The Arts House

Words: Mandy Allen/ Bureaux - Production: Sven Alberding/ Bureaux - Photography: Micky Hoyle/ Bureaux

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British-born theatre and film director Sean Mathias was initially ‘seduced’ by the gorgeous views from this property rather than by the structure itself – a ‘warren of dark spaces’ that functioned as a 1930s dairy farm. In its current incarnation, however, the home that he shares with partner Paul de Lange Mathias is a light-filled abode with a spacious, easygoing flow that embraces its enviable position.

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The home’s evolution has been a process of gradual character development, and the multi-level residence is now in its successful second act. The first renovation phase, as Sean explains it, was ‘initiated with transparency and fluidity between the interior and exterior in mind’. Contemporary architectural additions included floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows, extra-large skylights (effectively creating a conservatory effect) and a series of expansive wooden decks descending to a pool area surrounded by lush garden.

pic-13Feature walls with vibrant blocks of colour served to anchor the main sections of the living spaces as well as provide a backdrop to the couple’s impressive art and ceramics collections.

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The subsequent renovation phase has further extended the feeling of openness. The L-shaped downstairs area was reconfigured, explains Sean, to be “basically one big oblong room”. The zone takes in a delightful new primrose-yellow kitchen adjacent to a generously proportioned dining area, two guest bedrooms and a laid-back living room with slide-away doors that open up fully to the deck, effectively erasing the divide between indoors and out.

pic-8pic-7Upstairs are a series of interconnected rooms: a cosy TV den leads into Paul and Sean’s bedroom, dressing room and bathroom, and Sean’s private study, complete with knockout views of the native greenery and mountain beyond.

pic-16 In keeping with the sleek, more modern feeling introduced to the house, the biggest sartorial change was the paring back of colour to its most simple. Now, a fresh and composed white backdrop allows artworks, furniture and fabrics to provide visual va-va-voom, while at the same time accentuating each piece’s unique personality.

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Storytelling is central to everything Sean does, and his home is redolent with the spirit of his chosen craft. Pieces that connect him to his family history (a treasured Wedgwood collection and his Irish grandmother’s clock for example) and items from lives in New York and London (a quirky portable fireplace found in Brick Lane, a Mick Jagger lithograph from Andy Warhol’s personal collection and a miniature Key West street scene by British artist Frances Chrichton-Stuart) comfortably intersect with those from Sean’s present: a substantial collection of contemporary South African art, furniture and objets by local luminaries. These sit nonchalantly alongside works by as yet undiscovered local artists bought at graduate shows and less mainstream local galleries.

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The supporting cast of decor is further evidence of Sean’s cosmopolitan aesthetic, as well as the couple’s shared nomadic lifestyle and global design influences. In the dining area, a bespoke table with stainless steel top and turned wooden legs (designed by Sean and made by a local joiner) is surrounded by chairs outfitted in custom-made patchwork slipcovers by fashion designer-turned-interiors accessories designer Lynette de Villiers. Above the table, an oversized, tiered chandelier made from coconut beads hangs with a casual grandeur.

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The couple’s natural affinity for beautiful design has led them to pieces as diverse as an 1970s Italian marquetry cabinet, Philippe Starck’s contemporary Louis Ghost chairs, Ingo Maurer’s iconic Bulb desk lamp, an antique Mexican love seat, a typical South African woven riempie bed base (used as a coffee table), and a farmhouse koskas (kitchen cupboard) used in the bedroom to house Sean’s collection of Mexican papier-mâché ‘whore’ dolls. Every item seems to perfectly fit the mood of the house.

In his theatre work, Sean has received many a standing ovation. This home is deserving of one too.

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