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A modern apartment renovation that embraces the feeling of connectivity and home

With a sophisticated renovation geared to entertaining, a couple of intrepid travellers rediscovered the joys of their own space

By House & Garden South Africa | May 20, 2022 | Architecture

Just nine months after they embarked on their first renovation in their home, Matthew Wild and Marek Raciborski found themselves unexpectedly locked into their own four walls, like the rest of us, indefinitely. ‘Lockdown was the acid test of the livability of our home,’ says Matthew, artistic director of the Cape Town Opera and Marek, who specialises in renewable energy. ‘We’ve never spent this much time at home, so was rewarding to discover just how comfortable and very, very liveable it is,’ notes Matthew.

Photograph by Carla Erasmus

Indeed, pre-pandemic, it was quite rare to find this couple, known for their peripatetic predilections, at home: when they are not exploring the artsy corners of Berlin, Ecuador or Madrid, or taking time out at local boltholes in Klein Karoo or Scarborough, they are often preoccupied with work, and so for their home, they sought to connect with friends in their living space. ‘We lived in smaller apartments where it has never been possible to have a big table of friends together, so the dining room ended up being one of the big focal points of the design,’ says Matthew.

Photograph by Carla Erasmus

Working in concert with Bryce Henderson of TAG Design, the pair reimagined this area to be warm and intimate yet geared to dinner parties. ‘We worked out the maximum number of people who could fit in that area and then designed the table around that,’ Marek explains. Bryce saw this zone as an opportunity to inject a healthy dose of drama, eschewing white walls that ‘washed out the space’ for an inky black palette, which anchors the room and contrasts against the lush forest-like garden outside. ‘We had a moment of nervousness when the black paint started going on, but it turned out beautifully,’ says Matthew.

Purposefully, it is the greenery that gets the spotlight, so Bryce carefully placed a lean pendant light above the table, which would not detract from the views. ‘In the day time, it is unobtrusive enough to look past out to the trees, but at night, it creates just enough light on the table for when you are eating, and the rest of the dark space filters away into nothing.’

Not just a home for the couple, this apartment is also a house for each of their passions, and one of the key elements of the design was providing enough storage space for Matthew’s vast opera collection. ‘From the first meeting, they gave me linear metres on how much storage they needed for books and CDs,’ says Bryce. ‘So much had to do with the CDs! Hardly the medium of the future,’ Matthew concedes with a laugh. Bryce’s challenge was to allow for around 15 metres of storage that would house each disc, while creating a sense of continuity – a hallmark of the designer’s approach to materiality throughout the space, from the carefully planned joinery and the linear Oggie flooring to the mid-century decor scheme and matte neolith surfaces.

Photograph by Carla Erasmus

Marek’s love of all things green was also incorporated into the design to enhance the feeling of connectivity throughout. ‘In the kitchen, I designed mild steel boxes that can be pulled out and planted and then pushed back again. It brings ties of the greenery from the front dining area into the back of the space,’ Bryce explains.

‘I’m quite a level-headed and relaxed person, and I like my environment to be like that too,’ says Marek, who also ensured that all decisions in the home had as light a footprint as possible. Matthew chimes in, ‘I think what we share with Bryce is the desire for things to be as simple and calming as possible. I wanted this to bea warm place that feels like a home for the two of us, where we can find inspiration and have slow meetings and dinners around tables,’ he explains. ‘And actually one of the unexpected corollaries of being at home through lockdown was the sense of community that has grown. It is about feeling comfortable in the apartment but also feeling that we are in a caring, supportive community.’

Photograph by Carla Erasmus
Photograph by Carla Erasmus

Words by Jessica Ross