Subtle Style

In order for something to feel extraordinary, you need to approach it in an entirely unique way,’ says interior designer John Jacob, who converted this former inner-city Cape Town office into a seamless expression of space in Liaigre-like proportions.

With subtly iconoclastic design plays, John has subverted the concept of the traditional apartment; from the floor plan to the fittings, everything in the space has, through its expression, been recontextualised. ‘People often think that finishes, colours and textures make amazing spaces, but actually just volume and proportion make spaces,’ he says of his starting point in tackling this project. In truth, the client’s brief was as clear as the linear language of the apartment – it was to be ‘a crash pad to rival a suite at The Mercer in New York’. With this in mind, John set out to create a space, richly expressed in verticals, that eschewed the tenets of traditional practicality and functionality in favour of unadulterated urbane luxury. In short, a dream project for the designer.

‘What makes the apartment unique is that it is, essentially, one massive open-plan bedroom,’ explains John. ‘There are no walls, so the proportions have been exaggerated to vast effect, supplanting the conventional notions of the compartmentalised home.’ The only structural fixes that survived the complete gutting process were the windows, though they ran from the ceiling to only half-wall level, compromising John’s all-vertical vision. The solution to this was a visual legerdemain in the form of a custom four-and-a half-metre couch that would sit below the half-windows, giving the impression that they actually run from floor to ceiling. And the exaggeration of scale certainly didn’t stop there.‘I’m one for maximising pieces so that nothing feels ordinary,’ he says. ‘As soon as you expand the proportions of something, you’re subliminally creating a larger volume within the space itself.’

This effect can be seen in the bedroom headboard, which occupies the full length of the wall, or the seven-metre-long Nero Marquina marble fireplace in the lounge. There are the large-scale artworks, too, retro portraits that carbonate the otherwise serious linearity of the interior. ‘In nature, you’ll never find a pure pigment, but instead there is a mix of different pigments,’ says John, explaining that the wall paint actually contains burnt sienna. ‘You should never decorate using pure white; it ends up giving the impression of artificiality.’

Black- and-white portraits and cityscapes define the home’s art collection

Appliances were integrated to create a sleek kitchen space

The seven-metre Nero Marquina marble fireplace

In taking this approach, John has created a space that is at once modern and soft. ‘The colour that you use only finds relevance in relation to the other colours around it,’ he continues, likening it to the Impressionist technique of creating shadow not by using black, but by the addition of the complementary tone, which adds a depth lacking in the flatness of a single pigment. It’s what he terms a kind of ‘colour neutralisation’ that leaves you with a feeling of quiet complexity. Natural materials dominate throughout, with an abundance of recessed lighting employed to highlight their organic grains and patinas.

‘All the brickwork is exposed,’ John says. ‘It’s a celebration of the different textural elements that contribute to the overall feel of the space. The living area’s Di Legno sawn boards are in starkly tactile contrast to the mirror-like honed-marble flooring in the kitchen.’ Every piece of custom furniture and joinery also plays with this idea, where Duco-sprayed components are juxtaposed with other deeply grained ones. The result is a silent, striking dynamism between texture, light and colour.

A low-key library doubles as a study area adjacent to the bedroom

The bedroom with its exaggerated custom headboard

Interior designer John Jacob

Featured image The open-plan lounge area features a four-and-a-half-metre custom couch, as well as chairs by Minotti. The art in the home is from the owners’ private collection

Photography Elsa Young