MALCOLM KLUK AND CHRISTIAAN GABRIËL DU TOIT’S FASHION-FORWARD PAD
“We like our homes to be layered and multi-dimensional. Inside talks to outside. Drama talks to charm. It’s almost like painting; there is balance and chaos working together.” Fashion designers Malcolm Kluk and Christiaan Gabriël du Toit are showing me around their double-volume apartment in Clarens, a head-turner of a development of nine condo-style units in Fresnaye, Cape Town. Clarens combines a modernist, breeze-bricked façade with Guggenheim-esque curves and is the new star in the constellation of the duo’s KLÛK CGDT property portfolio.
“It all started when we redid the design studio in Cape Town’s Bree Street,” explains Kluk. “We got so into it because, as with fashion, we liked tailoring the space, solving the practical problems, and producing some-thing that was unmistakably our aesthetic language and really feel-good to live in.”
Backtrack a couple of years prior to their move to the Bree Street loft and the plot circles back to the exact same spot in Clarens Road. “The original house here was huge, ramshackle, and eclectic in a huge, ramshackle, and eclectic garden. I remember the estate agent being completely lost for words, and not in a good way, when we decided to put it on the market and move into town,” Kluk recalls.
In the end, they didn’t sell, moved downtown anyway and, with Hours Clear architects, redeveloped the Clarens site. The process has taken it from a mad-cap-and-magpie way of living to plush, carpet-clad lifts, self-filtering raised swimming pools, and bespoke brickwork. It’s been a lengthy journey, but one constant has been the focus on eclectic collecting and customising, which in turn has evolved into a unique style perhaps best described as pared-back exoticism.
“The one thing I didn’t want was a building that looked like just another apartment block,” says Du Toit. “The point was to create an intriguing building that referenced the style, atmosphere, and aesthetic we admired and were inspired by on our travels. We wanted a narrative, so when people drove past they would ask, ‘What is that place? Could it be a gallery?’”
An obvious inspiration for the exterior breeze-brick screening is the Studio KO-designed Musée Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech, which Kluk reveres for its ability “to look like a lantern when lit up from inside”. They also drew cues from the playful, retro glamour of Palm-Springs modernism, and even the constant-coming-and-going social vibe of apartment living depicted on the ’90s TV series Melrose Place. The social aspect of Clarens is an interesting flex: the apartments all have gardens and the party-friendly pool areas — which all face away from the street towards a vista of Lion’s Head — feel connected on different levels, while still being very private.
Kluk says, “Very rarely do we see indoor and outdoor spaces designed to work together. We wanted to integrate the outdoor space to extend the living area, so plants were really important. We wanted to be enveloped in nature, almost as if it was taking over the building.”
With such edge-to-edge sensory abundance, the interior design of their apartment needed to strike a suitably complementary note. In retrospect, Kluk’s earlier comment about balance and chaos makes perfect sense. What could, at first, seem like a vigorous aesthetic clash reveals itself to be a flirty tension of styles. The colours tease a toasted-and-tan palette, the art pumps in extravagant swathes, and the furniture in the main living and dining area is a lean and serene hybrid of boxy modernist and sculptural pieces collected over the years and frequently repurposed, reupholstered or resprayed.
You get the distinct impression that designing spaces is a move-able feast for the duo, a creative expression, a place of inspiration and experiment according to the way they feel they want to live — and inspire others to do so too.
DAWID AUGUSTYN’S SMART APARTMENT
Happily for Dawid Augustyn, the chance to set up home in Clarens happened completely seamlessly. Augustyn explains, “I worked with the developers [Kluk and Du Toit] and Hours Clear as the project’s quantity surveyor, so I’d been watching its journey from an insider’s perspective from the ground up.” From the start, he adds, “their vision of a community lifestyle, based on a non-standard approach to the look and feel of the building and interiors, resonated well with me.”
At street level, the four-storey building’s blush-pink, open-bond brick-screen façade and sculptural entrance portico are high-octane eye candy for Fresnaye, a toney neighbourhood on the slopes of Table Mountain and a minute’s walk from the Sea Point promenade. There is a lot going for the locale, and many of its elegant avenues are now fringed with new-build, off-plan boxy grey blocks that reinforce a generic real-estate trope.
“I appreciated that, architecturally, Clarens had character, and had been carefully considered and curated — plus the interior spaces had three compelling aspects that worked for how I enjoy living,” says Augustyn. “The strategic connection to the outdoors and nature was important. Then the spaces, which although very crafted never feel heavy or energy sapping because they have a sense of openness, filled with natural light and charming to inhabit. And lastly, as a designer, I bonded big time with the colour palette of the interior shell.” As he suggests, the interior colour palette is unusual but beautifully muted and easy to work with from an interior-design point of view. A feature wall in millennial pink is set off by other finishes in smoky, charcoal, stone, caramel, and maize shades — plus a lot of nude, buff, and cocooning tones. “It’s a very grounding ambience,” he says.
Augustyn also owns a design company, Establishment, which represents a roster of leading design and lighting brands — including DCW éditions, Woud, and New Works, as well as its own range of bespoke pieces — all of which have an aesthetic that worked with the visual interior culture of Clarens.
“How we live now,” he muses, “is very adaptive. We’re a generation of natural nomads and can detach quickly from a setting or situation. I like the idea that a chair can be around a dining table one day and at your desk or even outside on the terrace the next. It’s great that you can take these designs on to your next home and use them in a different way. I think that’s the modern way to live now. Well, certainly for me,” he says, noting that his next personal projects, a house in Cape Town and a small villa in Italy, are already in the works. Nomad indeed.
Furniture chosen by Augustyn from international and South African designers was selected with this exact modus vivendi in mind. He calls it “easy to be around”, and that it certainly is — but that’s the trick. It is easy to be around by design.
As you enter the duplex apartment, the dining table in the living room is a focal point, with curved metal legs that echo the sculptural motif found in the interior architecture. The table’s terrazzo top echoes the stone crazy-paving floors of the building’s lobby and outdoor garden courtyards. Further into the room a chair of roughly mid-century lines and, as such, ordinarily made of metal and leather, appears in a modern iteration in a dandy green gloss wood and canvas, making it the perfect transitional piece between indoors and out.
Upstairs, the main bedroom, which has views towards Lion’s Head over the pool, garden, and rooftops to the ocean beyond, has been mindfully appointed to avoid bulky forms on the floor. There are no chunky bedside cabinets or clunky bed bases here; instead, elegantly proportioned furniture that doesn’t block space. A four-poster bed lightly anchors the space, while one bedside table is almost like a server (or drinks trolley) with shelves that change width to accommodate what you need close by, while the other is a cleverly combined standing lamp and small table.
Indeed, cohesive examples of witty flexibility are numerous in all the rooms, contributing to an emotive comfort that comes with spaces that are well planned — not just on paper, but in the real, everyday living of them, which feels contemporary, relevant, and expressive.
• From the February edition of Wanted, 2021.