Before and After: Cafe Manhattan

WORDS Cheri Morris IMAGES Mathew Van Niekerk (after)


Cafe Manhattan, a long-standing Cape Town hot spot, has undergone a total interior overhaul by Hanno de Swardt of Onnah Design, resulting in a vibrant, playful space.

After careful assessment of the space – left tired, dark and uninspiring after many years of heavy foot traffic – Hanno set out to reimagine the space, bearing in mind that he had just two weeks to complete a renovation. He sought to create interiors that would emulate the vibrancy of the renowned ambience within, without losing the original charm that Cafe Manhattan’s customers keep coming back for.

His first task was to bring light into the space. Once-dreary walls now see pops of turquoise, electric pink and decorative cacti. Bold colours and Mexico-inspired prints are combined with woven basket pendants from Ashanti and geometric-print fabrics.

Custom-designed Cara Saven wallpaper creates a playful ambience, while bringing a boldness to a once neutral space. Little went to waste in this renovation, with upcycling being a key factor in the redesign. Old furniture was reupholstered, table tops sanded and finished with a glossy seal and weathered bar stools painted in bright colours. The addition of artificial lighting creates an uplifting and visually stimulating space that is simultaneously warm and inviting, ambience that truly embodies Cafe Manhattan’s vibe.

See more projects by Onnah Design, here.