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Show House: Making an Understatement

Jun 8, 2018 | Beautiful Spaces, Featured

Contemporary design and period pieces with personality mix comfortably in a serene Cape Town penthouse apartment

Penthouse apartments are usually the “showcase” of a building, the pièce de resistance, and often the default is to go all out with glitzy finishes and statement design. Which is why this space by Hendre Bloem Design in Green Point is all the more refreshing for its simplicity. The client had been living in the apartment for 10 years and wanted a change, so she stripped the space down to the bare minimum. By the time she enlisted Hendre to help her redo the decor, she’d become used to the pared-down aesthetic. “The client came to love the openness of the space, and this minimal living style really influenced the new look,” says Hendre.

Given this almost literal blank canvas, there was scope for Hendre to create something understated but memorable. Because despite the brief for something really uncluttered, the client did want the design to tell a story. “When she explained that she wanted a minimal scheme, my first thought was that I needed to focus on unique and iconic pieces. When you’re working with fewer items than usual, it’s important that each is a feature in its own right,” says Hendre. In addition, the owner wanted pre-existing period pieces of her own with sentimental significance incorporated into the scheme – special items passed down to her from her grandmother and older generations.

To achieve a harmonious combination, the new items were carefully chosen to complement and enhance the older pieces. Hendre zeroed in on certain brands and designers – such as Scandinavian brands Muuto and Gubi, and local designers James Mudge and Haldane Martin – because their design aesthetic is somewhat influenced by vintage and historical details and craftsmanship, albeit an unconventional and fresh expression. In this way, there is a synergy between old and new, which allows for a layered and interesting rather than disjointed space.

“The key to ensuring this was to factor in the vintage pieces from the beginning. It was very important that everything, both old and new, worked together in perfect harmony, and that it didn’t look like anything was placed in the space as an afterthought.”

The overall effect is one of down-to-earth serenity and soul, this sense also a result of the calming palette Hendre used throughout. “We took the same approach when selecting colours: subtle yet effective in offering contrast and highlighting certain details.”

This also has the effect of creating a tranquil space above the city – the apartment is high up and has magnificent views, and while it feels very much part of the city, also serves as a refuge from it.


WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT ABOUT LIVING IN CAPE TOWN? The food and the creative culture – whether you’re visiting a high-end local design showroom or merely walking down the street, the creativity is palpable. It has no boundaries and is not determined or limited only to certain groups of people, income or status. You can see knitted sleeves over lamp posts, fences with macramé, exquisite graffiti as well as super-high-end items in a window display, all while standing in the same spot and just looking around.

WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST EXCITING FURNITURE/PRODUCT DESIGNER ON THE LOCAL SCENE RIGHT NOW? I am a big fan of beautiful lighting and light fittings. This is an area I think South Africa is still growing in, but amazing products are popping up through companies like Woltemade and Studio 19. My favourite furniture designer is James Mudge.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL DESIGN STYLE? Ever-evolving. Right now I’m leaning more towards moody and dark finishes. Even so, I prefer a timeless approach that still looks incredible five years down the line and doesn’t leave you (or your client) asking, “What was I thinking?”

NAME SOME OF YOUR FAVOURITE SPOTS FOR SPECIAL DECOR FINDS. Créma Design for imported and unique decor items and the coolest accessories. For homeware, you can’t really go wrong with Country Road.

TEXT Julia Freemantle PHOTOGRAPHS Ansjah Bloem

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