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Umhlanga Rocks’ 'The Pink Palace' plays into a feeling of old Hollywood glam

From art deco styling to old Hollywood glamour, this infamously dubbed Umhlanga Rocks home, ‘The Pink Palace’ is slicked in scarlets, sherbets and soft pinks

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By House & Garden South Africa | November 11, 2022 | Interiors

Suffice it to say the owners of this home have a predilection for one colour in particular. Fuschia to flamingo, salmon to sherbet and peony to pale dagwood – the Umhlanga Rocks abode is an ode to pink. And sure, Barbiecore is having something of a moment in 2022 - from Valentino’s Pink PP collection and Balmain’s Barbie NFTs to Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie’s gorgeously nostalgic looks for Greta Gerwig’s upcoming take on the beloved Mattel dolls. Yet designers Bruce Fyfe and Kelsey Boyce have cracked a trend-defying design that does not feel like a gimmicky pink punch in the face.

‘The client had always had this dream for a Miami Midwest house, and from a cursory glance at her Pinterest board, there definitely was no doubt that she was in love with pink,’ says Bruce, chuckling. ‘We had to find a way to interpret that and deliver it locally with a coastal KwaZulu-Natal theme.’ Throughout its spaces, the home thrums with the gentle energy of pink while feeling as refreshing as a sip of rosé on a hot summer day – an antidote to Umhlanga’s thick humidity.

The bar links the outdoors with the indoors, using fresh colours and bold pattern, Image Elsa Young

At their design firm, Fyfe Boyce, Bruce and Kelsey have spent 18 years dedicating themselves to the clients’ brief. ‘We don’t have a one-size-fits-all approach,’ says Kelsey, and Bruce agrees. ‘We are totally guided by what our clients want – ultimately they are going to be living there, not us,’ before adding modestly, ‘We’re just two East Coast boys trying to work our magic.’ The pair’s humility shines through in their designs, which are expertly refined and polished but put the clients’ tastes on a pedestal. ‘We were given great direction by the client but at the same time were given free rein to piece the puzzle together and create their dream house,’ Kelsey says.

Inside, Kelsey and Bruce gave it a suitably cosmetic update with several licks of paint – up to ten coats in some zones to achieve a highly lacquered look. And while the buzz of pink is most evident in the finished scheme, it’s actually toned down by a lot of white and touches of gold with stronger hues coming in through the furniture and softs. The designers lent into the pink themes in the bedroom, guest room and the client’s ‘cloffice’ – her closet and office. But in 2022, we would be remiss to say that pink’s only for the girls, and here, areas that are primarily the client’s partner’s domain still carry a thread of pink throughout, complementing what might be considered masculine spaces, like the pyjama lounge where he spends much of his leisure time. This is one area Bruce highlights as a standout moment in the home, ‘It’s a cocoon but you do also feel a bit like a bit of a rock star.’

The main bedroom is adorned with pink shades from floor to ceiling, Image Elsa Young

Pink isn’t the only theme in this project. Bruce and Kelsey tied spaces together with continuity in arch motifs and gentle curves that add to the soft blushing effect. It’s a nod to the Art Deco design that’s so prevalent in both retro Miami architecture and the KwaZulu-Natal vernacular. Curves are offset by plenty of generous gold lines too, doubling down on the old Hollywood glamour that the home exudes.

Strong black lines also feature in the billowy curtains of the living room that beckon you outdoors. ‘We wanted sheer curtains so that there was a lot of movement,’ explains Bruce. There’s an easy flow between inside and outside in colour, pattern and fun design elements, the most playful of which is undoubtedly the ‘flying saucer bar’, as Kelsey calls it. This Miami-style cocktail bar is a lure for hot Umhlanga days. ‘The clients really use and appreciate their space,’ Bruce says. ‘They want to share it with their friends and family who visit too. So beyond a Pink Palace, it’s become a party palace, too.’

Words originally by Jessica Ross

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