If Paris-born photographer Jean-Marc Lederman had to describe his life in a single word it would probably be ‘eclectic’. Consider his unconventional professional trajectory – he left his architectural work mid-career to become a prolific fashion photographer who, after moving from Europe to Cape Town, would later add café-owner and African artefact importer to his résumé. Similarly, Jean-Marc’s eye-catching bungalow, nestled against a hillside in the city’s picturesque Llandudno, is a study in opposites and contradictions.
Attracted by the political shifts taking place in the country, Jean-Marc and his model girlfriend decided to pay a visit to Cape Town in 1992. ‘We fell in love with the country, the city, the people, the light, and – as I am a Frenchman – the delectable wines and food,’ he laughs. Two years later they would settle down in the city, opening a Parisian café while also starting a small import business specialising in objects from Mali and Morocco. ‘There was also a huge demand for furniture from Europe, Africa and Asia,’ he recounts.
What would prove most challenging for Jean-Marc was finding the right place to call home. It was a journey that saw him spend the first few years moving from one place to the next until he eventually fell in love with a hilltop rental with the beach on its doorstep and Table Mountain clearly in sight. ‘Every morning I looked at it, and there was something special that attracted me to it besides its perfect location,’ says Jean-Marc, musing on what had initially drawn him to the home that he would end up purchasing from his landlord. ‘Perhaps from admiring it so much I managed to attract it as I was attracted by it.’
Once he had secured the property, Jean-Marc had some extensive design changes up his sleeve. The original structure, something along the lines of a Brutalist- beach-house crossbreed from the seventies, was spread across a single floor. Drawing on his architectural know-how, Jean-Marc set about designing a second level below, one that would accommodate three bedrooms, his photography studio, a living room, two bathrooms and an open-plan kitchen, leaving the top floor with its original distribution: a bedroom, a living room and an office. Moreover, he included a garage with a small apartment on top, and added a 14-metre-long pool to capitalise on the sweeping sea views.
During the alterations, however, the house suffered a small fire that left the walls charred and scarred and, true to his unconventional form, the photographer opted to leave these damages unmended. ‘I enjoy the result,’ says Jean-Marc. ‘It looks like a factory, with its face brick and its dented walls and its skylight in bare concrete.’ Although the newly expanded house covers over 400 square metres, the couple admits that they mostly find themselves occupied in the study, the living room or the open kitchen. ‘The area we use the most is certainly the pool,’ says Jean-Marc. ‘During summer we have braais with friends and in winter, despite the cold temperature, I still enjoy waking up and going for a dip.’
When it came to the appointment of the different rooms, once again, it would be Jean-Marc’s wide-ranging interests and colourful history that informed his every decision. The palette is neutral but warm, a mix of exposed concrete, stone and wood – the apotheosis of the home’s imperfections to its very signature. This modern base is dotted with various objects that the couple has been acquiring during business trips, some exotic furniture, and many pieces from his apartment in Paris, which was full of trinkets from flea markets. Think modernist pieces by Le Corbusier and Philippe Stark comfortably sharing a room with hand-woven cushions from Mozambique and Moroccan rugs. The walls, almost an expression of vanitas in their raw state, would also prove the perfect platform to display the photographer’s large art collection. What Jean-Marc has captured in his home is a perfect snapshot of his own life – his diverse history and tastes – a biographical sanctuary to call his own.