High Society – June 2008

Interior decorator Andrew Mackenzie has created a jewel of an apartment in Johannesburg’s city centre

Having studied drama and spent fur years as a theatre actor, Andrew Mackenzie knows about creating dramatic effects. “As part of my training I studied set design, so when I decided to move on from acting, interior décor was a natural choice.”

He used all his skills in the transformation of this flat on the 19th floor of the famous 70s block on Clarendon Circle in Johannesburg. “There was nothing special about it. It was quite pokey and had orange wall-to-wall carpets, but when I saw the view, I was sold,” he says. The magnificent views take in the city stretching northwards to Pretoria and Magaliesberg.

“My Advice to anyone fixing up a house or an apartment is to invest in the shell, that is, the floors and walls. This will give you the mood you want.”

The apartment had two bedrooms, a tiny bathroom, a kitchen and a combined living and dining area. “As you walked in there was a narrow passage which made you feel confined. To open up the space, I removed the top half of the passage wall. This transformed the kitchen into part of the living area, which is ideal for entertaining as you don’t feel cut off from your guests. “The only thing I splurged on is the wooden sink unit which gives the space a furnished rather than fitted feel.”

When Andrew ripped up the orange carpeting, he found parquet flooring underneath, which he had sanded and stained ebony. “It was the best thing I did. It made the whole apartment look more up to date, and shows off the rugs beautifully.”

“I originally painted the whole apartment a pale beige-grey, but I hated it. It wasn’t one or the other, it was just bland. Then I came up with the idea of using a dark shade. I’ve used ‘Camp Walk’ from Plascon which is so sophisticated. Strangely enough, a dark colour doesn’t make the rooms appear smaller, in fact, the edges of the rooms fade into each other.”

“I must stress that this renovation was done on a strict budget,” says Andrew. “My advice to anyone fixing up a house or an apartment is to invest in the shell, that is, the floors and walls. This will give you the mood you want. You can always make a plan with the furniture using inherited items or recovering pieces from secondhand shops.”

Renovating on the 19th floor, says Andrew, is not for the fainthearted. Every piece of rubble, tile offcut and roll of old carpeting had to be transported downstairs by hand, but the results were worth it. The new shell gives the apartment a rich, masculine feel with the result that Andrew’s collection of Chinese artifacts, gilded frames and distressed mirrors come into their own.

“My aim was to create a romantic, French-Indochine feel. It really is a night-time space. When the lights come on in the evening and you look across the city, it’s quite magical. What I love about living here, aside from the view, is the buzz of the city, the kids playing in the schoolyard next door, the taxis hooting, people shouting to each other. At night, the scruffiness disappears and you have this wonderful display of lights.”

In South African Garden and Home by Andrew / 23 August 2012 /

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