Set in Darling Street, in the centre of Cape Town, is the magnificent 1940s Mutual Heights building. It’s an imposing grande dame of the city, and it’s no wonder the building was chosen by the producers of Homeland to stand in as Saul Berenson’s New York apartment – its art deco facade, original gold leaf and red marble columns instantly transport you to the Big Apple. Saul found his temporary home on the eighth floor, in the apartment of iconic stylist and editor of ELLE Decoration, Laureen Rossouw.
The chandelier reminded me of the brooches women used to wear in the 60s’
‘The weirdest part of having Homeland in our space was the photos of Saul and his wife standing everywhere,’ Laureen laughs. ‘We went to bed staring at their faces on the bedstand.’ She and her lawyer husband, Koos, have been in the flat for just over a decade, and have filled the space with pieces from South African artists and designers, as well as items picked up from their various travels.
Walking into the vast apartment, panoramic Table Mountain greets you through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Then you start taking in the honey-coloured parquet flooring throughout, and the expertly curated furnishings. Pride of place is the
Gregor Jenkin dining-room table in mild steel, flanked by two half-moon cream lacquered tables to enlarge the table. It’s surrounded by wooden chairs from a church in Scotland, and copper candlesticks by local artist Michael Guy. ‘The Swarovski crystal chandelier reminded me of the brooches women used to wear in the 60s,’ Laureen says.
The study is where the couple spends most of their time. Its cosiness and lived- in nature are enhanced by the layered collections of art, books, magazines and photo albums. The steel bookcase was built by a local steel company, and a clock and old leather sofa and chairs were rescued from a railway station. ‘The room is functional, comfortable and filled with our most-loved things, and a display of posters and paintings collected over the years forms a backdrop above the desks.’ A collection of photographs, dried proteas and a stuffed bird is one of the many still lives in the study, revealing its owner’s decor- styling credentials.
With only four rooms in the apartment, clever planning and design were necessary to make spaces like the kitchen and bathroom form part of the overall aesthetic. The stainless- steel kitchen was custom designed by Laureen and Kitchen Clinic, with the cooking section to one side of the double front doors, and the laundry/ scullery on the other. The bedroom is a showstopper, with its dramatic goldleaf feature wall behind the bed.
Laureen and Koos spend weekends in St James, and with their daughers, Renée and Laura no longer living at home, they could create an indulgent space for working and entertaining.
It was a house that brought them together in the first place: when Laureen came to Cape Town after studying and working overseas and a brief stint in Joburg, she moved into a house her father had bought.
She needed a tenant to make the rent, but only received two applicants. ‘One was a non-smoking vegetarian, so I chose the other one.’ A year later, she married him.
First Published in Elle Magazine August Issue
Text Christine van Deemter Photography Inge Prins