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1st Floor Lona House
212 Upper Buitengracht
Bo Kaap, Cape Town, 8001

Jaime-Lee Gardner
072 171 1979

Louise Martin
073 335 4084

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Moving on up

Take inspiration from designers who can transform an average space into something exceptional

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Moving on up

Take inspiration from designers who can transform an average space into something exceptional

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Unlike a new build that offers a blank canvas, a renovation or makeover project involves serious problem-solving and space-maximising skills, and a good understanding of the transformative power of finishes, colour and accessories.

Traditional to timeless

86 Design

Designers Lauren King and Ansu Cornelius of 86 Design transformed a stately Italianate family home in Johannesburg by using simple yet smart fixes that took it from dated to timeless. They used a contemporary palette and finishes to update the rooms, which were quite dark and serious before, but still retained the home’s classic feel.


Starting with a lot of wood and country-style furniture, the designers changed the whole personality of the space by updating the palette and finishes. The island and built-in cabinetry got a facelift; a frosty Carrina countertop from Caesarstone replaced the original black surface, and high-gloss duco-sprayed units with a glamorous brass kickplate replaced the dated cupboards and drawers.

Substituting the wall colour from an underwhelming cream to a contemporary grey made all the difference. An old armoire, the extractor hood with its fresh coat of white paint popping against the grey, and new faux Roman blinds that match the crisp new cabinetry and countertops, all create a sense of cohesion.

TV room

Fussy built-in shelving gave the TV room a busy feel. 86 Design replaced this with sleek wooden cladding with a Monocoat finish in Cotton White. The modern, minimalist look was also achieved by removing the ornate fireplace surround to leave it unadorned.

In terms of soft finishings, the team replaced pattern with texture – a smart swap for a calming contemporary solution. Rugs from Joseph & Joseph are luxe yet not ostentatious.


The major changes in this room were to the palette, and a simplification and reduction of the furniture. Just by painting over all the existing mahogany woodwork, wall panelling and shelving units, in bright Plascon Ivory White, the space was immediately transformed. The team removed surplus furniture and pared the space down to a simple seating area and desk zone. A few simple swaps – a modern desk, some simple curtains and an elegant custom-designed coffee table – gave the room a refreshed feel. Even the original lamps and armchairs, reupholstered in a graphic fabric from Hertex, look brand new.

Take-home lesson

Context is everything. You don’t have to start from scratch or even implement structural alterations for a major overhaul. 86 Design kept various items of furniture, but updated their surroundings with cosmetic changes like colour and finishes.

Outdated to updated

Studio 19

Known for her ultra-contemporary but earthy aesthetic, Mia Widlake of Studio 19 uses colour and texture as a way of layering rooms. Two recent projects are a masterclass in how you can give a space a high-end feel just by using the right materials and tones.


Studio 19 transformed this impractical, unimpressive kitchen into a functional space with a total rethinking of materials. Cabinetry, taps and handles, all custom-designed by the company, create a unified design language, whereas before the kitchen was disjointed and oppressive, with surfaces at different heights. A glossy white backsplash with tiles from Tiletoria offers texture in a neutral tone, and offsets the white and matte blonde of the cupboards – a radical change from the former dark countertops and units. Black and metallic accents (drawer pulls, a statement light from Majestic Lighting and the taps) ground the pale scheme and give it gravitas.

Entrance hall

The original curved staircase with its old-fashioned shade of blue and tan tiled floor was given a total makeover to create a clean and more space-effective segue to the next level. Sleek mFLOR flooring, a coat of charcoal paint from Plascon, contemporary art, and vertical railing custom-designed by Studio 19 were combined to create a striking focal point out of what was originally an awkward space.

Living room

A messy pairing of cheap sliding glass doors, security gate and dated floor tiles were taken out of the living room and replaced with seamless black-framed stacking doors and large-format floor tiles from Tiletoria, which together make the space feel much more expansive. Sleek cabinets and occasional tables replaced a haphazard assemblage of furniture.

Take-home lesson

Cohesion is essential. When you’re conceptualising a space, you have to think about how all the elements will work together and complement one another.

Small to space-savvy

Dylan Thomaz Interiors

A master of using detail to upgrade a space, Dylan Thomas has transformed various apartments using his signature classic-meets-contemporary combination of elements. For these two projects, he turned compact and cramped into cosy and comfortable.

Living room: Sea Point

A two-bedroom apartment in Sea Point with no real identity and sense of space was given a subtle but effective overhaul by Dylan, who installed classic detailing to smarten it up. In the living room, a mirror did make the room seem bigger but the space didn’t feel thought-through. Dylan’s addition of wall mouldings and a built-in banquette gave it a polished, finished effect. More contemporary furniture added to the refreshed feel.

Studio apartment: City centre

In the bedroom of a studio apartment in Cape Town, Dylan converted a whole wall of messy cupboards, which emphasised the small size of the room, into one long seamless storage unit to hide any clutter. Pretty compact wall lamps from Cécile & Boyd, which take up no floor space and don’t require a console, and a selection of mid-century furniture pieces and artworks from vintage stores give it a sense of identity. Underneath the window are compact stools that serve as both seating and  side tables.

The bathroom was taken from old-school beige to smart black-and-white, with herringbone-pattern wall tiles and chic brass detailing. By replacing a boring wall mirror with a vintage one and adding a painting, Dylan injected personality and life into the once sterile space.

Take-home lesson

Small needn’t feel cheap. You can create a sense of luxury and opulence in a compact space entirely through finishes and good lighting, and by adding interesting furniture pieces and accessories.

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