Donald Nxumalo
‘The client must see themselves in what I bring together,’ says Nxumalo of his design philosophy; Light streams in from almost every angle of the three-storey house, highlighting its clean lines and wooden textures

When creative mastermind Donald Nxumalo was tasked with the renovation of an outdated Northcliff home, his focus on opening up the interiors and layering them with tactile additions resulted in a luxuriously contemporary aesthetic that’s a breath of fresh air

Located on the second-highest ridge in Johannesburg, Northcliff is where project manager Thabo Tefo found a property that he knew would be his family home. Although it boasted scenic surrounds, the house was in dire need of rehabilitation, so Tefo enlisted the help of young interior designer Donald Nxumalo of the eponymous studio. ‘It was an old house that was carpeted everywhere, including in the bathroom,’ says Nxumalo, adding that despite its flaws, he saw potential in the unique space.

Donald Nxumalo
In the dining area, a light fitting from Streamlight illuminates a glass-topped table from SHF and chairs from Donald Nxumalo.

The designer, who was given an open brief from Tefo, began a large-scale renovation of the three-storey property, which took just over a year to complete. His first step was to open up the interiors, and he started by knocking down the walls between the kitchen, dining room and lounge to create one large living area. Next, he made the exterior accessible from inside the home, establishing a harmonious flow by using cleverly placed mirrors to seamlessly connect different parts of the layout. Wanting to enhance the height of the rooms, he painted the wooden ceiling white  and amplified the volume with sculptural light  fittings: a dramatic spiralling piece complements the dining table, while two cocoon-inspired floating bubbles implore you to look up. During the day, the rooms are awash with natural light and at night, the different levels are illuminated with a soft white glow.

Donald Nxumalo
Left: Characterised by its plethora of pattern, the seating area features a couch from Donald Nxumalo and chairs from Egg Designs upholstered in fabric from Nxumalo’s The A-List collection with Hertex. Right: Homeowner Thabo Tefo stands on the second level of his family home next to a custom armchair from Donald Nxumalo.

While modernising the space was Nxumalo’s first point of departure, the second was layering the interiors with sumptuous fabrics and interesting lines. One of the most notable attractions is the asymmetrical black and white wallpaper in the living area: emphasising the height of the room, it extends all the way up to the ceiling, and when contrasted with marble floors and patterned rugs from  African Selectives, it gives the reception room a level of understated sophistication. ‘What’s nice about clients like Thabo is the trust that  they place in me,’ says Nxumalo. ‘Everything is luxurious in the fabrics, the mirrors and the wallpaper, all of which also have a metallic undertone, making the space both glamorous and adult, yet still fitting for the whole family.’

Donald Nxumalo
With its creamcoloured counter tops, gold accents and lights from Lighting Warehouse, the kitchen was designed to conceal most of the usual appliances, giving the space an airy feel. ‘Appliances tend to date a kitchen, so we tucked most things away to modernise it,’ says Nxumalo.

On the top level of the home is the main bedroom, which comprises a sleeping area, en-suite bathroom and dressing space that boasts neutral hues offset with shimmering copper tones. The bathroom, in particular, is where Tefo’s affinity for stylish innovation can’t be missed. Designed with a luxurious, spa-like aesthetic, it features a wooden bench for the shower, which was created both for comfort and to balance the opulence of the custom Versace tiles. In an atrium that once housed a Jacuzzi, Nxumalo built an impressive walk-in closet complete with a skylight.

Donald Nxumalo
Northcliff is known for its weighty real estate and lush surrounds, boasting large gardens and picturesque views of the city’s leafy northern suburbs; The master bedroom includes an oversized headboard from Donald Nxumalo.

‘My favourite room is the main bedroom, which also opens to the outdoors and surrounding greenery,’ says Tefo. ‘Wherever you look, whether inside or out, you see the foliage. At the end of a long day, I can relax either on the couch inside or outside on the balcony, and wind down while watching the city lights.’

Donald Nxumalo
Neutral hues dominate in the guest bedroom, where subtly patterned wallpaper adds interest and references the foliage outside; (clockwise, from top left) wallpaper Marquise wallpaper in Whitewash by Lomasi Wall coverings, Romo South Africa; sheet Brass sheet, Herbert Evans; fabric Chromatic fabric in Rose, St Leger & Viney; tile Pottery Lights wall tile by Marazzi, FerreТras; slab Zizi white quartz slab, The Tile Gallery; flooring FinOak multi-layer core rustic grade flooring, Forest Flooring; wallpaper Dina Paperweave wallpaper in Cobalt by Schumacher, St Leger & Viney; background fabric Pescia fabric in Volcano and fabric Crown fabric in Sapphire, both Hertex

The garden is lush and evergreen, needing little work to maintain, while the views are breathtaking and the house feels as if it’s moulded itself into the landscape. At night, people driving past have been known to park their cars on the side of the road simply to sit and take in the magnificent skyline from Northcliff Ridge.

It’s a serenely idyllic residence that doesn’t need ostentation or excess to endear it to its owner. ‘The house does not impose itself,’ says Tefo. ‘It just is.’

Photographs: Elsa Young Production & Styling: Sanri Pienaar

Recreate the look of this home with our Shop the Look here. Get more home inspiration with The Vibrant Joburg Home of The Urbanative’s Mpho Vackier and A Contemporary Jo’burg Home with Country Roots.