Hung up on owning a house? Apartments have the potential to be stunning forever homes, as this beautiful Cape Town space shows…
If this isn’t the most famous apartment in South Africa, it is certainly the most thoughtful, elegant and memorable. Filled with art, bespoke designs and original collector’s pieces, it is a tribute museum to all the great loves in owners Koos and Laureen’s lives: history, art, design, books, their children and, most of all, their heritage and their city.
This impossibly glamorous inner-city apartment in Africa’s only Art Deco skyscraper marries the owners’ love of fashion, art, history, Bauhaus and public spaces to dramatic effect. It’s a space full of extraordinarily beautiful things that belongs to the city as much as to the family that has lived here for almost ten years. The apartment is on the eighth floor of Mutual Heights, a masterpiece dating back to 1939. There are absurdly striking views of Table Mountain from the two terraces and soaring floor-to-ceiling windows. The former office block was one of the first to be converted into a residential space in the heart of city. Since it was reclaimed, a decade ago, it has played host to international design luminaries and Hollywood actors. (It recently guest-starred as Mandy Patinkin’s New York apartment in an episode of Homeland.) And all because, in 2005, it was discovered by the Rossouws – in particular Laureen Rossouw, a gifted design consultant-turned-magazine editor, with a singular talent for seeing past the surface of things.
It was thanks to this gift that, after viewing only the building’s former banking hall, preserved with its original gold leaf, red marble columns and mahogany counters, Laureen and her husband, Koos, bought three apartments off-plan. “I saw it and I moved in,” Laureen says now. Because they were the first buyers, the building architects helped them to merge the three units and customise the interiors, turning it into a light-filled, double-volume, 200-square-metre space that is part railway station and part Bauhaus movie set. “It was an amazing project and an opportunity,” says Laureen “to actually live like this in an African city has been an enlightening experience.”
In keeping with the building’s severe architecture, she kept the interiors understated and the palette muted, then introduced moments of eccentricity and humour. Bathrooms with subway tiles and laboratory details, a Victorian wall clock in the library/TV room, a Swarovski crystal chandelier and an all-white mezzanine bedroom that hovers over the living space like a cloud. “You can have fun within the strict lines of the Bauhaus style,” she says of her favourite period, “but it’s not a frivolous space; the pieces are functional.” She gives the building its due: “It was a great shell. You could put anything ugly in this space and it would still look beautiful.”
And it is beautiful. Truly. A vast expanse of honey-coloured parquet greets you as you walk through the double front doors with their school-hall glass panels – the first nod to Laureen’s fixation with public spaces. “I wanted the apartment to feel like a smart station hotel,” Laureen says. “And then I saw a picture in a magazine of a steel bookcase with a ladder and a platform, and that fit my idea of the railway station. That became my storyboard for the apartment. What I love about living here is that it’s as though you are part of the city. It doesn’t belong to us alone: we must share it.”
Click through the gallery above in fullscreen mode for a closer look at this chic city space.
Feature courtesy of GAP Interiors/Bureaux. Words Kate Wilson. Production Sven Alberding. Photography Greg Cox.