What’s the secret to putting together a chic scheme that won’t quickly date? We asked leading interior designers and decorators to share tips on giving a space a timeless look
ROOM TO BREATHE
“My approach to creating timeless interiors is combining classical and contemporary pieces and mixing iconic designs from different cultures and eras,” reveals Andre Kleynhans. “The common thread is clean and uncluttered design with the interiors telling a story. I like the idea of exploring the relationship between typically South African elements and classical European styles,” he adds.
A PLAY ON PATTERN
With his inimitable knack for mixing things up, Stephen Falcke combined a metallic leaf motif wallpaper with a geometric carpet in this sophisticated Johannesburg living room. “It’s very now,” says Stephen, “but it’s also got classical elements that will look good forever.” Take the bronze leather sofa, marble-topped side tables and gilt-framed armchair, all of which exude a confident glamour. “We displayed some of my client’s gorgeous Lalique bowls on the coffee table. Working with personal, collected items always lends an enduring quality to a room.”
THE COMFORT ZONE
“I grew up in Zimbabwe so I wanted this veranda to reflect a little of my roots, which was achieved with the use of screeded cement flooring, stone work and columns,” says Marguerite Macdonald, CEO of the fabric house Mavromac. “You do have to feel that you belong in your room. Timeless has a different meaning for everyone; for me comfort is timeless, such as the deep sofas, generous cushions and the fireplace that we use year round,” she says. “It’s also about good bones and proportion. The scale here demands bold and oversized furnishings. I mixed these with raw, honest pieces, like the West Coast Africana, worn wooden artefacts and this rugged Canovas linen stripe.”
Interior designer Andrew Irving of Interdeco says: “By finding the essential balance between traditional and modern, and carefully combining the two, you can achieve a look that is truly ageless.” Andrew describes this sitting room as a perfect example of a timeless style. Many of the furnishings in the room have been recycled over the years for a fresh look. He adds that the key to decor that lasts is choosing classic, simple furnishings, mixing in antique pieces and layering with art and collected items. The result is a style that is easy to live with and doesn’t need regular updating.
“This colonial home demanded a luxurious master bedroom furnished with the grandeur of a bygone era,” say Bruce Fyfe and Kelsey Boyd of Bruce Fyfe & Associates. Mahogany-stained floors and warm grass cloth on the walls provide the perfect stage for classic pieces of furniture for a timeless look that won’t date. “We used deep-blue velvet for the upholstery on the larger pieces of furniture and coupled this with classic patterns for the scatter cushions and soft furnishings. The artwork was chosen for its colonial feel.”
“Timeless for me means traditional elements such as a Persian rug, leather, sea grass, picture lights above art and colonial-style shutters,” says Grant Horak of Horak Venter Design. “This study has a classic floor-to-ceiling walnut library topped with a gold leafed ceiling. Books are essentially art and it makes for interesting shelves if the books are turned front forward and interspersed with attention-grabbing finds and well-worn accent pieces from travels.”
“If you fill your room with beautiful pieces you love, it will give you years of pleasure,” says Pretoria designer Wessel van Deventer. In this hallway, painted with stone-coloured stripes, he’s combined a painting of the Duchess of Norfolk by Sir Peter Lely, an important portrait painter in the reign of Charles II, a 17th-century inlaid table by André-Charles Boulle and an antique crystal chandelier from Venice. “The three clocks and the bust of Marie Antoinette also date back to the 17th century,” he says. “The advantage of decorating in a classical style is that it doesn’t date or change with fashion.”
“My home is my sanctuary,” says Nthabi Taukobong of Ditau Interiors, “and for the master bedroom I wanted to create a luxurious slice of heaven.” The subtle scheme of ivory and duck egg blue is juxtaposed with dark woods, while feminine muslin drapes contrast with a deep-buttoned headboard and comfy chairs. “The design is glam but suited to everyday living,” she adds. “This is where I play with my son or enjoy a good read in the afternoon sun. It’s soft and relaxing, yet there’s a sprinkle of glamour and sophistication that won’t go out of fashion.”
Pared down to its beautiful shell – stripped oak flooring, lightly polished walls denuded of plaster to expose red brickwork and huge sash windows drawing in the light off the sea – this lofty room in interior designer Neill Suttie’s, of Suttie & Marais Designs, historic Simonstown apartment has been decorated as a mellow library space. “The Georgian antique reading table, the chairs with light cream cushions, the faded Persian and the velvet curtains provide the furnishings for the kind of room that is truly timeless,” says Neil. “To give it punch we added a shot of shocking pink in the built-in sofa upholstery.”
