PHOTOS Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes WORDS Jacqueline Myburgh Chemaly
Amanda du Plessis’ Riverclub home in Johannesburg is steeped in history, both ancient and modern, creating the perfect canvas for her life as a fabric designer.
Soul is what it’s all about for Amanda du Plessis – a whole lot of soul combined with heritage, roots, integrity and patience. She and her husband, Rudolf, have lived in their house for more than 12 years but she feels it is only now starting to reflect their style.
This retail consultant, workshop presenter, product developer and fabric designer finds it difficult to put a name to her signature look. But a tour of the Riverclub home she now also shares with two young sons, Wian and Malan, soon reveals a passion for design with a sense of history as well as contemporary relevance and flair.
The family crest, carved into the side of her father’s old desk in the study, is what first led Amanda down the path that today finds her the proud designer of Evolution Covered fabrics, distributed exclusively through Home Fabrics.
A career in design
Amanda’s design life began in fashion – she has worked for Esprit, Truworths, Stuttafords and Polo, and was the creative mind behind Stuttafords’ Oaktree range – but she decided to change pace when her boys came along and now consults to clients on their retail strategy, also running workshops for fashion designers on how to obtain profitable returns.
Evolution Covered is Amanda’s first foray into her own product development and, judging by the positive reception her designs have received, it is unlikely to be her last. She involved Karen Stanek, formerly of The Silk and Cotton Co, in assisting with the design and technical development but the story is essentially her own.
The furnishing fabric range is an exploration of Amanda’s Huguenot and Afrikaans roots (she was born a Du Toit), and consists of more than 30 designs that reflect a nostalgic and emotive story dating back to 1688.
Designs include a family tree complete with crests; classic whorls featuring the signatures of Huguenot settlers sourced from archival documents; Amanda’s own “first day at school” photographs rendered as silhouettes on checks and stripes; as well as West African Adinkra symbols that incorporate inspirational beliefs and sayings.
In one design, words that have touched Amanda’s life form a graphic mosaic. One of them is Liefding, the last word her father said to her mother before he passed away.
The range is a moving and soulful reflection of a heritage that combines both European and African traditions, giving one a sense of the intensely personal style reflected in Amanda’s home.
A tranquil escape
Although the house itself was built fairly recently – in 1980 – the 100-year-old Cape ash in the garden roots this home in history, warmth and character, offering a reminder that the north of Johannesburg is not strictly unimaginative suburbia and miles of townhouses. Although within spitting distance of the traffic and fast-food madness of Rivonia Road, the Du Plessis’ haven is a tranquil escape.
Four-metre-high aluminium doors open – game lodge-style – onto the garden dominated by the vast tree, with dark olive-green walls adding retro elegance to the seamless inside-outside living. Kitchen, dining space (inside and out), living area and sun-room all form part of a large north-facing arc, embracing the tree and the textured carpet of Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) thriving in its shade.
This house also features a black pool on one side, while the laundry and scullery are hidden on the other. It is a generous space designed to make the most of the glorious Johannesburg climate and is ideal for easy family living.
Up a short flight of stairs on the south side of the house lie the three family bedrooms, bathrooms, a study and Amanda’s office in the back garden.
Spaces are simple and generous, with large windows giving light and opening all the rooms to the sculptural back garden, which is almost totally devoid of colour.
Amanda’s distinctive style is evident everywhere: Old hospital cupboards have been powder coated in startling yellow to lend a contemporary edge to the bathrooms. On the exterior wall of her office, she rejected trellises in favour of gigantic wooden picture frames filled with chicken wire to guide creepers, while a massive print of a Karoo landscape fills the wall above Wian’s bed with space and warmth.
The decor is a quirky mix of old and new: a favourite French armoire (Amanda’s 10th wedding anniversary gift from her husband) and a dramatic customised retro couch from Casamento sit comfortably alongside old leather pouffes and, of course, the new additions featuring Amanda’s latest fabric range.
None of this happened overnight, though, and Amanda quotes the name of a store she found recently in London’s East End called Labour and Wait, which truly resonated with her. She believes that, as in life, one has to have patience when building a home. Find your individual style and let it evolve from there.