In this snappy beach retreat, it’s classic not casual that defines the look
Story Natalie Boruvka Photos Angie Lázaro
Encouraging though it is in the manner of sensible retrospect, the Greek saying ‘everything bad is good for something’ offers little of that immediate and necessary solace. It certainly wasn’t the first thought that came to mind when the owners of this Gordons Bay apartment discovered a flood of swamp-like proportions after a festive season brought the gift of a burst geyser. It was, however, a calamity that filled decorator Tracy Oberholzer with childlike glee and served the saying well. The extent of the damage was such that the apartment had to be completely gutted, leaving the ultimate decor project dream: a clean slate.
Far right: mirror and feathers welcome with fun and festivity in the entrance hall. Center: the bathroom walls are clad floor to ceiling in tiles backed by silver leaf,Far left: smart colour accents break shades of all-pervading blue.
As for the brief (a request simply for a peaceful space with a foundation of contemporary sophistication), it too laid open a path for unrestrictive abandon. 'With the magnificent ocean views overlooking the harbour and given that I enjoy engaging a colour flow, it really wasn’t difficult to feel inspired,' says Tracy. A welcoming guest in each space, the sea graces with notes of misty azure and slightly bolder aqua accents while wooden floors provide a naturally pairing partner, their washed surface the colour of a sandy beach. It proved a palette perfectly suited to the owners’ need for quiet respite. Ironically, with a permanent base just 10 minutes away in Somerset West, it’s the peace they relish that sees them ‘popping up’ to the picturesque coastal village for regular midweek stints of R&R.
Tracy’s approach to the refuge is an accomplished application of the three key elements of open-plan easy living: layout, style and colour. Unfolding from the kitchen – a composition of bold planes of high-gloss charcoal, stainless steel and glass – space effortlessly transcends a dining area made cunningly transparent by a glass-topped table and aptly named ‘Ghost’ chairs before spilling out onto the sea-facing living room. While the contemporary style provides a unifying visual, it is the subtle degree of tonal variation, colour and texture that activate the singular identity of each of the three spaces.
Above: Quirky elements lend the composed elegance surprise.
It is, essentially, a deft little balancing act. Buffered by the ‘barely there’ quality of the dining room, the stripes, dots and textures of the soft furnishings in the living area and the introduction of the blue accents establish a pivotal point of visual interest that offsets the sleek confidence of the kitchen. The modular sofa retains a modern rhetoric while the ‘treasure-find’ oriental drinks cabinet multitasks by maintaining harmony through colour, continuing the established visual rhythm and creating a focal point through a stylistic departure.
Though careful attention has been given to creating 160 square metres of stylistic consistency, the potential of the apartment melding into forlorn sameness has been adroitly averted by stepping up the element of surprise. In the entrance hall a glamorous setup of mirror, perspex and quirky feathered lampshades welcomes. 'I love my lamps to make a special, out-there statement because to me they function as art pieces within an interior.' In one corner Chinese trunks stacked to form a side table are sure to elicit a ‘why didn’t I think of that?’ moment, while in the bedroom a collection of the owners' antique handbags make for a headboard artwork of sentimental note.
As a decorator of 20 years, Tracy understands the value of an attentive ear. When discussing the bathroom, the client said she wanted to feel like she was in an ice cube. Judging from the floor-to-ceiling walls of silver leaf-backed aqua blue, she got exactly what she asked for – the bonus being an all-encompassing cohesion of colour throughout a space that radiates stylish serenity.
Above: Can’t find the right side table? Stack a trunk or two.