People don’t immediately associate the City of Johannesburg with a noteworthy view. Unlike its coastal and postcard-ready counterparts of Cape Town and Durban, it is a sprawling metropolis peppered with little hills or ‘koppies’ swathed in the biggest man-made forest on earth, not a beach in sight or any large body of water for that matter. But it’s the energy and urban eccentricities that give it its clout and of course the trees, so many that in the summer months come alive with bright green from centuries old oaks and lilac from the Jacarandas which in winter provide a palette of tonal sepia next to none. At twilight this scene becomes even more eye-popping with the city lights beyond, especially so if you live in Killarney, a suburb made up of many an art deco apartment block where you get a birds eye view of this unique panorama.
Michele Throssell and her husband’s 167m2 urban sanctuary is one such sanctuary, where the clincher was the picturesque vista. ‘We love a view and at especially at night we have one that’s next to none, of the lights of Joburg,’ says Michele. Aside from this, the old-world charm of the apartment block and it’s details was what attracted them to the for sale sign of the third floor apartment. ‘The bleached parquet flooring and ribbed walls, with retro art and a copper fountain greeting you at the entrance, completely charmed the socks off of us, not to mention the wide passages, and reeded glass along the back entrance passageways that provide privacy,’ she says.
The brief from the client was that she wanted to create a familial village that included her and her husband’s home, three separate homes for their three children and one grandchild, as well as a common clubhouse for all. Each home is separated with walls within the plot but the aim was to facilitate their growing multi-generational family.
The apartment had been untouched for 40 years when Michele and her husband acquired it, something that they loved, the old world-charm, but it was impractical as a family abode. ‘We wanted a modern sense of living and that was achieved by knocking through a lot of walls to bring in light and update the living spaces,’ she says. The kitchen was completely closed off, the dining room was separate and there was a narrow long passage. Michele and her team started with opening up and integrating the dining room and kitchen into the living space before making the bathrooms bigger by reducing the main bedroom size.
But where the fun was really had was in the aesthetic composition of the interiors, which reflects the vibrant palette of the city’s dense greenery- blues, greens and pops of bright colour. ‘I love colour and depth of colour and was going through a phase where I was into a blue, black and green combo,’ she says. At the time flamingos were very on trend and Michele loved the idea of having a pink pop of colour contrasting the blue/green spectrum, something that was a refreshing departure from the work she has done for some of South Africa’s most esteemed game lodges, which for the most part, enjoy a neutral palette. ‘For me when you have your own space, you’re a lot braver and more free with your choices because you don’t have to convince anyone to agree with you. It was a very liberating process and lots of fun to do what I wanted to do.’