IN PICTURES | This Japanese-inspired home in PE is a sensory delight
Moving to a new home meant Dicey Du Toit could finally play with vibrant colours and sensual textures, creating a home that looks, smells, sounds and feels just right
When Dicey and Tom du Toit swapped their Bauhaus home in Paarl, in the heart of the Cape Winelands, for a 1970s house in Port Elizabeth, it came with some celebration for Dicey. The self-taught designer and decorator was relieved that she could finally allow her own interior style to flourish. "Tom is an engineer, so he loved the Paarl house," she says of the home built by Mies van der Rohe protégé Pius Pahl, the last architect to qualify at the Bauhaus, Germany's influential art school. "It was an enormous glass house with only three solid walls. It was all about clean spaces, minimalism and no clutter."
Living in an all-white Bauhaus abode was something of a shock to Dicey's senses, which are instinctively drawn to colours and textures. "Nothing I loved fitted in there," she says, explaining how new furniture had to be curated to complement the iconic architecture. "I had to redesign myself to live in the space."
When Tom opened an injection-moulding company just outside Port Elizabeth, it came as an opportunity to relocate and start playing house again - this time in a style more attuned to Dicey's Japanese-like approach to interior design and architecture. The three-bedroom home on the edge of the Baakens Valley nature reserve provided the setting that welcomed her Eastern sensibility for stimulating sensory experiences.
Dicey's work as an architectural heritage specialist helped her to instantly recognise the opportunities abounding in this old new home, calling for a complete overhaul of the interior structures while respecting and maintaining the masterplan. "It was being used as a guest house when we bought it," she says, pointing to rooms that were formerly closed up to one another. The home proved difficult to navigate in this iteration, with awkward twists and turns and no natural flow. It was impractical, suffocating and dark.
It took Tom knocking on a wall to have them realise that many of the interior structures were drywalling. By bashing these down, they revealed the expansive passageway linking the entire home. "That's when it made sense to me," Dicey says. "Suddenly the house had breathing space."
Connecting spaces with wooden shutters that are open for interaction, or closed to create cosy private nooks, the home's fluid motion is an ode to the Japanese philosophy of functional movement resulting in personal comfort. The Du Toits interact around the original axis, each end being visible to the other, while the passage peaks into living and work rooms, which in turn lead to the outdoor deck overlooking the valley. The entrance porch and kitchen were both opened up to the koi pond, and a bridge was built to link the front and back doors.
As owner of The Collection Studio, a décor and interior-design practice in Richmond Hill, Dicey designs furniture, textiles, ceramics and wallpaper, matching these to client briefs. For her home, she wanted to create a relaxing island feel and "go with the flow", and the sensory questionnaire she poses to clients bode well for this personal project. "I ask things like 'What noises make you happy? What texture do you like? Do you enjoy me-time?'."
Wanting the sounds and textures of nature to be part of their everyday living, she ensured that all rooms led to an outdoor area, with the sounds of koi feeding in the pond or trees rustling above the valley always within earshot. Layering this sensation with mohair rugs, velvet sofas, Cemcrete floors and painted brick walls, the result is a home that speaks of its owner's love of auditory, visual and textural perceptions.
The furniture is a mix of old and new. A Gregor Jenkin dining table was a birthday gift from Tom when they moved into the new house. It is surrounded by the Vitra Panton chairs that travelled with them from the Paarl home. A Le Corbusier lounger rests in the sunroom, while the formal lounge is filled with bespoke pieces from The Collection Studio. This room of greens and blues is where Dicey's eclectic application of vibrant tones really comes to life. "We see colour outside in nature, so why not bring it inside?" she says.
It's not just colour she's brought indoors; the plants have come in too, with every room housing a profusion of pot plants. "A plant can become your best interior-design feature. They grow and change and are never stagnant."
Having felt that her previous home left her with no room for innovation, Dicey has used this space to experiment with greenery, paint, fabric and flooring, creating a home that looks, smells, sounds and feels just right.