It’s a very modern understanding of the monochromatic style of decorating that not only includes black and white, but also flashes of deep brown and stretches of soft grey. This gentle expansion of the palette doesn’t make it any less minimal, though – the extra tones simply soften some of the classic scheme’s sharper edges, introducing warm texture. This more relaxed approach to the colour scheme also permitted private chef Paula Nel to display all of her favourite art and objects liberally in her loft-style, two-bedroom apartment in Cape Town’s buzzing CBD (Central Business District) without the space looking cluttered.
The trick is to keep everything tonally similar. Paula’s home hasn’t been this beautifully curated for long, however. ‘When I bought it five years ago, it looked like any other city apartment, right down to the granite kitchen surfaces – so my first priority was to get the basics right,’ she says, recalling how she replaced the catalogue finishes with polished cement screed floors, painted brick and floor-to-ceiling steel windows.
Then came the worn leather, slubby linens, weathered wood and collections of handmade Japanese knives and artworks, picked up on her travels. When the apartment next door came up for sale, there was no question as to whether or not Paula would make an offer. ‘I didn’t even think about it,’ she says. Knocking the two spaces together resulted in a home blessed with open-plan spaces that can be separated by large sliding doors made of characterful beaten steel.
In total, there are two living rooms – one for late-night movie watching and another for guests – a central cooking and entertaining area and a vast bedroom with its own dressing room and en-suite bathroom. This second wave of renovations also allowed Paula to shift the kitchen into the very centre of her home. Its gleaming Carrara marble countertops, dramatic black cabinetry and open shelves, neatly lined with collections of platters and ceramic bowls, provides a great focal point.
Despite now being double its original size, the apartment is still a work in progress: ‘I’ve always got some detail in my mind that needs sorting – maybe it’s a corner that feels like it needs something extra, or a spot that is crying out for art,’ says Paula. No matter what she finds to add to her home, it will always maintain its casually minimal feel.
For the full house tour see ELLE Decoration May 2018
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