Where two worlds collide – Life in Maboneng Precinct
The decision to buy a loft apartment in the Maboneng Precinct unleashed businesswoman Nomaswati Vilakazi’s creative calling in her home.
As the English translation of the Maboneng, ‘a place of light’, implies, there is something ethereally uplifting about this urban neighbourhood. Forget the comparisons to New York’s Meat Packing District (big in the ’90s) or London’s current favourite edgy neighbourhood, Shoreditch, the front-of-mind analogies for Maboneng are more Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland or JK Rowling’s Diagon Alley. This is a place where magic lives, a highly creative urban node buzzing with Afrocentricity and laced with a cosmopolitan air that Joburg and the rest of SA has never before experienced. It pantsulas, skateboards and pop-n-locks its way through the streets of this precinct, more often than not moving right through you. So addictive is this magic that, like moths to a flame, Jozinians of all descriptions are fluttering in droves to this place of light.
This was what happened to 20-something Nomaswati Vilakazi who, while on a work lunch outing two years ago, sat down at one of the vibrant cafés in the precinct with her colleagues and had an epiphany: this was the future of the city, this was her future, and she had to stake her claim. ‘I’d always dreamt of moving to one of the world’s big metropolitan city centres, like Soho, London or Berlin, and of living in a loft space, because I love them so much. When I found something remotely similar to my dream – not just architecturally but with the lifestyle to boot – just down the road from where I worked and played, I was sold.’ Before she knew it, Noma had signed on the dotted line for her 57m2 studio apartment in Revolution House and moved out of her family home in Dewetshof.
Although she works in a high-flying corporate position at one of the country’s largest banks, the move to Maboneng has reignited Noma’s dormant creative spark. ‘As a student, I did very well in academics, which seemed to take much more precedence and focus than my creative abilities and passions. As I progressed in my career, my innate creativity continued to cry out.’
Moving to Maboneng gave her the impetus to realise another long-held dream: running her own interior decor business. ‘It’s the people who live, work and play in the precinct who inspire me most. It’s a collective of young and old folk, who wholeheartedly chase their dreams and use their talents to the full each day in the most unapologetic, unpretentious and truly raw and authentic way. This is the energy that fueled the creative entrepreneur in me.’
And so, at the beginning of this year, Besotted Interiors was born. It is an endeavour Noma focuses on in the evenings and on weekends. Her two major interior projects so far have been boyfriend Charles Mogashoa’s apartment across the street from hers in the building Main Street Life, and her own pad.
Given its narrow footprint, hers is a surprisingly spacious abode – not least because the walls are four metres high: ‘I love the height of the walls leading up to the industrial cement ceiling with its exposed old copper piping. It’s a beautiful and interesting sight that gives the space so much character and captures the “loft look”.’
A self-confessed foodie, Noma loves cooking and can often be found talking descriptively to herself through her at-home cooking sessions: ‘I like to pretend I’m on my own cooking show!’ Unsurprisingly, her starting point when designing her space was the kitchen. The high-gloss white cabinetry and illuminated mirror splashbacks are the perfect foil to the dark screeded floor and concrete ceilings, and add a touch of glamour to the space, while simultaneously opening it up.
Working with contrasts was the methodology Noma used when designing her studio, juxtapositions that are contextually inherent to the precinct: ‘I took a great deal of inspiration from the area and its people – the artists and international travellers and city dwellers – who all work in and around the precinct. There are also young entrepreneurs whose lifestyles are artistically inclined but aspirational, and who are seeking to enjoy quality and the finer things in life, yet all within their means. I see a piece of me in all of these groups of people and wanted a space that would incorporate these characteristics.’
Noma now has projects on the go within the precinct and has established a niche for herself, working with a young up-and-coming target market, one that previously would have assumed hiring an interior designer was beyond their means.
Despite having a nine-to-five job she loves, coming home to her Maboneng apartment and her creative world gives Noma a sense of purpose. ‘My schedule currently has a life of its own, but I have never felt as balanced as a human being as I have since I started spreading my focus equally between these two worlds: it’s been good for my soul!’
Take a look at Noma’s Maboneng Hot Spots.
Words: Genevieve Fisher
Production: Klara van Wyngaarden
Photographs: David Ross
Call Besotted Interiors on 076 578 6395.