WORDS Noreen Johnson PHOTOS Warren Heath/Bureaux PRODUCTION Shelley Street/Bureaux
In contrast to the vibrant exterior of its Bo-Kaap neighbourhood, the monochromatic interiors of Francois Irvine’s light-filled loft apartment reflect his creative collector’s eye.
“It was when I saw this view,’’ says homeowner Francois Irvine, ‘‘that I knew I wanted to be in this space.’’
Like many views in central Cape Town, it’s an urban one but also includes seductive slivers of the natural landscape that takes in Kloof Nek, lying to the right of Table Mountain’s looming bulk, along with one of Signal Hill’s signature curves.
Situated in the lively, historic Bo-Kaap, Francois’ loft occupies the third floor of a Cape Georgian house and, while its facade might match the riot of bright reds, oranges, pinks and greens that are the neighbourhood’s signature, the interior of his home is almost entirely monochromatic. Climb the three flights of stairs to the top of this small industrial building (the first and second floors contain small businesses) and you’re enveloped by an interior that layers multiple shades of cream and white, punctuated by a few carefully selected darker elements that add subtle contrast.
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The immediate effect is calming, tranquil and refreshing. “I’ve always loved these tonal off-whites,” says Francois. “At work, I’m bombarded with colour, so it’s great to have a more restrained, disciplined space here at home.” As the co-founder and co-owner of the renowned Cape Town design studio, coffee shop and gallery Haas, Francois’ days are spent on the other side of the CBD in a workplace filled with artworks, ceramics and products by a wide range of local creatives.
While it’s, of course, true that, as Francois puts it, “neutrals always work together”, keeping the colour scheme so controlled also means that elements of texture and shape are thrown into sharp relief. It liberates your eye from the task of absorbing colour, and it is instead drawn to other elements: the sculptural shapes of furniture pieces; the textures of the textiles used for upholstery; subtly carved decorative details; and plenty of evidence of the handmade.
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The loft is a fairly large one, with the main living area – entered directly from the front door – taking up the vast majority of the floor space. There’s a place for in-depth conversation, complete with enveloping armchairs and couches, a more intimate sitting area facing the view through the wooden doors, and an elegant love seat that’s close to the open-plan kitchen area – and perfectly situated for chatting to the cook. Leading off the main spaces are the kitchen (with a sliver of guest bathroom tucked in behind it) and a guest bedroom, on the one side; and on the other, a more spacious main bedroom. West facing, this room is bathed in warm afternoon light year-round.
Another bathroom and what Francois calls “the workroom” also lead off the main living area. It’s in this room that Francois still conjures up his maker’s magic and his loft is filled with items he’s created, ranging from the cleverly improvised white cotton lampshades to the elegant cream-upholstered armchairs from which his three rescue dogs rise to greet visitors. Whippets Ru and Kio, and the young Italian greyhound Willow, all stand out from the neutral interiors on the chilly winter’s day I visit, because they’re all clad in colourful dog jackets that – of course – were also made by Francois.
This is a home in which its owner’s creative hand and eye are evident absolutely everywhere.