Image: Valentina Sommariva

Ed's Note | What becomes of deferred renovations?

I bought my first home just over 15 years ago. This was not only a significant financial commitment but also a personal dive into uncharted waters on the relationship front, as I had signed on the dotted line with my then girlfriend. Thankfully, she was gracious enough to upgrade me to husband a few years later, so the latter risk paid off.

The financial gamble was a more complicated matter. We bought in Orange Grove — an old Joburg suburb with a rich history, charming properties on an upward trajectory (if somewhat rough around the edges), and an irresistible proximity to the famed Super Sconto Italian grocer/deli that satisfied my prosciutto and espresso cravings.

The home itself sat on a sub-500m2 plot, and had wooden floors, huge bay windows, a modern bathroom and kitchen, and thick walls that could undoubtedly tell a roaring tale or two about its varied previous inhabitants. The tales it could dish about our time there would certainly warrant a bottle or two of something strong to fuel the dramatic gasps and laughter (the incidents at that one New Year’s Eve party alone would have you on the floor).

“My enthusiasm for furniture and accessories didn’t quite translate into a follow-through on the structure, and years later… we sold the house sans renovations”

We loved that house, and had dreams of knocking down walls, extending rooms, landscaping the backyard, and doing all manner of home improvements. Our home’s old charms sat snugly alongside my mid-century-modern and art-deco obsessions and our furniture reflected this. I fancied myself as quite the decorator, and my tortured wife would often come home to a rearranged chair or two, and yet another “new” old thing taking pride of place.

My enthusiasm for furniture and accessories didn’t quite translate into a follow-through on the structure, and years later — after brushes with crime and life changes (two had become four, among other things) — we sold the house sans renovations. I still wonder about what magic we may have created there, working with the right design professional to realise it. Such a person may well have been Alexander Opper, an architect, artist, design educator, and writer of this month’s The Read.

Had Opper chosen to take on the project, it would have been as much a business as a personal decision, because he had in fact sold us the house, after doing some work on it himself. I suspect, from the sustainability message in his essay talking up the art of bricolage — very much in line with what we have been banging on about here for a while — he would have encouraged us to look at sustainable methods and materials, reusing and recreating as much as possible.

The writer and editor Kojo Baffoe has had to recreate himself a few times in his life. Your design taste, he argues is something you develop over time, shaped by the things that colour your personal biography and fashion your identity.

FREE TO READ | Page through the July 2022 issue of Wanted and enlarge for easy viewing:

For over 60 years, Salone del Mobile (or the Milan Furniture Fair) has shaped the global design conversation and, after a hiatus, it was back last month, reimagined under the stewardship of Maria Porro, the first woman to perform this role. Our décor director Leana Schoeman was there and shares the best of the fair.

In our previous issue, Justice Malala spoke about the concept of “revenge travel” after being grounded by lockdowns for so long. This issue, I dream of “revenge renovations”, inspired by a love for tinkering and deferred home improvements.


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