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Naturally Outgoing

A classic undercurrent anchors modern art and 1950s architecture in a glamorous Joburg home built for entertaining

Text Julia Freemantle production Dean van Aswegen photographs Elsa Young

Contemporary classic has become such a throwaway term for the fusion of traditional and modern, so much so that it often says very little and almost never conveys the breadth of decor that falls under this broad umbrella. Designer David Muirhead’s home in Johannesburg meshes the two so successfully that it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, and so is constantly in flux. ‘I like to play with my own home,’ he explains of the shifting inventory and bespoke upholstery; which he says is constantly being tweaked. Comfort trumps everything, however, and is at the centre of every decision the designer makes in the subtly luxe space. If at first glance tending toward Euro classic – courtesy of moody landscapes in gilt frames and plush fabrics – the second impression is less so. Abstract art, contemporary accents and engineered finishes adding just the right amount of edge.

David Muirheads combination of reflective surfaces and natural materials creates a quietly dynamic play on texture

Luxe lite

Originally a long simple 1950S structure, it had four bedrooms that Muirhead converted into two separate suites – one at either end, which allow for complete privacy – connected in the middle by the living spaces. Muirhead’s combination of reflective surfaces and natural materials creates a quietly dynamic play on texture, mirrored walls and wooden panelling adding a layer of tactile appeal. The north fa~ade of the house is almost all glass, a modernist feature the designer chose to retain despite gutting the rest of the interior.

Inside out

A deep verandah now runs the length of this façade and functions much as a glamorous sitting room would, its upholstered sofas and Pasha chair – designed by Dondoli and Pocci – arranged beneath smart black standing lamps. ‘I have a spring party every September – any excuse to get outdoors as soon as the sun comes out,’ says Muirhead. The verandah looks out onto the garden, to which the designer also devoted a lot of planning, excavating earth to create formal terracing. It provides a central focus, serving almost as a prelude to the house itself The walls here have been treated in a similar fashion as one would an interior, horizontal greyand- white stripes painted playfully along them. Paired with daybeds and sculpture, the effect is as close as you could get to an inside space with the sky still above your head.

David Muirhead has collected for years and his impressive collection and varied tastes speak to an educated passionate eye

Well composed

Inside, a restrained palette of black, white and grey finds occasional counterpoints in shades of grape and gold, providing a rich and decorative canvas for the artwork. Muirhead has spent years collecting and his collection and varied tastes speak to an educated and passionate eye. South African notables William Kentridge, orman Catherine and Deborah Bell are joined by young star Phillemon Hlungwani, with the occasional pastoral European scene included adding aesthetic pause. But it is the local pieces that claim prominence. Muirhead has shown his expertise too in how he’s displayed them – alone on a large wall, at eye level or on mirror, creating the illusion of an ongoing gallery. Contrast is indeed a central theme – texture, style, colour – and a device that Muirhead has wielded cleverly to create balance, with no item out of place or vying for attention. David Muirhead & Associates | 011 784 5555

Reference: Condé Nast House & Garden | October 2012

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