PHOTOS Russell Smith PRODUCTION Jaco Janse van Rensburg WORDS Ami Kapilevich
A grand old house in Tamboerskloof just got a new lease of life, and the story behind it is as interesting as the decor.
It was a remarkable coincidence, if you believe in that sort of thing. The house that creative consultant Jaco Janse van Rensburg of Envy & Co was asked to work on was his favourite in the neighbourhood.
“I used to walk past it almost daily when I lived in the area,” he says. “In fact, I’ve always wanted to live there. Perhaps the universe had misread my signals.”
Or it could be that the universe read him loud and clear, and brought him to the house in the capacity that was most required – as a creative consultant to liaise with Zuckerman Sachs Architects and decorate the space for the Cohen family, who were relocating to Cape Town.
Jaco’s fondness for the house is evident in the respect he gave to its original proportions and styling. He didn’t just want to improve on the original interiors; he wanted to do the home justice. It’s as though he and the house understand each other.
There are elements and details that root the house in its essence. The original shutters and gate remain; the ceilings were replaced, but the cornices and ceiling roses are period-specific.
The biggest structural change was the removal of the old wooden staircase that dominated the eastern flank of the house. It was replaced by an elegant wood and painted steel construction – a triumph. When the wall came down, the house drew a great breath.
The renovation created a firm, thoughtful and soulful canvas upon which Jaco could express the tastes of Richard and Marcela Cohen and their son Nicholas.
At first, Jaco approached the decor with caution, presenting whites and creams. “I don’t blame him,” Marcela says. “He wanted to be safe. But, being South American, I need colour in my life. Striking colours. Colourful pieces are cheerful and welcoming and friendly. People express themselves through colour.”
Songs of colour come in through the art panels in the dining room and through slightly eccentric elements like the orange coral lamps, blue-and-gold chairs and African fabrics on the chandelier, not to mention the Bamiléké feather headdresses on the wall of the TV room.
Jaco points out that the triangle motif – on the panels, the rug and the sculptures – is deliberate; the Cohens are a family of three. Jaco has created a space where the family can come together but also enjoy some privacy if they need it.
“It is not a big house,” says Marcela, “but it has little corners where you can spend time. In summer, I look forward to lying in the sun and reading on the upstairs veranda. In winter, the TV room is cosy. And the kitchen becomes part of the entertainment area.”
The lasting impression of this home is that it is versatile and eclectic – good fun but with a thoughtful foundation. Just like the Cohen family.