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PICTURES: This Joburg home proves that bigger is better

Award-winning designer Tristan du Plessis reveals his rule-breaking new project that redefines big- city luxury

By Piet Smedy  | July 28, 2021 | Category

Photography: Elsa Young
Photography: Elsa Young

Award-winning designer Tristan du Plessis reveals his rule-breaking new project that redefines big- city luxury.

The home has the most incredible panoramic view of the Sandton skyline

Who was involved with the project?

This was a new construction developed by Nadia Mahmud from Millsite developments who was heavily involved with the design and architecture from the outset as well as Philippe Angelo as the architect. I was the designer both for the developer and the end client.

Photography: Elsa Young

What were the homeowners looking for?

I met them in 2018, when I received the brief to create the most tech-forward home in the country with a palette of only black or white and little to no other colours, though I managed to sneak in a few bronze accents along the way.The house was to be completely custom and tailored to the client’s specific needs; a home that could be a peaceful hideaway from the bustling Joburg lifestyle but could also transform into an impressive and glamorous house for hosting private events for friends. The home has the most incredible panoramic view of the Sandton skyline, one of the best I have seen in Joburg.

Photography: Elsa Young

Take us through the layout. The flow of the house is dynamic; the front door leads onto the open-plan, double-volume dining area, lounge and expansive outdoor areas for guest access whilst the homeowner’s private access is through a glass-encased car showroom and up an elevator to the other floors.

Materials are used with restraint, mainly marble, timber, steel and glass – what was the thinking behind this controlled palette?

At first, the brief was challenging, using only black and white, but I had to change my own narrative and focus on creating impact within the contrast and graphic nature of black on white, from the extraordinarily strong black-veined marble to the restrained linear slatted deep black wooden walls, the black elements sliced through the soft white spaces and created an unmistakably masculine feel in the space. I was able to convince the client to adorn the palette with a bronze tone as a subtle highlight in each room.

Photography: Elsa Young

The architecture makes brilliant use of natural light. How was this aspect of the design approached?

With the Joburg climate and the incredible views that this house offers we aimed, as a team, to make the most of the natural light and the outside space. The front side of the home is encased in glass that folds away to blur the lines between indoor and outdoor space when needed, but also allows the house to engage the views and allow natural light in whether open or closed.

How do the interiors reflect the client’s needs from the home?

The client wanted a space that was minimal in terms of decor but still had drama and intrigue throughout. Practically, we built the home around his lifestyle, from the gym and wellness areas to the open-plan living areas in which to entertain, each element was chosen to suit a specific function and to be an extension of his personality. The interiors and architecture absolutely needed to speak the same language for this particular project, the home needed to have a distinct and ubiquitous visual identity.

Decorating a space with such large volumes can be tricky. How did you pull it off ?

There is a beautiful tension between large volumes and the placement of pieces within them. one wants to fill the space so that it does not feel empty but also still celebrates the volume. our cluster of classic on coffee tables, for example, have a sculptural feel and are placed in the centre of the lounge with negative space around them, showing off the rug below. Both visually anchor the lounge while still showing off the space.

Form and structure, in terms of furniture pieces, also seems to echo the rectilinear architectural approach.

For the majority of the pieces, we followed the straight lines of the house, pulling the eye through the spaces in harmony with the architecture. however, I also added an organic, curved or soft- edged piece in each space to create depth and interest.

Photography: Elsa Young

Lighting has also been brilliantly used to occupy space, both sculptural yet functional. How did you first conceive of this approach and what informed your lighting choices?

The decorative lighting in the home became the jewellery of the interior, effective as floating sculptural pieces throughout the day and adding glamour and warmth to the home as the sun sets. The reflections of these lights in all the glazing creates movement when walking through the home at night.

Which designers did you work with?

We worked with OKHAa for a large portion of our custom pieces, I feel that their aesthetic is luxurious but not austere, which is completely in line with my design ethos. We also created a three-metre-long, custom solid brass, angular chandelier over the dining table in collaboration with Martin Doller. We finally mixed these custom pieces with more classic international pieces from Cassina, B&B Italia, Zaha Hadid, classic on and Galotti & Radice.

Let’s talk about the art in the home – especially the gold-plated dinosaur skeleton.

Well, yes, there is a life-size, gold-plated velociraptor skeleton, commissioned by the client, by an artist named Goldfinger.

It sits proudly and somewhat aggressively in the front entrance and most definitely creates impact, intrigue and engagement as guests walk in.

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