This Expansive Apartment In The Center Of Cape Town Is An Artfully Curated Oasis

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It was a busy day in the heart of Cape Town when Sumien Brink – a former magazine editor with an unerring instinct for recognizing potential in a space – entered the incongruously named Impala House with its modest but beguiling pink marble foyer. The elevator opened directly into the space, stopping her in her tracks. “I was flabbergasted – I had no idea proportions like this still existed in the city,” she states.

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But she wasn’t to be deterred, nor was interior designer Etienne Hanekom. He first installed Perspex corrugated dividers to create two bedrooms – a smart, inexpensive way to carve up what was previously an office with only rudimentary bathrooms and a tiny kitchen. To provide focus in the entry area, one of Guy Tillim’s striking photographs, taken on Avenue du Président Léopold Sedar Senghor in Dakar, Senegal, was enlarged to become “wall art.” Most of Tillim’s images are photographed in troubled parts of Africa and resonate deeply with Sumien, who remembers visiting Mozambique on blissfully carefree holidays as a child but being aware of simmering unrest and the start of the architectural decay that still exists today.

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A self-confessed magazine junkie with an unstoppable weakness for books, Sumien has cleverly book-ended her living area with sturdy shelving and an outsize olive-green velvet sofa that invites hours of contemplation on fashion, architecture, interiors, art, ceramics – practically every subject under the sun. Each book and magazine is treasured and filled with memories of a lifetime in publishing.

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Never inclined to collect just one of anything, Sumien has decorated her primary bedroom walls with a row of illustrations from Tina Berning’s book 100 Girls on Cheap Paper, and favorite Lucie de Moyencourt’s drawings of classic Cape Town landscapes line the back of the display dressers dividing the living room from the kitchen. An old poster of the The Butcher Boys by Jane Alexander is another clue of her collecting style – you’ll find a precious print on the wall in the living room and a sculpture under a glass cloche in a beautifully styled corner.

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Etienne’s redesigned industrial stainless-steel kitchen is a welcoming and delightful jumble of succulents and plants that jostle for space alongside gleaming copper appliances and trusty frying pans. Sourced at a catering supplier, they are the perfect foil for piles of ceramics and inherited platters, pots and plates – enough to host a party at the drop of a hat around the long black Gregor Jenkin dining table. Etienne’s industrial lighting – gently looped black cords with exposed globes – makes the entire space glow at night.

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It wasn’t long after this that Sumien began to pursue a lifelong dream of her own: she created her first range of handprinted Flora and Fauna pure linen tea towels to be printed and handsewn just in time for Christmas. Each one, a work of art, celebrates historical illustrations of plants and animals and comes wrapped in a handstitched gift “envelope.” A creative purist at heart, one would expect nothing less from this talented former editor who started out in fashion but dedicated most of her life to creating the beautiful pages of the country’s best-loved decor and food magazines.

Photography by Greg Cox.

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