WORDS Annette Klinger PHOTOS Niel Vosloo PRODUCTION Etienne Hanekom
Using a double-storey library as a point of departure, design dream team Jürgen Kieslich and Etienne Hanekom transformed a concrete shell into an apartment that features open spaces, snug nooks and artful surprises.
When it comes to spotting potential, architect Jürgen Kieslich and interior designer Etienne Hanekom are blessed with 20/20 vision. Take their latest collaborative project. While Jürgen was looking for an apartment in Cape Town for his retired parents, Hans and Wendy, his estate agent on a whim showed him a property she hadn’t been able to sell: a stark concrete utility and service space inside Green Point’s hotel-turned-residential-complex the Cape Royale. The double-volume 550 m² space had no floors or ceilings, electricity or plumbing. A concrete slab and pillars divided one side of the cavernous space into two floors, but that was it. “It looked a bit like a parking garage really,” jokes Etienne, who was roped in by Jürgen to help him transform the empty shell into a place his parents would be happy to call home.
In terms of a brief, Jürgen says Hans and Wendy were pretty undemanding clients: “They didn’t want to let go of their books, they wanted a room where they could cosy up in the evening and read and watch series, and my dad wanted a space for his stamp collection.” In terms of decor, the couple wanted him to incorporate their antique furniture and not go too over the top with bold colours. The rest they left up to him.
In a renovation that took more than a year to complete, Jürgen and Etienne proceeded to colour in the harsh outlines of the interior, incorporating curves to soften its rigid landscape and introducing a limited palette of blue and green to echo the apartment’s view of Green Point Urban Park and the sea beyond. Ultimately, they managed to create an apartment that comprises both airy spaces for entertaining as well as nooks for solitary cocooning.
To create a sense of cohesion, Etienne played out variations of the same few themes throughout the apartment. There’s the repetition of natural elements, including oak, leather and warm metals like copper, bronze and gold; a range of whimsical wallpapers with nautical and forest themes; and the klompie format expressed in the original brick, as well as glazed tiles.
The undisputed heart of the apartment is the atrium, clad from floor to ceiling in shelves that Etienne had custom-made to accommodate all the books Jürgen’s parents had amassed over the years. Offering the perfect vantage point from which to discern the collection is an iron-and-oak staircase that lazily winds its way past a mirrored wall. Suspended above it all is a spider-like replica chandelier – the quirky touch that has become a signature of Etienne’s style. “I like to incorporate a bit of humour here and there,” says Etienne. “Basically, it’s a serious house that doesn’t take itself too seriously.”
The stamp room is decidedly masculine, with the bookshelves that house Hans’s frankly astounding collection of leather-bound stamp albums painted a bluish slate grey. The philately theme is continued with stamp-emblazoned wallpaper that’s repeated in the bathroom. “In addition to housing the stamps, it has become a cosy space where my parents nest and watch TV,” says Jürgen. Casting a warm glow in the evenings is a pair of Tom Dixon’s otherworldly Melt pendants in gold. “I always try to create a balance between old and new. This apartment could have easily felt a bit like a museum with all the antiques, books, stamps and leather, but it doesn’t,” says Etienne.
According to Jürgen, the main bedroom upstairs is the best spot in the apartment from which to enjoy the panoramic view spanning from Sea Point to the harbour. It’s definitely a luxurious perch, with two separate dressing rooms with en-suite bathrooms, nautically themed wallpaper, a plushly upholstered headboard, and an inky blue ceiling flecked with gold.
At night, a flick of a light switch transforms it into a starry night sky courtesy of pinhead-sized drop lights. It’s a small, thoughtful addition meant to delight Wendy and Hans. One of many in this serious house that doesn’t take itself too seriously.