We love this iconic home near the Kruger.
This space is all about openness and looking out. The furniture here – dominated by Donna Karan’s Urban Zen range in solid teak – is low to the ground. It’s almost as if the furniture immerses you in the landscape. “Everyone sits low, almost at floor-level, says Julian. “The idea is that you don’t want to be up, above the animals. You want to be at the eye level of the animals passing by.”
Apart from the bedrooms and bathrooms, there are no doors. “Everyone says to me, ‘Julian, where are all your doors?’ But I don’t want doors,” says Julian. “I want this to be open.” Rather, the house has a system of transitional spaces and entranceways blending and blurring the distinction between inside and out. “And we’ve had lion walk through here,” says Julian. “We’ve had leopards walk through here. We’ve even had wild dog running through here, chasing impalas.”
“It was very important to me that that this house needs to look as if it’s been there as long as the land has been there,” he says. That sense of belonging was something Julian carried into the interiors, too. Antique wooden beams from France brought with them a sense of human time. He also introduced reclaimed wood to some of the villa floors. Julian sought out interior designer Jacques Erasmus to carry his vision through inside the rooms. Jacques says that the interior design was about more than decorating. “It was really about putting the house into context,” he says. He saw it as a process of “bringing to life Julian and Aida’s vision” and complementing the ideas that informed the architecture on a more detailed level. It was a two-and-a half-year project that evolved as it went along and required constant editing.
“We really kept the interiors simple and understated,” he says. “We’ve got so much going on texture-wise and layer-wise that very little had to be done to enhance what was already there,” says Jacques. “It was about bringing out the natural beauty of the materials in the very first place. It was about honouring the materials.”
Because of the scale of the rooms, much of the furniture had to be custom-made, but
there was no simple thematic approach. What Jacques calls the “almost disparate materials and furniture pieces” helped create a sense of the passage of time and change – of being lived in rather than “decorated”.