Cape Town CBD Apartment

WORDS Amelia Brown PHOTOS Russell Smith

This inner-city transformation went from boxy to boutique on a budget.

The competitive buy-to-rent market is rapidly evolving. In this post-boom landscape, more choice has resulted in a more discerning guest. For a rental to be noticed, nevermind occupied year-round, it needs to really stand out.

It was with this in mind that Jaco Janse van Rensburg embarked on the full-scale renovation of a buy-to-rent 47 m2 studio in the Cape Town CBD. His approach considered both the owner and the guest: himself. Jaco’s extensive creative background includes graphic design, publishing, styling, interior design and, most recently, a growing portfolio of investment properties. As the owner, he set himself a stringent budget. As the interior designer, he challenged himself and his partner at Envy&Co, Kay Abrahams, to turn the project around in three months and deliver a stylish end result within budget. And, as the discerning guest who regularly spends the night when he’s in Cape Town, he wanted comfort and touches of luxury.

Jaco’s first master stroke was relooking the orientation. In one change, the space went from hotel room with kitchenette to sophisticated studio. With the apartment gutted, he switched the bedroom, previously on the immediate right as you entered, with the kitchen, which was in the far left corner by the windows. The bed is now concealed behind a screen of built-in cupboards that abut the bathroom wall.

Light was another critical element, namely filtered natural light and layered, intimate light. The concrete ceiling proved challenging when it came to chasing new light points on a budget, so Jaco created a light box recess around the room. The light trough is attached to the wall and left open at the top. LED striplights inside shine against the ceiling and the eye is tricked into seeing a more architectural and high-end raised ceiling.

The optical illusion of space has been further conjured up in a surprising way thanks to the glass-walled bathroom. Jaco replaced the solid wall that divided and decreased the essentially box-shaped apartment with reasonably priced black aluminium frames to create a wet room. A separate toilet is private and concealed behind that. The on-trend wall-to-floor marble-look tiles of the bathroom, framed in glass, visually extend the apartment and seamlessly blend with its considered monochrome palette. It’s smart and edgy, and underlines the boutique hotel appeal.

The attention to detail is faultless; it is clear that Jaco considered his, the guest’s, every need every step of the way, from the thread count to coat hooks. According to him, it’s these details, the “fingerprints”, as he calls them, that add character and make the space a home. “Tactility is often overlooked, especially in a rental,” he says, “but those elements are what stand out.”

So what’s Jaco’s verdict as owner, designer and guest? “To use that open shower, look through the sheer curtains at sunset and see the city skyline changing, or lie on the velvet sofa at night and watch TV, it’s delicious.”