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Robert Sherwood

Text Leigh Robertson Photographs Micky Hoyle Styling Jeanne Botes For Cape Town based interior designer Robert Sherwood, his home is both a place where he can catch his breath before the next big assignment and is one of his proudest achievements as a designer. Another is the 2km-long Qasr-Al-Sarab Desert Resort near Abu Dhabi, for which Robert compiled and installed a museum collection showcasing the history of the region in the UAE. A passionate art collector himself, Robert has also worked closely with some of South Africa’s leading artists on special commissions and as part of his service as a curator of private collections. What is your design philosophy? My philosophy is that the experience that you have with your home ends the day you take your last breath. Engage in it, shift your space around and refresh it – it does wonders for you as a person to see things in a new light. Stale spaces are just that – stale. How would you describe your signature style? I prefer to be a minimalist on the architecture but tend to be a maximalist on the interior. Not in a profoundly opulent manner but I do like curating a collection of quality furniture, whimsical objets and, more importantly, great art. I also believe thoroughly in mixing up periods and styles. Some of the key projects you’ve worked on? The Desert Islands Resort & Spa by Anantara on the island of Sir Bani Yas, just off the coast of Abu Dhabi, as well as the new Al Yamm and Al Sahel lodges due to open there this year. Most excitingly, the 2km-long Qasr-Al-Sarab Desert Resort near Abu Dhabi, for which I curated a collection of art and objets and a museum collection showcasing the history of the region in the UAE. We were so successful in curating this that it is now a living museum whereby guests can truly learn about of the culture of this region. It was a great learning curve as we had access to museums, Universities and UAE cultural departments to research the history of Abu Dhabi, and we then travelled extensively in search of pieces for this collection that reflected what we had seen. For the art we worked with around 60 artists, predominantly from South Africa, who we then presented our findings to so that the art in the hotel was informative and not just decorative. I had the pleasure of meeting such wonderful and gifted artists who in the process produced 1680 artworks, which were then installed throughout this project. Design advice? First things first - don’t rush the experience of designing your space, be it your home or office, a hotel or lodge. Costly and timely mistakes are made this way and it might be something you have to live with. Make sure that the architecture and shell of the space is the perfect background. This is where quality should truly stand out. Tell the story of your life through your home. Express yourself. There is nothing worse than a formulaic interior! Your top tips to maximise a small space?

  • Don’t be scared to use big pieces of furniture in a small space. It can make the room look bigger. Lots of small furniture just clutters the room.
  • A floor-to-ceiling mirror is always an effective way to enlarge a room. This can even be panelled for interest. Place furniture and hang art in front of it.
  • Hang large art pieces in the room – the large scale of the art fools the eye into thinking the space is larger.
  • Try painting a small room in a dark tone – even the ceiling. I have even colour-matched the carpet so that there are no defining lines.
  • Add detail to walls, even just one wall. Panelling, wallpaper and colour-blocking tend to shift the walls/s out visually, thus increasing the room’s sense of space.
  • Shift the ceiling lighting to the outside of the room. Walls that are washed in uniform light make rooms appear larger.
  • Don’t clutter the space with items that truly do not need to be there – don’t let it become a dumping ground.
  • Great floor-to-ceiling, built-in cupboards that are finished to tone in with the walls – be it the same paint colour or matching wallpaper – have great effect to enlarge a room. This way you won't see the cupboards as your main focus which in a lot of rooms you do.
  • Don't put handles on cabinetry.
  • Try to keep proportions on a similar scale.
Robert Sherwood Interior Design, Cape Town, 021-433-2057, rgsherwood.com