houses, small spaces

Modern Cape Town Apartment

Photographs and styling Henrique Wilding
WHO: VANESSA COHEN WHERE: CAPE TOWN SIZE: 180m2 Almost 30 years ago, Vanessa Cohen left South Africa for an international career as a branding and marketing consultant for big-league multinationals, spending 10 years living in the United States, and 20 years in London. Back on home soil, Vanessa describes her new life in Cape Town’s Green Point as being serene, and a far cry from London’s frenetic pace. When the time came to gear down in June last year, Vanessa came ‘home’ to the single-level apartment she had bought in 2008, and which had been leased to a tenant. Just as her lifestyle and career were in the throes of receiving a complete overhaul, so too would her living space. Although something of a characterless two- bedroom, one-bathroom flat with an abundance of wasted space and pine cupboard doors well past their sell-by date, fortunately it boasted ‘a great shell’ and thus significant potential. She had pared down considerably before leaving the UK, arriving in Cape Town virtually empty-handed. Her new challenge was to create a minimalist yet comfortable lock- up-and-go refuge, a place to live out a better-balanced future. Vanessa had a definite vision: ‘I wanted clean, open, modern lines with a soft colour palette and beautiful textures.’ She enlisted Joburg-based architect Tickey Klawansky and Cape Town-based contractor Mark Dunkley, who gave her five design options (she settled on two en-suite bedrooms plus a guest WC, and a generous outside area on both hill and sea sides). As the flat above hers had gone up a storey, the architectural plan she settled on entailed widening the footprint of her own home. When it came to decor, Wesley Butler, head interior designer at M-Interiors, ‘was able to tap into what I was looking for and translate it into something completely usable,’ says Vanessa. She describes herself as ‘all Mac’ed out, I love it!’ and Wesley confirms that his client is ‘up to date with technology and always impeccably dressed’. The space, therefore, had to be contemporary, feminine, light and airy befitting its sophisticated, worldly and well-travelled owner. Vanessa arrived at their first meeting armed with a page torn out of a decor magazine, displaying a scheme of beiges, creams and powder pinks. She jetted back to London and three weeks later, Wesley presented his storyboards to his new client who, ‘bar one or two small changes’, gave everything the thumbs up. With Wesley’s expertise, Vanessa, determined to keep her home organised and hassle-free, planned an abundance of storage space: ‘Clutter would interrupt and spoil the integrity of this place,’ she says. The view-facing bolthole also boasts plenty of highly reflective surfaces that enliven and enlarge. The back end of the interior space serves as the basis for a kitchen-dining-living area complete with clever pantry pull-outs, and innovative lighting and sound systems. Vanessa loves to grow her own: wall- mounted pots of herbs and vegetables adorn the inside of the black boundary walls and artfully placed mirrors widen the little courtyard garden, designed vertically by landscaper Herman Nel to create depth and perspective. For Vanessa, simple activities such as walks or runs along the Sea Point promenade or through Green Point Park, relaxing on her sunny sea-view deck, or cooking for her family and friends are something to savour. ‘For so long I was always rushing through life, I never had enough time. For many people that is enough, but not for me.’ Tickey Klawansky Architects, 011-728-1319083-252-7600; Wesley Butler, M-Interiors,; Herman Nel,; Mark Dunkley, VANESSA’S HOME TRUTHS My favourite area is the all-in-one living-dining- kitchen zone. It really is the heart of my home – where I cook and care, and show my love for my family and friends. I’d describe my personal style as simple, yet elegant. I’m inspired by nature and the outdoors, which is why being back in Cape Town is such a joy. I’ve lived in San Francisco, I’ve been to Sydney, and I know the South of France and the coast of Italy very well, but I still think Cape Town is the most beautiful. The first thing I do when I get home is kick off my shoes. Then I’ll open up the sliding doors to let in fresh air, the outdoors and the view. What I love most about summer is the light – how it enhances the colours of nature, and the fact that the days are long so I have more time to look at the beauty around me. My favourite piece of design advice is, it always has to work – you have to live in your space so it needs to be functional as well as pretty. If it can’t be part of your everyday life, then think again. I entertain in a relaxed way, outdoors, with many breaks in between the eating. My top tip for staying organised in a small space is, think carefully about how you use it. I turned a dead space into a compact workstation. Envisage spaces as being multipurpose – if you have a kitchen counter for chopping and cooking, create space for sitting and eating, too. The best thing I’ve done is install built- in cupboards in my garage – for stashing what, inside my home, could easily become clutter: spare bedding, sun hats, beach baskets, environment-friendly shopping bags, wrapping paper, spare light bulbs and books I’m not reading currently. This article was originally featured in the March 2012 issue of House and Leisure.