Left: A shop-in-shop for global skincare brand Aésop occupies a corner of Sans. Like the rest of the space, its design is informed by the ethos of form following function, with the effect being both minimalist and warm through its considered use of materials. Right: Homeware and apparel feature alongside an ethically sourced grocer.

A new retail experience, Sans, brings a highly considered design edge to Cape Town’s Sea Point, a suburb in the throes of revitalisation

Sea Point’s fortunes seem always to have been shaped by the tides of both economy and what was deemed fashionable in Cape Town from one decade to the next. Once the city’s trendiest district for restaurants and retail, it was almost wholly abandoned as newly developing areas like Kloof Street and later Bree Street rose to prominence.

Licked by the salty wind gusting off the ocean, cosseted by a tight huddle of flats flanking both sides of the main drag, and with the ever-present caw of gulls in competition with the honk of horns, it’s never lost its charm. If anything, the almost defiant diversity of its community and the grittiness of its streets in perfect proportion to its natural beaches have only made it more cherished.

Lacquered Supawood shelves display home textiles and other products

In recent years, Sea Point’s star has again begun its ascent, with a slew of dilapidated and abandoned buildings given new life. While it’s always been a high-density residential neighbourhood with a strong pedestrian culture, a burgeoning network of eateries, bars and stores has helped to connect the dots even more, steadily stretching down the length of its main road. Last year, a tired shopping emporium was reinvented as the slick Artem Centre, taking on a part of Sea Point that was yet to be given attention.

It’s here that Jon Paul Bolus, owner and proprietor of the city’s celebrated Loading Bay concept store and eatery, has chosen to locate his ambitious new enterprise Sans. A Sea Point resident himself, he saw a need in the area for the highly specific services he wanted to share: an ethical grocery store selling carefully sourced fresh produce and dry goods along with a collection of homeware, apparel and skincare, all following the same philosophical principles, with the provenance and integrity of the products being foremost.

Patrons can order a coffee and pastry to go or to enjoy while standing at the long counter in elegantly pared-down Pauline’s, with its play on the textures of sisal, timber and Corian.

A precursor to shopping at Sans is a quick espresso, flat white or cold brew sipped at Pauline’s, a sliver of a coffee shop facing the street, which Bolus named after his grandmother in homage to the sense of warmth and generosity her memory evokes. ‘We wanted to capture that in the space. Yes, it’s about coffee, but it’s also about honesty and authenticity,’ he notes. Here patrons can sip their ethically sourced drinks leaning on the bar that runs along the glass store front, rather than sitting down – a convenient option for commuters.

Driven by convenience Pauline’s might be, but its design is both highly considered and finely executed by Master Studio’s Yaniv Chen, who took on the interiors of both spaces. For the coffee shop, Chen had to consider not only how best to balance functionality, practicality and mood, but also how to work with the narrow, elongated space in such a way that ‘both barista and patron would have comfort and free movement’. The warmth Bolus wanted is expressed literally through the materiality of the design elements. Although the space is minimalist in essence, the use of sisal as a wall covering, along with timber floors and cabinetry and the coolness of the Corian counter, create a harmonious organic effect, which, as Chen notes, ‘allows pause for thought’.

Right: Simplicity of design is celebrated in the Japanese-influenced cabinetry used throughout Sans

For Sans (French for ‘without’), simplicity was naturally at the heart of the brief for its interiors, a brief that’s in keeping with the ‘less is more’ and ‘form follows function’ philosophies espoused by Bolus. With not a superfluous design element in sight, there’s an almost Japanese austerity to the space that intentionally puts the focus on the products displayed. The sense of luxurious materiality is elevated through a striking juxtaposition of lacquered Supawood and stainless steel. ‘We wanted a very clean, easy aesthetic that almost looks as if it wasn’t designed at all,’ says Bolus. ‘This helps to highlight the experience, the products, the mood, the smell, the sensory aspect… it’s all about your own journey in the space.’

Taking up significant real estate is Australian skincare brand Aésop’s sleekly designed shop-in-shop, comprising the full product offering and capturing the experience almost as a stand-alone store would. ‘We share a philosophy and approach, a meeting of minds,’ says Bolus of his long-standing partnership with Aésop.

Authenticity and craftsmanship inform the ceramics offering too

Elsewhere, shelves are carefully arranged with ceramics, bamboo bowls, wooden utensils and other homeware products, a curated book selection, linens and bathing accessories. ‘We’ve sourced products from all over the world, from Finland to Japan. Of course, we’re also working with local producers,’ says Bolus. Everything’s specifically chosen for its quality, uniqueness and how it might offer its owner a level of ‘happiness, enjoyment and longevity’.

Patrons can pick up the freshest eggs and meat, as well as cheese, vegetables, fruit, honey and grains directly sourced from any of the 70 ethical farms with which Sans partners. It also stocks breads baked at Loading Bay Provisions, its in-house production facility. ‘We don’t work with any middle men, which ties in with our name,’ explains Bolus. ‘There’s a story to everything and all our produce supports the local environment.’ Smiling, he adds, ‘These days, when you can get everything from your cellphone or online, Sans made a lot of sense.’

Sans can be located at 277 Main Rd, Sea Point, Cape Town.

Text: Leigh Robertson Photographs: Sarah De Pina

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