Dolphin Beach Retreat Transformation by Onnah Design

WORDS Gina Dionisio PHOTOS Henrique Wilding

For the renovation of this outdated beach abode on Cape Town’s Dolphin Beach, Hanno de Swardt of Onnah Design used colour and light to give the apartment a contemporary facelift.

“This apartment was rather outdated with signs of much-needed TLC evident everywhere,” says architect Hanno de Swardt. “The owners wanted a space that felt more like a ‘holiday home’, so my task was to inject the apartment with contextual references that connect it to its location and improve the flow of the space,” he adds. The resulting makeover transformed the tired, dark holiday home into a light-filled contemporary apartment.

Hanno used soft, neutral tones, clean lines and rich textural layers to create a soothing and calm visual story. This design language runs throughout the apartment, ensuring visual continuity and enhancing easy flow between spaces. Hints of colour here and there introduce moments of drama whilst sensitive furniture and fabric choices fuse laid-back comfort and understated style.

The new large format floor tiles from Stiles Tiles were the source of inspiration for the wall colour running throughout the apartment. “A soft, sandy, earthy tone was the obvious choice for the intended calm mood throughout,” says Hanno. A murky blue feature wall in the living room links two bedrooms and the bathroom, adding drama and the perfect backdrop for art. This same dark colour is repeated in the study and guest bedroom, dubbed the ‘Sea Spray Room’, dedicated to the ocean outside. “The dark colour used in the living room is repeated in the study and guest bedroom for various reasons. It provides visual continuity and acts as a backdrop for the blue headboard and sleeper couch, making both pop nicely in the space,” explains Hanno. There is a sense of balance and equilibrium as this dark colour mirrors the joinery on the opposite wall… and in the kitchen.

The open-plan kitchen is one of the standout features of the apartment. “All the luxurious walnut elements repeated everywhere elevate the various spaces whilst the deep shadow lines within the ceiling create a lovely floating effect enhancing the feeling of airiness. Floor-to-ceiling pivot doors leading into two bedrooms are packed with punch, appearing deceivingly simple whilst celebrating ceiling height,“ says Hanno.

In keeping with the beach holiday theme, all the wall art was meticulously sourced to make sure it celebrated the coastline in all its glory. “From beach pebbles painted by Kurt Pio to a piece of ‘kalp’ blowing in the wind, craftily constructed by Danny from Moonbasket, right down to simple mirrors reflecting amazing views and bouncing off light, the decor all reinforce the apartment’s beautiful context,” explains Hanno.

The choice to use round coffee and side tables, the addition of the round woven chair from Maputo to the lounge setting, the circular pendants over the dining table and the pebble artwork are all deliberate design choices. They soften the look and create a welcome contrast against all the clean, straight architectural lines defining the shell of the apartment.

“This is now the perfect space for a relaxed beach holiday in stylish surroundings that never tire,” says Hanno.

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