Two Worlds Meet In This Art-Filled, Revamped House

A revamped house in the suburbs of Johannesburg is home to an extensive array of contemporary art and vintage collectibles.

Elsa Young

The notion of terroir is a familiar one in winemaking, referring to the way in which the precise environmental context of a vineyard contributes to the unique characteristics of a wine.

Similarly, Marina and Robert Appelbaum’s Craighall home in Johannesburg, which they share with Marina’s three children, is an expression of their individual personalities, interests and stories. 

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The living room is awash with colour, featuring lime green occasional chairs from interior decorator Stephen Falcke as well as Brett Murray’s bright red satirical piece, ‘In the Land of the Blind...’ (2015).

The house, originally designed by renowned South African architect Michael Sutton, underwent a major year-long renovation in 2015. ‘As happens when you start doing a small renovation, you very quickly realise that everything has to change,’ Marina says of the process of creating this revamped house.

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A photographic piece by Broomberg & Chanarin hangs behind a vintage reupholstered LC4 chaise longue by Le Corbusier and Charlotte Perriand for Cassina.

For the job, she called in the same team who built her previous home in Morningside, which included her good friend Joe van Rooyen of JVR Architects and landscaper Patrick Watson. 

ALSO READ: Inside The Inspiring Home Of Goodman Gallery Owner And Director, Liza Essers
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A central staircase divides the home’s renovated ground-floor kitchen, entrance hall and living areas.

The characteristic poky suburban layout was reconfigured to create open-plan living spaces with an abundance of natural light. The entire interior of the house was revamped and modernised while maintaining the integrity of the original design.

For the garden, Watson created a minimal yet lush indigenous backdrop (complete with winding cement pathways for Marina’s son to skateboard on) that allows the many artworks, objects and collectibles in the house to shine as the star features.  

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Most of the fine art on display was acquired from Goodman Gallery, including the idol wrapped in red chevron tape from Kendell Geers’ Twilight of the Idols series.

The couple are both avid collectors. Robert, a partner at Webber Wentzel and an owner of Strandveld wine farm in Cape Agulhas, collects vintage cameras, figurines and Art Deco furniture, while Marina has developed an impressive eye for contemporary art, and has a considerable collection to match.  

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On the veranda is a set of limited-edition ceramic artist plates in Perspex housings. These are from the Orange Babies Plate Project, which Marina organised in partnership with Goodman Gallery. In addition to serving on the board for the organisation, Marina is a successful entrepreneur and restaurateur, as well as an author and an HIV/AIDS education programme developer.  

Her love of art goes back many years. She began collecting more than two decades ago, and has built her collection in close collaboration with Liza Essers of Goodman Gallery. Marina says that her approach to collecting centres around having an emotional connection with a work and wanting to live with it, even if this is challenging. 

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Marina Appelbaum stands beside a work from Diane Victor’s Theatrical Character series.

One such work – and a favourite of Marina’s – is a 2.5m-high drawing from Diane Victor’s Theatrical Character series that depicts a woman (modelled on the artist) kneeling in prayer on a chair. For Marina, it represents the inevitability of time passing and the corporeal changes that come with it. The piece hangs in the double-volume stairway adjacent to a painting by William Kentridge from his 2007 The Nose series. 

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A carved jelutong sculpture by Peter Schütz is one of Marina Appelbaum’s favourite works in her Craighall home in Johannesburg.

Downstairs, a carved jelutong wood sculpture by Peter Schütz of a woman holding a basket of eggs is Marina’s most beloved artwork; the eggs, she says, remind her of the omnipresent evil eye in her native Greek culture. 

Marina has similar personal connections to all of the artworks in her collection.

A photographic work by Broomberg & Chanarin from the duo’s Bandage The Knife Not the Wound exhibition is the newest addition to Marina and Robert’s joint collection. She was drawn to the piece from a theatrical, sartorial perspective, while for Robert, the striped garments depicted conjured up the garb of Jewish concentration camp inmates. 

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The Appelbaums’ individual aesthetics merge in the master bedroom, where antique furniture collected by Robert over the years sits side-by-side with Marina’s contemporary influences.
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Robert is an avid figurine collector, and these pieces bring a playful tone to the home. The bathroom is a prime position from which to admire Patrick Watson's landscape design.



Like the two oceans that meet at Cape Agulhas, Robert’s and Marina’s home is an amalgamation of each of their distinct styles, as well as a host to their extensive collections. The result is a quirky, unfussy family abode with a whole lot of personality.

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Colourful Oriental-inspired pieces reflect Marina’s husband Robert’s love of India.
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