Taking a studio flat and turning it into a spacious one-bedroom apartment is what makes this couple’s design so interesting
Many parts of Cape Town are being developed into urban hubs and the previously industrial area of Salt River is no exception. It’s what cinched the deal for Wesley Vorster, Nicolaas Louw and their bulldog Koos. Once an auto-repair shop, their luxurious yet dog-friendly apartment hasn’t lost its gritty edge. ‘What we really chose was the building,’ says Wesley. ‘It offered
a big 66 m2 open space that we could adapt into a one-bedroom apartment with a loft feel. We didn’t want a studio and, generally, anything above 50 m is divided into two bedrooms and we’ve done our share of house guests, so we didn’t want that either. But more than anything, because it was all so new and under development, Koos wasn’t a problem.’
New and under development is something of an understatement; ‘shell’ is a better word to describe the open-plan semi-industrial space that Wesley and Nic signed up for. But where others would have balked, the absence of finishes (let alone fittings) just added to its appeal.‘When it comes to space, my philosophy is first and foremost practical. What’s most important is to think of the space as an entity in its own right and to do whatever it takes to make the most of it, in itself. I’m not concerned with projecting my existing likes and dislikes onto a space. I don’t need a living space to “reflect” me, or to become a showcase for my personality. Nic and I are both generally unsentimental that way. We’re more concerned with spatial flow as a priority, so being able to not only finish and furnish but also to configure an undefined open-plan “raw” space was ideal,’ explains Wesley.
The configuration is as simple as it is inspired. The introduction of rhino-board walls inset with custom-made metal and glass door- and window-panels creates an airy bedroom that can be part of the whole apartment yet easily separated, too. The drywall also extends the galley kitchen, affording it the space to accommodate a state-of-the-art fridge – all the while working as a bold focal feature that links the various internal sections of this building’s industrial bones.
Painting the face brick walls an even matt white and laying a white concrete floor served to establish a uniform monochromatic base that accentuates the natural light flooding in from the generous windows and balconies. ‘We used monochrome with bright pops of colour and the result is quite uncomplicated and modern, with a hint of quirkiness,’ says Wesley.
But perhaps it’s the couple’s lack of sentimental attachment to objects that’s behind the success of this apartment. The only piece they brought with them is the large antique wardrobe they use as a crockery cupboard that anchors the dining area. It layers a secondary theme of wood over the monochrome base. Everything else was purposefully commissioned or bought to make the most of the space. ‘I am not particularly sentimental about material things and therefore, when sourcing decor pieces I try to think of what I need practically and how to best integrate that piece into the space in a fuss-free way,’ explains Wesley. ‘Sometimes things need to serve a purpose and sometimes they just need to look pretty – if they can do both, then you’ve won.’
Art, whether colourful or black and white, add personality to the home, but particularly in the bedroom. The pictures above the bed change regularly. ‘Because I work with images every day, I get sick of them really quickly,’ explains Wesley. One, however, has special significance – ‘It’s of Nic; it was a birthday gift from a friend.’
The study nook’s dramatic black backdrop makes this workstation a distinct space with its own character and purpose. Even here there’s little of a sentimental nature. ‘One of my friends gave me the dinosaur. She told me we need stuff for the shelves,’ says Wesley with a smile. And, the ceramic boxing gloves have significance too: Nic gave them to Wesley as a birthday gift. ‘He had them specially customised, with the addition of the gold.’ Personal touches shine in a home office and are not always a natural choice. When working as hard as they do, having trinkets from loved ones reminds them why they do what they do.
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