Having transformed their first apartment together, David and Hannah Little are no strangers to renovating. So when they came across their current home in Durban, they were quite open to the idea of putting their stamp on a new space. Hannah is a retail trend forecaster and incredibly creative, while David runs a painting and renovations business, dip Projects, and has the practical know-how needed to bring their ideas to life. ‘It was the large garden and private pool that sold us,’ they recall. ‘We could see that it would be a brilliant area for entertaining, which you seldom find in a secure complex, and that promise far outweighed the fact that the house itself left a lot to be desired.’ Built as one of a row of duplexes, the building was outdated and lacking character, but the Littles could see its potential, so they bought it and immediately began renovating.
The first change was made out of sheer necessity on the night that they moved in. ‘We couldn’t get our furniture upstairs, so we demolished the balustrade,’ they explain. ‘We then decided to work from top to bottom so that we would be able to hole up in the bedroom while completing the downstairs spaces.’ Knocking through into the adjacent storeroom and relocating the geyser made the main en suite bathroom larger, and repositioning the door created new possibilities for the layout of both the bathroom and bedroom. ‘We replaced the generic-looking cupboards with our own raw-wood design with leather handles, which instantly gave the bedroom a contemporary update,’ they say.
The guest bathroom was next, and the Littles knew that the teal Victorian ball-and-claw bath they had brought from their old apartment would be the star of the room. Instead of being influenced by its vintage feel, the couple chose to contrast it with bold Orla Kiely wallpaper Hannah found on a trip abroad. ‘We had the vanities in both bathrooms custom-made,’ Hannah says. ‘Being able to specify the dimensions that will work best in your space is a big plus and it doesn’t have to be more expensive,’ says David.
Having completed the structural renovations and installed the upstairs fixtures, they set about working on the decor. ‘I love the modern Scandi aesthetic but with an unexpected edge,’ says Hannah. ‘Luckily the clean lines of the house and its 90-degree angles lent themselves perfectly to this style. I think it’s best to work with a space rather than against it.’ Adding quirky, often pretty, touches – like the framed tea towel from ferm Living in the bathroom and pink hexagonal bedside tables by Mallybongwe Designs in the bedroom – to the clean-cut feel keeps the look unexpected and interesting.
The couple spent some time living in the house before settling on the changes they wanted to make to the ground level. ‘My best renovations advice is to take your time and do things properly,’ says David – which is exactly what they did to understand which alterations to the living area would have the biggest impact. They got started when Hannah became pregnant with their daughter Erin, one, as they were determined to have the house finished by the time she arrived. ‘There was a small covered patio off the lounge that we decided to incorporate into the interior. It was only about 1.5m wide but that little bit of extra space made the whole area seem larger,’ they note. They then installed stacking doors, which allowed the space to open up completely to the outside area, and a stacking window on the other side of the room above a custom-made hexagonal table by iKhaya.
Finishing off the interior is the replacement for the balustrade so unceremoniously removed on that first night – a modern interpretation of a handrail running along the staircase from floor to ceiling. It cleverly turns a safety feature into a focal point. It is these sorts of ingenious, well-planned touches that have transformed this Durban abode from an ordinary townhouse into a contemporary home that perfectly reflects the personalities of its owners.
This home originally appeared in House and Leisure’s Before & After issue.