A version of this article appeared in Elle Decoration South Africa in May 2011.
A Joburg apartment owes its verve to bursts of colour, local contemporary art and its young owners’ eye for eclectic pieces
Dawood Petersen and his wife Lauren aren’t the kind of lawyers you expect to find a corporate boardroom. Young and exceedingly dapper, the pair’s eclectic sensibility has found expression in their avant-guard home.
The couple met as students in Cape Town, and decided to move to Joburg’s sprawling metropolis instead of Europe.
Their barefoot apartment in Killarney is an ode to clever simplicity punctuated with sharp design and restrained bursts of colour. But it hasn’t always been this way.
When they moved into the building, the 198 square metre flat was filled with salmon-coloured carpets, even the bathrooms. “There were pelmets everywhere, it was rough,” says Dawood.
The renovation restored the flat, revealing the parquet floors under the carpets, and painting the rooms a clean white. The windows are in their original frames. “You have to respect the architect,” Dawood explains.
The apartment is now spotless and raw, with occasional slicks of basic colours - fire engine red cupboards in the kitchen, apple green in the bathroom. “We like to keep it simple,” Lauren says.
There’s no clutter. The bare surfaces and proliferation of glass tops juxtapose textures and quirky shapes - and provide a canvas for the couple’s love for beautiful things.
The couple collaborates on choosing individual pieces for the space. I source pieces, and Lauren approves them, Dawood laughs.
“Nothing bling,” says Lauren. “I love things that are old, big and have character.”
“Things that can defend themselves without overpowering each other,” adds Dawood.
The walls are a celebration of South African contemporary artists - many of whom the couple count as friends. “I can’t buy art where I can’t hang out with the artist,” says Dawood.
A painting by Zanderblom looks over at a set of prints from Lerato Shadi, and on the other side of the wall, a black and white urban canvas from Quentin Williams, a final year art student at Wits.
Dawood has a penchant for pragmatism and uniformity. The simple Radiant pendant fittings make the bulbs the centre of attention. “All the lights had to match,” he says, “but I try not to make it too obvious.”
Dawood says before moving to Joburg, he was stuck on “big name designer furniture”, but now the couple’s aesthetic focuses more on the history of each individual piece.
“It’s the first time I’ve owned classical furniture,” he says, “I wanted to mix it up.”
The pair say they’re embracing a new stage of life in Joburg, which they see as a “working city.” There’s an energy, Lauren says, but it’s about being responsible, grown up.
“If work isn’t your biggest driver, then you can’t live in Joburg,” says Dawood, “but we’re embracing it.”
A version of this article appeared in Elle Decoration South Africa, May 2011.