PHOTOS Micky Hoyle PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Sam Woulidge
What sort of an apartment would a nomadic designer create for her jet-lagged self and friends? One filled with poetry and light and random sequins and art, that’s what sort of an apartment.
“I never wanted to be tied down,” says Karien Belle. “I’m constantly wanting to travel. I love living in rented studio apartments and hotels all over the world. And I would rather stay in a hotel than spend time doing house admin. But owning property is a privilege and every one needs a home.”
“So does this feel like home?” I ask, referring to the light-filled apartment in an old mansion block in the edgier part of Sea Point, Cape Town. “Home is everywhere,” she answers. “Botswana is my African home; the bush is my heart home. Delhi is my creative home. And Paris is my cultural home. I feel more at home in foreign places.”
“But what is it about this particular apartment and this area that makes you feel comfortable?” I persist with my questioning. “It is multicultural, and there is a little bit of chaos here that makes me feel at ease,” Karien replies. “Sometimes at night I’ll sit on my balcony and see all sorts of people and scenarios playing out below. I feel secure here.”
But even in this urban hub and within this 112 m2 apartment Karien has created wide-open spaces for herself. She has sky views. Glass sliding doors open onto the balcony. This is a home in which you can imagine being able to touch the clouds. In her bedroom, the bed is low on the floor and positioned in such a way that when lying down you can see only the sea between the tall buildings that fill the block between the apartment and the Atlantic Ocean.
Karien’s home is adorned with beautiful things: artworks cover the walls, pink features strongly, and enormous cushions and scarves from her Karien Belle and Jetlag Poetry collections abound. Like their creator, they support and comfort friends and visitors. “Pink is my happy colour. This apartment needed to be playful. It needed this happy colour.”
But more important than all the stylish and beautiful things in her home are the people who visit and come to stay over.
“I don’t mind losing things or breaking things. What I value are relationships. And people.” The apartment seems spacious. And every thing in it can be moved around to create even more space, because Karien does not like things to be static. “I need to be able to easily make space to dance or do yoga.”
It is also detailed: a swath of pink silk here, some sequins there. An ornate neckpiece, a much loved book. But never cluttered. Everything has meaning. “As much as this apartment reflects me, so too does it reflect my friends. David brings bits from Botswana – stones, bones from the bush. The Baroque chandelier is a gift from Annette’s Paris home. Anoup gave me a painting from his boutique hotel in Pushkar. Kirsi from Finland brings beautiful design objects.
“Everything in my home has a story. And the stories are all intertwined with the people I love. This is why this apartment is everybody’s home. Everybody is welcome. Here, friends come and go. Here, I come and go.”