SHADES OF PALE
“The key to creating an interior that won’t date is to use items that offer both a comfortable level of sophistication and are confident in their simplicity,” say designers Boyd Ferguson, Geordi Ferguson and Paul van den Berg from Cécile and Boyd’s who designed this beautiful living room. “Comfort is added through the use of throws, duck down cushion inners, lamps, books and flowers. Original art, collectables and an antique piece add soul and character,” they add. “Larger pieces are simple and bold in their proportions and give a sense of generosity to the space. Interest is provided through textures, such as the roughness of raw woods and natural materials, and the smoothness of silk curtains, pewter and glass accessories.”
David Muirhead transformed this guest suite into a quietly glamorous haven using rich shades of black and deep khaki. “The clean-lined timber bed is a contemporary take on the more elaborate European four-poster,” he explains. “The dramatic palette, moleskin sofa and lacquered coffee table add a sense of glamour, but most importantly this room is about comfort. There’s a desk to work at, plenty of books and subtle lighting.”
A neutral scheme is like a classic white T-shirt – with the right accessories you can easily reinvent it time and again, believes Johannesburg interior designer Yvonne O’Brien. From the buttons on the plush headboard to the fine pinstriped pattern on the wallpaper, Yvonne paid close attention to detail to ensure that this bedroom would be serenely stylish rather than bland. Earthy textures and African-inspired accessories add warmth and interest, while hints of black give depth and definition.
“I used a classic floral fabric on the club sofa which is on brass casters as is the deep-buttoned leather ottoman,” explains Durban designer Lisa Walters. These traditional pieces of furniture have always been around but upholstering them in modern classic fabrics makes for a timeless interior. “Like many people, I am a collector and display my treasured items and family photographs with pride.”
“I was pleased to be able to refocus the interior of one of the few remaining classical architectural homes in Bantry Bay, which escaped the wrecking ball,” says Kyle Roux. “Renovations blurred its style, but the house retained many of its stronger features. The client and I set about refreshing the interiors to recapture the timeless essence of the home. We used muted tones of linen and celadon, reinvented some existing pieces and also introduced newly acquired antique and contemporary items, along with velvet, paisley and silk fabrics for a layered and luxurious feel. The Aubusson rug and French sofa evoke a European charm, as do the occasional tables which were toned down from a brassy gold to a more aged finish. The coffee table, an existing piece, was terracotta and this new washed effect has brought out carved details formerly unseen,” adds Kyle.
Clean lines and natural materials define this pared-down dining room at Morukuru Farmhouse in the Madikwe Game Reserve, designed by La Grange Interiors. “I think a timeless interior is one that’s comfortable and easy to live in, that could adapt to any surroundings,” says owner Sumari Krige. “We focused on textures, such as the reclaimed teak dining table and leather-covered chairs. And we tried to reflect the natural environment by working with earthy browns, sage greens and slate shades. It’s calm and contemporary and intentionally steers away from a traditional safari look.”
AND SO TO BED
Feminine glamour and luxury are the hallmarks of this master bedroom designed by Sharon Nicolaci of Spegash Interiors. “It’s about creating a space that will still look fresh and relevant in years to come,” she explains. “The elegant silver-grey palette won’t date and can easily be combined with different accessories in the future.” The damask-motif wallpaper in a metallic finish adds a glamorous twist, as do the twin mirrors, glass lamps and faux fur throw.
A dramatic symmetry lies at the heart of this stylish living room by Tessa Proudfoot. “Keeping the proportions symmetrical and creating a balance of contrasting furniture styles results in a sense of harmony,” says Tessa. “And that’s something that never goes out of fashion.” Tessa adds that the palette is tonal rather than contrasting. “Shades of soft grey-blue deepen to dark charcoal, accented with silver and white.” Textures range from luxurious fur throws to rough jute carpets, with a pair of painted Provençale chests offset by rustic African artefacts.
“Our client wanted an understated yet visually interesting space,” says Claire Clarke of By Dezign Interiors who designed this living room with her sister Sophie Kelly. The palette is very calm, with the large bespoke sofa offsetting accents of timber and jute. “While the wingback chairs are very traditional, we updated them with a studded leather finish and added textures and pattern in the scatters and sculptures. Working with existing pieces adds longevity and we enjoyed incorporating our client’s antique tables and artworks into the space.”
“Classical furniture shapes never go out of style,” says Fergus Armstrong who designed this living room. “I gave it a contemporary spin by using monochromatic upholstery fabric throughout, together with dark timber accents like the modern circular side tables.” Pale pistachio walls and an understated rug tie the elegant scheme together. With his trademark flair, Fergus created a tableau of artworks and objets on the over-scaled refectory table.
Interior decorator and designer Michele Throssell mixed contemporary glamour with classical style to create a bathroom boudoir space that is quite simply timeless. The organic tones and textures of stone and bleached wood add a natural feel to the room’s strong white base, while mirrors enhance the sense of light and space. Michele explains that this style of decorating can be achieved by carefully mixing collected and traditional items with simple modern pieces.