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House Tour: Inside an Eclectic Collector’s Colourful and Curious Cape Town Home

Wim van Zyl’s Observatory home is a world of fantastical wonder and curiosities

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By House & Garden South Africa | May 3, 2024 | Interiors

Walking into coiffeur and collector Wim van Zyl’s home in Observatory, Cape Town, is like falling down the rabbit hole and landing in a world of fantastical wonder, nostalgia and childlike curiosity

What is your inspiration for this extraordinary interior?

Wim van Zyl: In everything I do, I consistently seek a sense of completion. I love that feeling and the metaphysical cadence of finishing something. I have been a collector my entire life, which is paradoxical to that pursuit of completion because that has been – and continues to be – an ongoing, creative pursuit.

All the items assembled across my house were collected over forty-eight years. Because all my energy is contained in the assemblages I surround myself with, the house represents forty-eight years of collection, along with forty-eight years of personal growth, anguish, struggle, success, and evolution as a human being.

Photography by Greg Cox.

So, this sense of putting objects together to form a singular assemblage is also very emotionally cathartic for me and, in collecting the objects now assembled throughout the interior, it became a culmination of disparate memories and experiences that I have collected over different phases of my life. My inspiration is the objects – I like to read objects, both visually and energetically.

As you wander through the home, you will find that there are both visual and physical breathing spaces, which are important. The eye must rest. Photography by Greg Cox.

How does it all come together?

At some point, I decided to assemble my collections of various objects by type. For example, grouping shapes and symbols, such as the crosses or my collection of Imari plates and putting them on the wall. Doing this made everything more structured and less messy for me. I appreciate how the symbols and motifs on the Imari plates are magnified when they are grouped – it comes to life in a visually dynamic, meaningfully layered way.

In reading objects like this, it is natural for me to assemble them in focal points. At first glance, it may seem as though every corner of my space is decorated. But as you move through it and live with it, you will find that there are both visual and physical breathing spaces, which are important. The eye must rest.

All the items assembled across Van Zyl’s home have been collected and curated over forty-eight years. Photography by Greg Cox.

How do you achieve that breathing space?

It is all about balance. And this balance can be observed in all major metaphysical philosophies and schools of thought. I also feel strongly about honouring the objects in my collections which, in turn, also warrants some visual balance for each item to stand in its own light.

Similarly, each assemblage is also balanced in the selection of objects that make it up. My space may be maximalist, but in my thinking, I am a minimalist in the sense that I also seek completion, both visually and emotionally. Everything in my house to the insides of the cupboards is attentively organised, and everything has its place.

The primary bedroom features Asian llanterns and an old theatre bench reupholstered with an insect motif. Photography by Greg Cox.

You are a coiffeur and – more recently – an artist by trade. How do you reconcile these two creative identities?

I did not go to art school, but I have been a hairdresser for thirty years, and that has cultivated and refined my visual intuition, as well as the balance I apply – whether that is when I am cutting and styling hair, in my art, or in decorating my home’s interior.

The front patio Wim van Zyl’s Observatory home. Photography by Greg Cox.

You have mentioned you were destined to buy this particular property. Tell us more.

There were so many symbols that reminded me of people and experiences that changed and shaped my life. One of these was a heart-shaped sticker at the entrance I noticed on the day I came to sign the offer. This reminds me of gifts a special friend used to send me. Incidentally, she was also the one who gifted me the vintage leopard skin on the living room floor. Also, eight of my hairdressing clients had either lived or were closely related to people who have lived here. It was layered with connection and meaning.

Coiffeur and collector Wim van Zyl. Photography by Greg Cox.

Take the complete visual tour in the gallery below and see more from Wim van Zyl @wimcoiffeur.