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Absolute Altitude

Absolute Altitude home

Above: This interior by Willy Wales is essentially a contemporary and masculine space, though eclectically infused with Africana. Abstract painting by Ian Hartslet. Table by Greg Grant for G2 Furniture. Le Corbusier chaise and black leather and chrome tub chairs take centre stage.


Absolute Altitude

Space meets Energy in this stylish Joburg renovation

Words Natalie Boruvka Production Colin O’Mara Davis Photographs Gunther Gräter

Warm, engaging, bold and distinctly masculine, it is uncanny how succinctly this compact Khyber Rock home captures the nature of its occupant, pilot and aviation consultant Peter van der Spuy, whose career piloting and managing intercontinental Gulfstream jets reads like an adventure storybook. Not only has it taken him to all corners of the world, from as far north as the Arctic Circle to New Zealand down under, it has made for a fascinating portfolio of corporate clients – an international who’s who of high-flyers that includes Russian statesmen, Arab sheiks and international pop stars the likes of Steve Tyler of Aerosmith fame.

absolute altitude interiors

Far left: Three-seater sofa designed by one of the masters of contemporary Italian design, Vico Magistretti. FAr right: Willy found the crocodile skull in France from Tony le Roy Meubles et Décoration. Object and plinth by Weylandts. Middle right: Peter’s study showcases artefacts and objets that express the man’s love of travel and adventure. Desk by G2 Furniture.

Returning home, however, found Peter embarking on a flight of fancy of a more terrestrial nature – the renovation of his home. ‘I wanted to channel my time and energy into creating a perfect atmosphere to reflect cherished memories of my past global nomadic lifestyle,’ says the rangy swashbuckler. With this very clear objective in mind (and fuelled by ideas gathered from the myriad places inhabited on his travels), Peter set about transforming a dark, outdated, compartmentalised house into a bright and spacious, modern bachelor pad.A number of clever measures were employed to ensure that the split-level home would be defined by a consistent flow of space, an important element that Peter wanted the home to reflect. One of the first things tackled was remodelling the entrance to his home. He replaced the existing glass canopy with a cantilevered concrete slab. Not only did this feature lend the entrance the desired contemporary feel but it also enlarged the entrance hall, allowing for the installation of a skylight which floods the space with sunlight.

absolute altitude lounge

Above: Six-seater teak dining table, chairs, screen and Yoda chair by Weylandts. ‘Star Chamber’ painting by Keith Alexander. Pelican sourced in Brussels.

The open-plan living area came about by knocking down a dividing wall and trading two ineffectual windows for wallto- wall retractable glass stacking doors through which the garden again beckons. It is this deft interplay of interior and exterior that enhances the uninterrupted flow of space through the home. The use of cement-coloured porcelain tiles throughout the openplan living room and again outdoors in the entertainment area further blurs the borders between inside and out. The fireplace was made into a feature by extending it to floor-to-ceiling height and this, together with the built-in cabinet next to the staircase, emphasises the double volume of this space. As one ascends to the second level up the stairwell encased in a floating glass balustrade, the sense of space heightens not only literally but figuratively. An entire mirrored wall doubles the space of the informal lounge area and 2.4-metre-high doors further amplify proportions. In a bid to keep abreast with things ‘green’, Peter chose to use solid bamboo on the staircase, and as flooring throughout the upstairs living area and bedrooms, fashioning the main bedroom headboard from it too.

Absolute Altitude interiors 2

Above: To reinvigorate the house’s rather outdated interior, Peter removed the conservatory and interior walls to gain much-needed floorspace. From there, skylights and stacking doors were installed to marry interior and exterior spaces. Willy found the moose head in Brussels and made it a focal point by mounting it on a suspended, backlit panel in a walnut finish. To keep the open feel, Peter fixed suspended glass balustrades.

‘It’s a great material,’ says Peter. ‘Not only is it renewable, it is more durable than wood and less prone to warping.’ True to his offbeat form, Peter mounted a mirror on the bedroom patio wall to reflect the bamboo that he had planted. ‘It’s cheeky and lends a whole new dimension to the bedroom.’ A passion for combustion and cryogenic engineering aside, Peter confides to a creative side that manifests itself in a love of art, design and cooking. The kitchen consequently is a room which sees Peter’s creative flair coming to the fore. The design of it was embraced with indulgent abandon. In true testament to the fact that boys will be boys, no expense was spared installing state-of-the-art appliances. Caesarstone tops, brushed aluminium finishes and splashbacks in blue smart glass complete the fully imported Italian Rossi kitchen.

Absolute Altitude interiors 3

Above The dividing wall in the upstairs pyjama lounge was mirror-clad to give the illusion of space. Peter uses this area to unwind and informally entertain. All the upper-level floors including stairway are finished in engineered bamboo flooring. The master suite features two more Keith Alexander paintings, ‘Metamorphic Landscape’ and ‘Ovoid’, as well as an original Paul Blomkamp and a Tiv statuette from Nigeria. The Gurage drum and Islamic prayer board were both sourced in Ethiopia.

To assist with the selection of furniture, accessories and general interior styling, Peter called on the expertise of his long-standing friend Willy Wales. With his company Space Energy, Willy has pioneered the home staging industry in South Africa. ‘Home staging is very popular in America and England. Basically, it involves dressing a home for the show day, making it more appealing and saleable.’ To this end, Willy traverses the world over in search of unique antiques, objets and artefacts to add to his vast and eclectic collection. ‘The collection of such items has actually coined a new design trend termed Global Nomad. It couldn’t sum up Peter more appropriately.’

Their shared love of things unusual made for a successful collaboration. From the oversized swordfish tooth discovered – remarkably – in landlocked Ethiopia, to the Chinese opium headrests dating back to the mid- 18th century, the home is littered with a diverse array of curiosities, each with its own intriguing tale to tell. The furniture too is a dynamic mix. In the living area, a Balinese teak coffee table amiably shares space with an iconic chaise longue, while a Kenneth Coponbue Yoda chair from Weylandts greets with a vibrant splash of colour from the corner. The furniture too has stories to tell. The Steamer table and chairs on the patio were designed by the Canadian Thomas Lamb. The chairs lay claim to fame for having appeared on the Canadian 10-cent stamp.

Absolute altitude bathroom
Above: The master bathroom has floor-to-ceiling shower enclosures and skylight features. Bathroom accessories by Zack. this page Eames chair and footrest designed by Charles and Ray Eames.

Every room in Peter’s home engenders a sense of museum-like wonder. A Dogon mask inspiring thoughts of the mysticism of tribes long-gone and the image of a globe-clenching crocodile head lingering long after having left this captivating space, one cannot help but feel that experiencing the home of this intrepid global nomad is almost like reliving the extraordinary adventure itself.

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