House Tour

IN PICS | Retro collectables add bags of character to this Cape Town loft

'My apartment's evolved quite a bit,' says homeowner Maurice Paliaga. 'A few years ago it was monotone, with very little in it. My journey is now about striking a balance between old and new'

09 February 2020 - 00:00 By Shelley Street/Bureaux
The open-plan living space is sliced in two by a wall display: on one side is a collection of books, guitars and projectors, and on the other the homeowner's modernist-style design pieces, such as the Arco-style lamp and Catifa chairs.
The open-plan living space is sliced in two by a wall display: on one side is a collection of books, guitars and projectors, and on the other the homeowner's modernist-style design pieces, such as the Arco-style lamp and Catifa chairs.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux

Whether it's a handcrafted double-bass guitar, a vintage projector or a handed-down antique, Maurice Paliaga has an affinity for items with provenance.

"I'm a collector of stories," says the architect, musician and all-round creative, whose Cape Town loft is lined with instruments, books, art and artefacts that narrate his personal journey, from successful bassist for a lineage of influential South African indie bands to professional designer.

"There's a particularly youthful thread that you'll find in people who work in art and design," says Maurice, and it's clear that in this suntrap space, an edgy energy presides.

From piles of vinyl records and a succession of expertly crafted bass guitars to tomes in architecture, design and art, each corner of the 102 m² apartment is an exploration of his personality, delving into his penchant for the alternative while satisfying his desire for a home that is contemporary and a tribute to the past.

From the entrance hall you’re given a view into the living and space. The homeowner, architect Maurice Paliaga (pictured), has cleverly used the structural columns to create a drinks and display cabinet.
From the entrance hall you’re given a view into the living and space. The homeowner, architect Maurice Paliaga (pictured), has cleverly used the structural columns to create a drinks and display cabinet.
Image: Warren Health/Bureaux
An old reel-to-reel projector has been brought back to life, and the homeowner takes pleasure in discovering long-forgotten films.
An old reel-to-reel projector has been brought back to life, and the homeowner takes pleasure in discovering long-forgotten films.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
A modern couch adds a touch of Scandi appeal to the living area.
A modern couch adds a touch of Scandi appeal to the living area.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
To unlock the space, cabinets and the dining-room table are arranged in symmetry with the loft's structural vertical lines.
To unlock the space, cabinets and the dining-room table are arranged in symmetry with the loft's structural vertical lines.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
The Arco-style lamp with holes in the top creates a dappled light on the ceiling when switched on.
The Arco-style lamp with holes in the top creates a dappled light on the ceiling when switched on.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
A Jitterbugs poster delivers a jolt of retro colour to the kitchen space.
A Jitterbugs poster delivers a jolt of retro colour to the kitchen space.
Image: Warren Health/Bureaux

While Maurice's career as an architect and retail designer has seen him tackling diverse projects from sprawling suburban houses to storefronts and restaurants, including the recent renovation of local chef Luke Dale-Roberts's Test Kitchen, in his own space he's allowed his style to unfold over time.

"The apartment's evolved quite a bit," he says. "A few years ago it was monotone, with very little in it. My journey is now about striking a balance between old and new."

The attraction to opposites is perhaps what first drew Maurice to Salt River, an emerging design district just outside the city. "When I first moved here, there were a few tell-tale signs that it was becoming a base for creatives, but it was still really early on and not as developed as it is now."

I am a firm believer in reusing; it tells a story. It also gives you an opportunity to allow the space to evolve
Maurice Paliaga, architect, musician and all-round creative

Surveying the landscape from his living area through the steel-frame windows you might find in a 19th-century factory, he observes the contrasts that abound outside: tufts of verdant greenery from neighbouring gardens poke out between dilapidated warehouses and heritage houses, and beyond all the industrial development, a snapshot of the harbour.

"While it's right on Cape Town's doorstep, it's a lot more real than the city," he says. "There's a humbleness here."

Humility is at the core of his design ethos, and while another architect might go into a new space with the intention to demolish and start from scratch, Maurice's approach was to retain what he loved about the original structure. "I am a firm believer in reusing; it tells a story," he notes. "It also gives you an opportunity to allow the space to evolve."

What he was particularly drawn to were the home's linear qualities. There's dynamic about this space because it has such height and length, he explains. The flow of the home is orchestrated by the strong linear and lofty proportions that extend right down the narrow entrance hallway, which opens to the kitchen and living area, and soar up to the bedroom.

While his home's structure required little work, Maurice found himself riffing on what he had inside to renew the feel of the interior. "I like to think of design as the application of layers," he explains. "With each new layer introduced, you build depth."

In his living area, depth is achieved through the considered display of collectibles. "I never saw myself as a collector but I guess it started with guitars," says Maurice, whose career in music has seen him playing bass for local bands Dirty Skirts and Flash Republic.

Both his studio and apartment have become show-spaces for his 25 guitars, an antique piano and a 1925 vintage gramophone cabinet that crackles and pops just before Bing Crosby's mesmerising warble fills the room. "The guitars were all in a garage, lying dead in their cases," he says. "I just needed to get them out and bring them back to life."

Maurice Maurice Paliaga's studio is a showcase of memory and history.
Maurice Maurice Paliaga's studio is a showcase of memory and history.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
Two bass guitars, one made by the homeowner's father, sit on top of an inherited piano.
Two bass guitars, one made by the homeowner's father, sit on top of an inherited piano.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
In his cabinet of collectibles, Maurice Paliaga has amassed everything from action figurines to model cars. ‘I like to indulge the child in me,’ he explains, ‘It’s important to remain connected to that.’
In his cabinet of collectibles, Maurice Paliaga has amassed everything from action figurines to model cars. ‘I like to indulge the child in me,’ he explains, ‘It’s important to remain connected to that.’
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
Old reels of film showing everything from movies and documentaries to old boxing matches.
Old reels of film showing everything from movies and documentaries to old boxing matches.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux

Amid his treasured collections are four old reel-to-reel projectors, along with cases of forgotten film that Maurice trawls through on quiet evenings in.

"There are so many rituals in history that we've lost through modern connectivity. The ritual of putting on a reel and getting through a whole thread - it takes a lot of effort to actually get this movie on!"

Nestled among marks of the past is Maurice's predilection for modernist design and he has carefully incorporated classic pieces that evoke both contemporary comfort and timeless sophistication, such as the Arco-style lamp that he's reluctant to part ways with for the sensual quality of light it gives off in the dining area, and the modern Scandi couch, which is as cosy as it is contemporary.

The bedroom is a mix of sophistication interspersed with playful and retro touches.
The bedroom is a mix of sophistication interspersed with playful and retro touches.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
Extending into the bedroom, the en-suite bathroom is a pristine space. Handmade ceramic tiles bring a sense of tactility to the shower zone.
Extending into the bedroom, the en-suite bathroom is a pristine space. Handmade ceramic tiles bring a sense of tactility to the shower zone.
Image: Warren Health/Bureaux

Upstairs in the light-drenched bedroom, a whitewash palette reigns, resulting in a cool and serene ambience that's geared to relaxation, and Maurice's symphony of layers culminates with deeply personal memorabilia mingling effortlessly with design choices of today.

As he descends the stairs from loft bedroom to living space, Maurice reflects on the harmony between then and now: "I can watch a 16mm film, but I can also turn on Netflix if I want to. I like existing in both the past and future. While one is a very cold, convenient life, the other is a tactile, connected life. But it's both the light and the shade that makes you interesting."