Step into Chris Viljoen and Christan Boshoff’s living space in their Green Point home in Cape Town and it is immediately clear that they are both keen travellers who collect beautiful things wherever they go. ‘One of the biggest draw cards of our place is that because it is contained; we can lock up and go,’ says Christan. ‘We often do home swaps, regularly swapping with a couple in Paris, as well as in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin and New York.’
They are both very visual people – Chris is a creative director and Christan is creative lead of visual merchandising at Woolworths– and their obsession with colour is apparent throughout their space. Accent walls, which they change often, are painted in pale tones of blue, green and pink; books line the walls and art, ranging from a Salvador Dalí to a Henk Serfontein, abounds. They also share a love of ceramics, which you’ll see dotted around the home, and their collection includes pieces by Hylton Nel, Frauke Stegmann and Ceramic Matters. The result is a mesmerising space filled with treasured collectables, each with its own story.
It all begins with the walled potted garden on the front stoep of the apartment, where terracotta pots stand proudly in their custom-made metal rings. Christan beams with delight when he talks about it: he has decidedly green fingers and the garden – which is predominantly made up of indigenous and water-wise plants, most of which were collected during the couple’s travels – is his passion. ‘Some of my plants are more than 10 years old and many were acquired during trips around the country,’ says Christan, adding that ‘each one brings back a memory and has a story behind it, and one even contains the ashes of our first cat, Henk’.
Cats play a big role in the couple’s life; Dries de Vries and Joachim are their pride and joy, and the only other occupants of the 1870s apartment just off energetic High Level Road. The Grade II heritage building in which the apartment is situated had two storeys added in 1928, and today is split into five flats: Chris and Christan’s has the original main entrance, front room and veranda.
Chris is originally from Joburg and Christan lived there for seven years, and the pair moved to the Mother City in 2006 with no real knowledge of the Cape Town property market or an exact idea of where they wanted to settle. ‘After renting for a while and looking for something to buy, we began feeling disheartened as we just couldn’t find the right place at the right price,’ says Chris. ‘We weren’t in a rush to buy but were constantly on the lookout for our future home.’
The property market was very buoyant during that period and houses didn’t stay on sale for long. It was completely by chance that Chris and Christan came across the apartment they now call home, which at that point was a far cry from the roomy, modern space it is today. ‘The place was completely run down – it was in a terrible state. I’m not sure how we saw past that,’ says Chris. ‘But it definitely had character: it was old and interesting, with high ceilings, original Oregon pine floors and classical mouldings above the windows. However, we knew it would need an intensive renovation.’
After 18 months of sale negotiations and resolving building approvals due to the property’s heritage status, they were able to begin renovations with the help of their friend, architect Phillippe Fouché. The enclosed back veranda area was converted into the kitchen and bathroom, a mezzanine level was added to create space for a guest room and study – as well as a smartly concealed indoor washing line – and a wall was knocked down in the lounge to make the downstairs area a free-flowing space. The couple called on another friend, interior designer Etienne Hanekom, to assist with the kitchen, which Phillippe cleverly transformed into a light-filled, open area thanks to a wall of windows. ‘The high ceilings are what really makes the apartment special. We have 5m from floor to ceiling – you just don’t find that any more,’ says Christan.
A lot of time, effort and consideration went into selecting the finishing touches, such as the herringbone tiles in the bathroom, recessed doors to conceal appliances in the kitchen and guest bedroom, and wire lockers and a hospital cabinet for storage in the living area. All these cleverly chosen items have really helped to maximise the space, which surprisingly doesn’t feel at all confined.
It’s clear that Chris and Christan love their compact apartment, the freedom it affords them and all the treasures it contains. ‘An additional room, a bigger garden and a pool would be nice,’ says Christan, ‘but our home suits our lifestyle to a T right now – and we wouldn’t change a thing.’
Our favourite spaces in our home are the kitchen (Chris) and the upstairs study and front garden (Christan). The best thing about living where we do is the close proximity to the Sea Point promenade, shops, restaurants and parks – we barely drive anywhere barring to and from work. We are constantly inspired by our travels. One of our favourite pieces of furniture is the Gregor Jenkin table in the kitchen, which completely transforms the room.
We often rearrange our furniture or paint the walls different colours because we’re inspired or as the season changes. This keeps our home fresh and exciting. On Friday nights you’ll find us at The Power & The Glory (we are consistent like that). We love to entertain – whether planned or spontaneous – and I (Chris) enjoy cooking. What we like about a small space is its mood-like qualities – it changes with the day, light and weather. The next place we’re travelling to is Paris. Tomorrow. Must pack.