Rising 17 floors above the frenzied streets of New Doornfontein in the east of Johannesburg, Hallmark House is the much-anticipated newcomer to the Maboneng portfolio of trailblazing developer Propertuity. With the eminent London-based architect Sir David Adjaye on board, the former diamond polishing factory turned CMT base, built in the early 1970s, is Maboneng’s bright new luxury offering.
Situated high above the building’s boutique hotel, restaurant, underground jazz club and coffee shop, a double-storey penthouse surveys downtown Joburg’s famous and infamous landmarks from almost 70m up. ‘As a committed urbanist, I would find it difficult to live in Johannesburg’s gated suburbs,’ says the homeowner. He and his wife travel often and the lock-up-and-go aspect of apartment living, as well as the building’s vibrant mixed-use lifestyle, appeals to them. Having bought a capacious white box within which to conjure a family home, the owners turned to interior designer Aimee Henning, whose string of sophisticated interiors and ‘rare ability to design in line with the broader context’ were a pull factor.
Aimee was tasked with designing a space that was comfortable, well-planned and answers to the demands of family living. Since the unit was created from two neighbouring double-storey apartments, steel staircases fitted with black glass link its levels. Upstairs is dedicated to public life, with a light, bright open-plan layout, which includes a dining room, living room and streamlined kitchen with views to kill for. Downstairs, however, the pace is decidedly slower, with heavy piled carpeting, upholstery in velvet and silk and an almost reclusive cosiness to rooms like the library and cinema room, to which one can retreat.
To celebrate its unique context within an urban jungle that refuses to rest, the apartment is open on the southern, western and northern facades, by way of expansive glazed windows and doors and a number of balconies, cleverly designed by Adjaye to be set back, affording shelter from harsh sunlight.
The interior manages a balancing act that’s sophisticated, and yet also bold and unrefined thanks to the building’s palpable industrial past. Raw concrete columns and ceilings and original screed floors keep company with marble counters, sheer linen drapes and noteworthy designer pieces. An inventory of prominent artists’ works lines the walls, including the likes of Marcus Neustetter, Enrico Daffonchio and Rodan Kane Hart. Aimee sourced and custom designed a number of pieces for the clients including all the joinery. Perhaps the most striking is the vast, walnut library unit, which brings warmth and purpose to a subtly toned room. Elsewhere, contemporary design rubs shoulders with vintage furniture, much of it bought on auction, from heavyweights such as Finn Juhl, Sigurd Ressell and Percival Lafer. In the plush main bedroom, Aimee opted for a retro aesthetic, hence the palette of smoky grey, gold and black paired with a show-stopping set of Worn Store loungers, whose curved cane and webbed rattan frames look right at home.
From their lofty position, the owners can see the Ponte City Apartments, Sentech Tower, Ellis Park stadium, and the MetroRail Line carving its daily route past the stadium. In amongst them, murals such as Belgian street artist ROA’s slumbering animals and Freddie Sam’s iconic depiction of a shadow-boxing Mandela all form part of the vibrant city canvas laid out before them. In contrast to the chaos of a day in the city, early morning, when all is quiet and the light is gentle with a pinkish filter, is the homeowners’ favourite time of day to be here. It’s this contrast that’s not unlike the refined sophistication of their home against the grind of the metropolis that frames it.
Aimee Henning 082 877 1777
Text: Mila Crewe-Brown, Photographs: Elsa Young, Styling: Sanri Pienaar