘interior designed’ home and labelling it formulaic. 'I prefer to challenge different styles and play them off against each other.'
'It's my job to find odd things and create something out of nothing,' he says. This gift is marked in the quirky details that fill his home – such as the toy gun he bought for R140 and sprayed gold and the R5 portrait of a stately stranger that hangs beside his front door bearing a stuck-on red paper target... awaiting change, but looking avant-garde while it does so.
Elsewhere he teams a traditional bust that he had altered, a wooden library catalogue-card holder scored at a work sale and a Diane Victor print. It’s an off-kilter brand of fusion that demonstrates his love for combining things that aren’t knitted. As an ode to greener days Rohan's inventory of leafy potted and hanging plants, together with his colourful artworks, bring to life an otherwise cold industrial scene.
His 'expensive obsession', as he dubs it, is unquestionably his weakness for art, with a bent for portraiture. His gallery wall in the dining area is home to some of the country’s titans of art, with darlings such as Diane Victor, Walter Battiss and Robert Hodgins rubbing shoulders. 'Whenever I look at the captions on his works they put a smile on my face,' he says of the latter.
It's the large Chuck Close print in his living area that he cites as his favourite, however. 'Leslie', with her intense gaze, commands the attention of all who pass through. Yet, despite the high price tags of many works, he still tempers the mix with images he’s scanned and blown up from his anthology of art books. 'Had I more wall space I’d buy even more art,' he finishes.
Originally published HL September 2015