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A Joburg sneaker designer’s bachelor pad with serious style cred

Interior designer Donald Nxumalo created a soulful, fashion-forward home in Joburg – and it has a secret bookshelf door

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By House & Garden South Africa | June 21, 2022 | Interiors

Something beautiful about successful people joining forces to create authentic, inspiring and beautiful projects. In this instance, lauded Joburg-based interior designer Donald Nxumalo and a sneakerhead turned entrepreneur collaborated on the look, feel and execution of this golf estate home.

As the game-changing founder of a proudly South African fashion shoe brand – with the design and manufacture done locally – the homeowner recognised the value in excellent design and its power to tell a story and entrusts local craftspeople to execute those designs – which he repeatedly demonstrates in his business praxis. Donald Nxumalo mirrors those ideals in his work, so he wanted the interior designer to capture the soul of his new home.

A secret study door ensures statement bookshelves in the dining room are unbroken. Photograph by Sarah de Pina

Approaching the design of the home, Donald sought to create a ‘relaxing but upscale’ milieu that matched its location. His primary reference was the ease and comfort of high-end hospitality that provides a well-curated, luxurious and functional aesthetic.

Through the use of black wooden screens, Donald delineated sections in the open-plan section of the house incorporating the entrance hall, dining room and living room, each with a unique lighting treatment and tonality. To match the entrance hall’s light airiness, he played with pale greys and creams, offset with minimal dark accents. Donald describes the main sitting room as ‘darker and moodier’ with a black marble fireplace, wood panelling and furnished with black, teal and charcoal pieces in velvets, brocades and leathers. The intervening space, the dining room, seeks to marry the lighter and darker tones of the two surrounding rooms with dark wood shelves warmly lit to highlight the books and artworks they house and high-gloss materials that reflect the light.

Colours and textures dance in the open-plan section, pale greys, creams and charcoal, velvets, brocades and leathers. Photograph by Sarah de Pina

The feature that first struck Donald upon entering the space was the quality and brilliance of the light that filtered in through its many windows. Interior designers shape their ideas to highlight the virtues of a given space, and in this instance, that meant finding ways to offset, complement and exaggerate the clean, airy light that streamed in from the golf estate. Using an array of lighting fixtures, from suspended chandeliers to wall-mounted fixtures, strip lighting and standing lamps, he sought to accentuate and define the quality of the light in the home’s different spaces and highlight numerous conversation-starter pieces throughout the house. His twofold use of a mirrored glass chandelier in the entrance hall and dining room creates a golden thread guiding people into the space and unifying the aesthetic.

Balancing light and dark, organic and geometric, Donald combines sophistication and comfort in the bedroom. Photograph by Sarah de Pina

Considering the entrepreneur-homeowner’s need for an at-home workspace that simultaneously maintains ‘clear interior boundaries’, Donald created every mystery writer’s favourite trope: a hidden study. This portal, concealed behind the dining room shelves, neither interrupts the aesthetic nor the flow from the entrance hall through the dining room and into the living room.

An art-filled stairwell connects the public and private areas of the golf-estate home. Photograph by Sarah de Pina

The bedroom space, much like the dining room, is a balance of light and dark. Multiple sources of light – including artisanal ceiling-hung bulbs and strip lighting – illuminate its various textures and patterns, ranging from a bench made from ochre leather to a soft grey throw on the bed, the patterned brocade of the throw pillows and the deep, rich browns of the wood panelling. This space epitomises the play between soft and hard, organic and geometric, which you can see throughout the house. Donald attributes the success of this project to his client’s trust in him. He had seen Donald’s prior work and was confident the interior designer could expertly execute a cohesive local yet global aesthetic. And that freedom empowered Donald to push the scope of his work into excellence.

Text by Anita Makgetla