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Emerald City

The Cape Town apartment of artist Kurt Pio is a high-octane rollic of statement pieces

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Emerald City
Emerald City

The Cape Town apartment of artist Kurt Pio is a high-octane rollic of sassy colour and statement graphics.

Kurt, why did you set your heart on this space? 

I was looking for an apartment with a roof terrace or a rooftop garden, and the space attracted me because of its proximity to everything – I can walk to my studio, there are great bars and restaurants nearby, there’s even a bicycle lane right in front that takes me to the promenade in seven minutes.

It ticked everything on my wish list.

The bathroom


Take us through the floor layout… 

Most of the living space in here is open plan. As you walk in there’s a stairwell to your left that takes you up to the rooftop garden terrace. To the right is the guest bedroom and bathroom. From the front door you walk straight into the dining room and kitchen and it opens onto the living area. Just beyond that, large concertina doors take you out onto the balcony which runs the full length of the apartment. 

The hallway


You’ve worked in a super intense colour palette – was that a knock-on effect from your work? 

It was pretty instinctual. My home reflects my work. I was inspired by a surfboard that I had painted malachite green two years ago – and it just stuck with me. As did the green of the large emeralds that I painted for another exhibition. The citrine yellow is something new. It’s an egg-yolk shade and is quite similar to that of the Veuve Clicquot champagne branding. 

Gold is also very prominent in my work. I’ve been making a series of abstract paintings that are either gold with emerald green or gold with pink; I love how the two play up against one another. I also happened to make some surfboards two years ago for a show in Cape Town and they were gold-leafed. One of those surfboards remains in my home. 

Gold panelled mirrors in the spare bedroom bounce light. The striking black and gold painting is by Kurt.

Every time I do a series I generally keep back one painting and that’s always in my home. My mother hates the gold curtains in the main bedroom, but I love that it’s fun and easy going. I think I totally get away with it.

You play with scale a lot. What was the process there?

I think it’s just what I do. As with the gems, I love the idea of taking something that is small and enlarging it, because it becomes quite abstract. I also played with mirrors, which expand the space and brings light to darker areas. I often take the mirror from floor to ceiling, as you can see in my lounge area. Then there are smaller mirrors that are just scattered around the apartment. There’s also a very large Victorian one in the main bedroom.

Kurt kept the kitchen cabinet frames the original cherry wood, but had the doors replaced with black ones finished off with horn and brass handles.

Art really is such a central force in your life, but it isn’t where you started.  I studied interior design and loved it, going on to join a small architectural firm. I hated every minute of it; I lasted six months and had full depression. I moved back home and the only thing I could do, and felt like doing, was to paint. It was a kind of therapy. So I started to paint in my mom’s garage and slowly but surely one person commissioned me to do something, and then another. Since then, the highlight has definitely been my first solo show in America. Two hours into opening night the gallery owner came and whispered in my ear that I’d just sold out. 

Visit kurtpio.co.za 

For the full interview, get a copy of the December issue of House & Garden magazine



A black and white rug from IKEA, god stools from are from Weylandts.

The main bedroom

Kurt in his studio

The harbour-facing terrace.

In the dining room, Kurt has layered a pair of gold starburst mirrors on either side of his emerald painting.


Photography Elsa Young