city, houses

Mod-Tropical Durban Treasure

Lar Rattray


The updated island style popular in the chic coastal resorts of such fabled spots as Nassau in the Bahamas was Kim Rowan’s inspiration for the home she shares with her husband, Sean, and son, Hunter, in Mount Edgecombe, Durban. Kim’s a huge fan of style maven India Hicks, whose lifestyle is the epitome of island sophistication, and this house had some essential details that she knew would bring her vision to life. ‘The wraparound verandas and tongue-and-groove ceilings immediately gave the house a tropical feel – and it’s on the water, albeit a lake rather than the ocean,’ says Kim. ‘These details were perfect enough for us to be able to overlook some of the less-than-ideal aspects of the property, including a concrete kitchen and the fact that the living areas were quite dark.’

The kitchen was the first element to be updated. Kim called in interior designer Wendy-Lee Douglas of Douglas and Douglas to overhaul the space. She instantly knew she had found her design match as the pair began to discuss transforming the whole house.

danda-1-5 A muted palette of black and white accompanied by natural textures gives the patio a contemporary tropical feel. The dining table is from SHF and the Malawi chairs and lights are from Amatuli

Although ‘tropical’ was the word on Kim’s lips, her approach was very different to the standard palm trees, pineapples and flamingos. This is mod-tropical – think lots of light, billowing sheer curtains and oversized prints of parrots and beetles – all set against a monochrome palette with plenty of natural textures and a shot of glamour. The high-contrast black and white is emphasised through the judicious use of colour – mainly emeralds and turquoises – which recall the luxuriant tones of an island setting.

‘We eventually decided that Kim’s style is boho luxe,’ says Wendy-Lee, and Kim agrees. ‘I love glamorous details such as mirrors, metallic touches and crystal chandeliers – but interwoven with intricate pieces and layered items that make the house feel homely. I would love to be a minimalist but it just wouldn’t work – I love things.’ And the things in this house are all beautiful, from an elegant lamp made from copper piping to a pair of tan Chesterfield sofas in deep-buttoned leather and a jade-green coffee table with curvaceous lines.

Crystal chandeliers add a touch of glamour. The coffee table was custom made by Douglas and Douglas, the occasional chairs are from Weylandts and the rug is from Homestead Decor Crystal chandeliers add a touch of glamour. The coffee table was custom-made by Douglas and Douglas, the occasional chairs are from Weylandts and the rug is from Homestead Decor

The kitchen was where it all started, though, and there is no doubt it set the bar for the rest of the house. ‘The first thing we did was knock through a wall to create an opening between the kitchen and veranda which opens up completely with stacking windows,’ says Wendy-Lee. ‘It immediately flooded the space with light and lifted the whole area.’

Keeping the opening to only the top half of the wall cleverly allowed for cupboards below it, ensuring that the extra light wasn’t at the expense of storage or counter space. The concrete was then replaced with wooden cabinetry, which was painted charcoal and punctuated with bespoke copper handles, and a trio of bronze mirrors were placed on runners so that they can slide to and fro in front of oak shelves, reflecting warm light throughout the living area. The white Caesarstone counters and white walls create a graphic contrast with the dark cabinetry. ‘Kim is not afraid of adding an edgy detail which elevates these interiors from safe to out of the ordinary,’ notes Wendy-Lee.

A chest of drawers and mirror on the landing turns dead space into an interesting focal point. The gilded touches add to the luxe feel of the home A chest of drawers and mirror on the landing turns dead space into an interesting focal point. The gilded touches add to the luxe feel of the home.

To offset her statement pieces, Kim chose black-and-white patterned tiles for the veranda. ‘I love the contrasts evident in this whole space,’ says Wendy-Lee. ‘Contrast in scale is as important to the design here as contrast in tones. The rough texture of the table juxtaposed with the smooth finish of the pendants, and the height of the peacock chairs next to low-slung Malawi chairs all add drama. It is the combination of simple with over the top that creates the wow factor.’

French doors marry the indoor and outdoor living spaces, and a series of shutters add to the resort feel. Inside, the living space is airy with carefully considered furnishings that are stylish yet sensible in a home inhabited by a two-year-old child and two Siamese cats. A built-in shelving unit, painted charcoal, displays Kim and Sean’s treasured items to great effect.

Kim says, ‘One thing I have learned from working with Wendy-Lee is that things don’t have to be matchy-matchy; I think this has translated into a home that reflects us.’

In keeping with this decor approach, photographs of the family and the felines take pride of place throughout the house, leaving no doubt that, although inspired by the stylish hotels of the Caribbean, this space is first and foremost a family home.

This article was originally published in HL November 2016

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