Updating a period home can present quite a challenge, but Jo’burg brother and sister decorating team Martin and Sue Harris managed to maintain the old-world character of this living room while bringing it bang up to date. 

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“Our living room had beautiful pressed ceilings and wooden floors but overall it was rather drab,” recalls Sue Harris of Martin Harris Interiors. “The existing furniture didn’t do it justice at all. Our aim was to create an elegant, sophisticated room with a contemporary feel where we could relax and entertain both friends and clients.”


The first thing the pair did was paint the walls in Dulux’s Ascot Blue and the cornices, skirtings and doors in crisp white. “It’s amazing how something as simple as this brought the room to life and made the pressed ceilings stand out,” says Martin.

When furnishing the room, they had in mind a stylish combination of old and new. The fireplace in the corner meant that they had to carefully consider where to place the seating. “We decided on a contemporary corner sofa facing the fireplace to optimise seating space and anchor the room and balanced it with a classic deep-buttoned sofa opposite,” says Martin. They then introduced side tables in different styles to add interest. One feature Sue and Martin didn’t change was the built-in wooden unit. “Once we’d painted the walls, we liked the way it reflected the warmth of the floors,” says Sue. Now filled with art and accessories it makes a strong feature.

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A taupe-coloured fibre rug from Sit & Co. defines the sitting area and adds comfort. Scatter cushions in a mix of patterns including chevrons and ikats complete the room.

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“The space has turned out just as we imagined,” says Martin.

“It reflects our love for both contemporary and classical design in a way that is both stylish and relaxed.”

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