WORDS Debbie Loots PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink
Tucked away in a Woodstock street, newly renovated Sussex Studios is where a globetrotting furniture buyer bought her first home: an airy loft apartment with million-dollar views.
You think you’re lost when you turn into Sussex Street on your way to visit @home furniture buyer Lize Viljoen in Woodstock. The buildings lining the narrow street are either derelict or seem abandoned, and a couple of scrappy cars hug the pavement.
As you stop to double-check directions on your phone, your eye catches a bright, renovated building a little further along named Sussex Studios. It’s then you realise you’re in the middle of another neglected Woodstock pocket undergoing gentrification, where industrial renovations become homes and businesses for creative urbanites.
Just like Sussex Studios, a 51-year-old building that was a panel-beating shop and factory before architect Etienne Britz of Boukuns Architecture & Design turned it into 19 apartments. Lize bought one of these in September 2014, her very first home.
“I love living here,” she says, leading the way to her apartment along the bright passage with large windows at both ends. “It’s central and I can walk to The Old Biscuit Mill market on a Saturday. The ground floor is for parking only, which makes it very secure.” She laughs. “Some people are shocked when I tell them where I live.”
Hers is a 74 m2 apartment on the top floor with a huge loft space, so big she could have a mezzanine added for a bedroom, walk-in closet and study – increasing the floor space to 104 m2.
“The ceiling slants in such a way that there was ample space for a mezzanine level,” says Lize.
With a buying career that takes her to the Far East, India, Europe and America, Lize has a sharp eye for spotting the latest in world furniture trends and developing them for the local market. When she gets home, however, she likes to be surrounded by stuff she loves. Old and new things.
Some of these things Lize fixed up herself, like her grandmother’s ball-and-claw dining table, which she sanded down. And some items were made up just the way she wanted, such as her two wooden kitchen shelving units, crafted by “the best informal carpenters in Woodstock”.
When it comes to her home, Lize knows exactly what she wants, where she wants it and what it should look like. Ask her father. Lize laughs. “My dad thinks I am the most stubborn person he knows! I insisted that the living room curtains stretch all the way from the ceiling to the floor, and all the way across too. Which meant he had to drill a hole right through a metal beam in the centre of the room to feed the rod through. It took him most of the day.”
With drops of sheer linen curtains now wafting in the breeze coming through large open windows, one catches glimpses of magnificent city and mountain views, and hears the beautiful noise of urban life outside, the shabbiness of Sussex Street below forgotten for now.