Bo-Kaap Apartment

PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo

André Sales and Morné Visagie’s Cape Town apartment is not just a home but also a place where they explore their creativity and bring their visions to life, and then share it all with strangers.

When André Sales and Morné Visagie hosted the first dinner at their home some three-and-a-half years ago, it was a small affair with a few guests around the table, close friends willing to “indulge” André’s culinary experiments. “I wanted an excuse to cook and eat the kind of food I wouldn’t normally eat, either because it would be very expensive or require a long time to prepare,” says André.

These days, their monthly dinners, which they’ve named La Petite Mort, are often fully booked months in advance.

It was just more than a year ago that they moved from their smaller house to a loft-style apartment. Initially, it was a studio that Morné, an artist and printmaker, shared with another artist. “We started hosting the dinners here when it was still a studio,” says André, a book seller at Clarke’s Bookshop. “In fact, part of the reason we eventually moved here was because the dinners were becoming popular and we needed more space.”

Looking at the considered arrangement of the apartment, it’s hard to imagine Morné’s description of the place they initially moved into: “The floor was this horrible black chipped mess. It felt like we were walking on sand. We lived for a week in one corner of the apartment with the furniture while we scraped everything off and repainted the entire place.”

In the process Morné discovered a talent for carpentry, something he has in common with his father, who made a lot of the furniture in his childhood home.

One of the first things Morné made was an 18-seater table, followed by a couch, a daybed and a coffee table. It has led to Morné launching his own furniture brand, HAWE Ateljees. “Using wood, ceramics and linen, I created practical yet desirable objects for our home,” he says. “Every item was made for a specific purpose: shelving, tables, seating, curtaining and more. I consider everything I’ve made for our home thus far as prototypes to be developed further.”

He is not the only one who has awakened dormant talent in the process of building a home and establishing La Petite Mort. Since those early beginnings, André has gone on to cook the kinds of dishes he never imagined himself cooking before. “My main influence is French cooking traditions, although I do try to bring in a South African touch, like cooking with fynbos, for example. In the beginning I struggled to find suppliers of the right kind of fresh ingredients, but now I work closely with local farmers, butchers and small producers. I often build the menu around what they have available.” They have also partnered with sommelier Xavier Didier, who ensures that the wine selection perfectly matches Andre’s three- to six-course creations.

“I’ve always dreamt of a home where everything is in its place, everything is where it is for a reason, nothing is wasted – and this is that,” says Morné.

We can’t help but agree.