A peak into a designer couples’
minimalist Art Deco home
On a previous visit to South Africa I had the awesome pleasure of visiting my good friend Kelda and her fiancé Christian, at their delightful minimalist Art Deco home in Johannesburg.
The couple lives in a sunny north-facing apartment in Daventry Court; a beautiful Art Deco style building built during the 1930’s in the tree-lined suburb of Killarney–Johannesburg’s mini-Manhatten and home to several of the city’s early movie stars. (As it happens, South Africa’s first film studio used to be just down the road, occupying the premises where the Killarney Mall now stands.) The apartment building has also recently achieved heritage status. Kelda spent nearly two years looking for the perfect flat before finding the bright corner-unit with bay windows and parquet floors. Christian moved in soon after having met her (he proposed 3 weeks after meeting Kelda!) but as luck would have it the couple have very similar taste and a shared minimalist approach to interiors, so combining their homes turned out very well.
The apartment mirrors Kelda and Christian’s impeccable taste. Both have a keen eye for detail and every corner of the space seems perfectly curated, every piece carefully chosen for it’s integrity and aesthetic quality. Kelda inherited her visual sensibility from her artist mother Margaret Nel. Exposure to her mother’s creative production has instilled in her the importance of detail and the fine nuances that define a noteworthy sense of style. Her attraction to spatial design, whether architectural or interior, is reflected not only in her choice of apartment, but in the delicate approach to the design of their home.
Christian’s taste and appreciation for honesty, humanity and simplicity is manifested in the monochromatic minimalism of the interior design. Ironically, the only pieces he did not favour from Kelda’s existing furniture collection was one of her must-keep items; a set of low-profile mid-Century tables bought by her father during the 60’s on diplomatic duties to Brazil. But the two compromised by sourcing black marble slabs to replace the table tops and they now serve as a dramatic centre piece alongside the original mid-century couch (which serendipitously happens to accommodate Christian’s full length! He is 1.95 metres tall). The black wire chairs are a mid-Century Knoll originals, purchased for a steal by Kelda’s mother from the director of the Arts Association in Pretoria.
Design details like the neatly styled vinyl storage unit plays tribute to Christians primary passion for music. This second-hand find is home to the vintage LP player inherited from Christian’s father and the couple’s shared collection of records. The artwork next to it is by Avant Car Guard while the Joe Paine picture rail displays artwork along with the record sleeve of whatever is currently on rotation. Christian, who grew up in an environment heavily dominated by music and trained in Jazz guitar, has produced two EP’s under his previous moniker Vampire9000, and is currently co-creating a project with Givan Lötz.
The character of the building speaks for itself, with all the features of Art Deco apartment living, like geometric profile door handles, high ceilings, a built-in picture-rail in the entrance foyer, old-style privacy glass in the bathroom, Oregon pine doors, and off course the most prominent feature of the apartment: red teak herringbone parquet. Most of the furniture are mid-century finds, either restored by Kelda’s mom or dealers in the Johannesburg area. Calm blue hues are offset by charcoal feature walls and quirky spot-colour pieces like the bright orange display of Penguin paperbacks add life to the otherwise monochromatic interior.
Kelda and Christian are planning a full-scale bathroom and kitchen renovation next year. In the meantime the rooms were temporarily overhauled by painting over the existing beige tiles and floor with white ceramic paint and standard black “stoep” enamel. This clever facelift adds a surprisingly modern quality to the space. The visible relief from the white painted tiles creates a pleasant visual texture to the stark white walls. With dark floors set against contrasting light tiles, the once dated bathrooms now have a very contemporary feel.
About the owners:
Kelda van Heerden is a Johannesburg based Information designer. Together with two friends form university she now co-owns the specialist design studio UNKNOWN, working with businesses and clients like Tonic and Joe Paine to establish, adapt and transform their real-world and digital presence.
Christian Henn is the business director at Henn+Honeyball, a small Johannesburg-based design studio,with a focus on cultural and social institutions such as the Constitutional Court Art Collection, the Visual Arts Network of South Africa, and Library Special Projects.