For many years, Laureen Rossouw was an absolute institution at DECO; she still is. Her inimitable and extraordinary sense of style was the guiding principle behind everything we did, literally. We miss her, terribly, and needed to know what she was up to, so we decided to sit down and catch up to find out what’s what, and who is who…
You bought a new house… You do realise that half the word’s decor community will be vying to get the first glimpse?
Yes, we bought a house built by a Dutch architect in the forties at the foot of Table Mountain. He was influenced by the sober lines of the Bauhaus architects and followed many of the principles of their style. It was a lucky find –It’s very beautiful with a big garden– but needs plenty of work, which suits me perfectly. There have been a few owners over the years, including a doctor who used the mezzanine floor as a surgery, so it is taking me some time to figure out how to transform it back to its original state, and at the same time keep it modern and functional.
But the most challenging and the biggest pleasure has been the garden…the house sits right next to a pine forest with clay soil which is very acidic. I’m not going to bore you with plants and plant names, but I know in my next life, I’m going to be a horticulturalist. Trying my hand at landscaping was at first overwhelming, but as I become familiar with all the species that grow here, I am starting to catch on. I dream sleep and live plants and trees.
This new lifestyle is a 90 degree turn-around from our previous life in the fast lane. We sold our urban apartment with all the furniture because it suited that particular space. We also have two dogs now who have added a completely new angle to my design thinking…even the garden has to have indestructible plants for dogs… and the furniture has to be durable, comfortable, functional and beautiful.
Maybe that can be my next job… a book on how to plan an indestructible house.
What is on top of your wish list for your new home?
I’m still not completely cured of all the lovely and exciting products I was introduced to while editing ELLE Decoration, so I still have the same wish list.
First and top of my list is a Tempur bed– a motorised bed with a memory foam mattress– which allows one to sit up for late night movies while getting a good back massage.
For my bathroom, a rain dance rainforest shower by Hansgrohe; I’ve always dreamt of a shower overlooking a forest. Now we’ve got the forest…
For the kitchen I would love a beautiful Bulthaup all-in-on compact cupboard unit where everything can be organised and compartemenatilised…so I never have to wonder where anything is.
And a chocolate brown washbasin from Franke– just because it is the most beautiful washbasin in the world.
From the home automation magazine- which was in my last issue as editor – I would love to have a automated locking system, so I don’t have to carry house keys again and the best – also from that issue – was the home cinema. I reckon that can be of great use.
What will be your entertaining party trick this summer?
I have always believed in ‘assemble cooking’ because I’m not a confident chef. I collect delicious products like breads, cheeses, fruits, salads and perhaps one meat dish that I have prepared and put them all on the table at the same time. That way my guests can assemble their own starter, main course and dessert.
It is always about the wine and the conversation for me.
What is your greatest revelation since DECO?
…how quickly one moves on. I was concerned that I was going to miss the magazine and would still want to interfere. But I was cured as I soon as I walked out of the door (I knew my baby was in good, caring hands).
Miss anything in particular about your time at DECO?
I miss dressing up everyday. I’m very thematic and love dressing up…for instance when we go to a Russian restaurant I will dress Russian or as an editor I used to dress like an editor. Now I’m a gardener…
New South African designers on your radar?
I am looking more at handmade products and crafters right now. There is so much new technology, so many machines and printers and new information available that it is becoming increasingly easy to make your own things and produce your own designs. Design collaborations are still interesting and can be explored so much more. I’m also tracking the interaction between South African and African designers; the mix of skills, products and ideas can have very unique results.
Another project I find interesting is the Spier Arts Academy, employment based training, producing the most incredible handmade tiles. It is interesting where commercial companies have side projects that focus on and encourage design.
Social media: the best and worst thing about it?
The answer is obvious: it is very time consuming, but not a waste of time. As a crucial part of modern life and a great asset, one needs to actually make time for it. It is such a great source of information; there are so many great articles and up-to-the-minute global news and opinions that were not previously so easily available. Because we lead such busy lives, the connection with friends is also great. I’m so happy I joined Facebook–there was a stigma to it, and I was warned that it would compromise my privacy– but I don’t believe in privacy. I think it is a luxurious and exclusive invention. It is time to move on. You have to share and be part of a community and contribute; give of yourself. Just look at Airbnb and Uber – where people share their homes and cars. This is just the beginning.
(This is of course not the same thing as solitude or being alone) One must still make time to read books and visit friends– it should not replace anything. It is an addition and a bonus and it’s all about choice and should be treated as such.
The colour for 2016:
I think colour and patterns are getting bolder and brighter. The world is incredibly interesting right now and changing daily. As people grow in confidence and become more accepting and more inclusive of everybody, so they are growing bolder in what they like and can absorb. I would therefore go for a bold colour. I think it is more important that it is bold than which colour it is.
Who do you have on repeat?
Leonard Cohen has been on repeat for the last ten years… I can’t get enough of him. Karen Zoid is also brilliant. She is collaborating with a great variety of artists from different genres and generations and coming up with unique new versions of established songs. I think this is very interesting and important right now – old fashioned or classic meets cool and contemporary. Both are comfortable and more than that: brilliant together.
I follow all the international photographers and editors I worked with just to keep track of their work. I follow @ELLE_Deco, local creatives and friends and my husband @koosrossouw, who has just become the best iPhone photographer of Table mountain. I go on just to give him his daily LIKE. @mistertrickett and @chusuwannapha are dressing themselves up everyday and sharing it: I find them amusing and relevant.
I am just giving myself this year to take a break; help fix and repair all the things around the house and be of use here. There are still a lot of demons inside, dying to come out, I will entertain them next year.
Follow @laureenrossouw on Instagram to keep up to date with what’s on her radar.