Home Tour: A Designer's Edgy Apartment in South Africa
In an industry built on flamboyant personalities and high drama, Johannesburg-born designer Tristan du Plessis gets on with it quietly and without a whole lot of fuss. Surprisingly understated, he lets the spaces he creates speak for themselves. But then he’s not really one for sticking to the rules.
A meteoric rise in design goes largely against the norm in South Africa—in an industry often restricted slightly by relative isolation from international design hubs, growth is usually more gradual, but du Plessis’ interior architecture company Studio A has all but dominated the interior scene of late. A kind of low-key local Peter Marino, he’s carved out a serious niche in the edgy but luxe urban space—spanning hospitality, hotels and homes—as well as a name for himself for his own personal style.
“I feel that every project type has something to offer me in terms of my design growth. That said, I’m really enjoying the hotel projects I’m working on currently because they offer so many layers to unravel,” du Plessis explains.
More is definitely more—when conceiving spaces, combining styles or choosing clothes. And while each project is of course tailored to its purpose, they’re always big on detail. “You could say I border on a maximalist approach—my intention is to create immersive experiences,” he adds.
“You could say I border on a maximalist approach—my intention is to create immersive experiences”
His own home is a good microcosm of his design style as a whole, with its gritty location belying a very luxe interior. A four-level apartment, it sits on the edge of one of the most sought after suburbs in Johannesburg (Westcliff), the food and culture hotspot of Melville, and the hub of youth culture that is Braamfontein. “I’ve always liked this part of town because of its diversity, and being on the borders you get the best of all worlds,” he comments.
Drawn to juxtaposition in design too, he is influenced by the quiet sophistication and attention to textural detail of Paris-based architects Joseph Dirand and Tristan Auer, the boldness of Japanese interior designer Masamichi Katayama, the romance of Dutch designer Marcel Wanders and the sheer conceptual genius of starchitect Philippe Starck.
In a similar fashion he chose the elements of his space individually and on merit—each piece selected for its personal appeal, rather than to fit a predetermined scheme.
"My love for design is the driving force behind my interior"
“It’s less of a designed space and more of a collection of things I love or have enjoyed making. My love for design is the driving force behind my interior,” he elaborates. And to draw a distinction—he means design, with a capital D, in the form of standalone pieces by iconic designers such as Le Corbusier, Tom Dixon and Serge Mouille. These lend gravitas to what is at its heart a space with a youthful attitude. “I sometimes feel like I’m living in someone else’s house… almost as if I’m pretending to be an adult,” he adds.
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Du Plessis renovated the multilevel loft apartment from closed off rooms into one extended space connected by industrial-style metal staircases: the kitchen and dining at the bottom, bedroom and lounge one floor up, study next and then the roof terrace and outdoor bar area at the top.
“The idea of every home function having a designated room is a completely antiquated concept. Instead I designed the spaces to make them livable for me,” he explains. Part of that livability includes a sense of space and a feeling of luxury. “The feeling of space is a luxury in itself—so I attempted to communicate this as clearly as possible through creating open-plan spaces,” he adds.
“The feeling of space is a luxury in itself—so I attempted to communicate this as clearly as possible through creating open-plan spaces”
Always one to customise a design to fit its purpose, as well as his personal taste, the designer took inspiration from his daily life when plotting colour schemes and finishes for his own home. His schedule being what it is—he’s not home much, and when he is it’s usually at night. The apartment was naturally quite dark to begin with, so rather than try to change it, he emphasised it with a colour palette to match. “A dark sultry interior is more to my personal taste than light and airy in any case,” he quips.
(Related: How To Create Spaces That Inspire, According To An Interior Designer)
This story was adapted from Singapore Tatler Homes June-July 2018.