By Jessica Ross
Styling Sven Alberding
Photographs Greg Cox, Bureaux
Downscaling from a spacious four-bedroom house to a sophisticated one-bedroom pied-à-terre in Cape Town was an exercise in scrupulous editing for the designer owners of South African fashion label Kluk CGDT.
Much to the amusement of almost anyone who visits, Malcolm Kluk and Christiaan Gabriel du Toit like to think of their home in Cape Town’s trendy Bree Street as a return to simplicity. ‘We tell everyone that it’s very minimal, but our friends walk in and ask, “What’s minimal about this?”’ says Malcolm, laughing. Indeed, the founders of haute couture brand Kluk CGDT, who are known for their penchant for exuberant colour, daring pattern and meticulous detailing, are rarely associated with minimalism.
And the space that they live in, just above their flagship showroom, is packed to the rafters with art, design, plants, books, and of course, the makings of new, bespoke dresses. ‘It’s not that we moved into a small space – this isn’t very small – but rather that we decluttered our lifestyle,’ says Malcolm, and Christiaan chimes in, ‘You can’t believe how much isn’t here!’
The couple, who have been partners in business and life for 17 years, relocated into the studio, after deciding to knock down their long-term four-bedroomed Fresnaye home and develop it into an upmarket apartment block with the distinct style of the Kluk CGDT brand. Downscaling for this home meant making some difficult decisions about what would stay and what would go. ‘We had to be pretty ruthless,’ Malcolm says. The first to be tackled was the couple’s beloved art collection. ‘We decided to first choose our favourites, and once they were in place we would find the space for the rest,’ notes Christiaan. When hung in against these walls, they found works were given new context. ‘There were pieces that we hadn’t really appreciated before this,’ he says, nodding to a series of six playful paintings by Gabrielle Raaff that come alive against the dusty pink walls of the living area. Some of the notable works making the cut include art and sculpture by Andrzej Urbanski, Ceramic Matters, Hylton Nel and Andrew Verster.
As creative directors, the couple realised that their dressmaking ethos – that of fashioning something deeply resonant for their clients – was key to their enjoyment of their home. ‘When we make clothes for a bride, it’s about indulging that person and making that person feel good, and we put ourselves to that too. How do we live? What do we want? And it’s always thinking about our perspective,’ says Malcolm. That sentiment echoes in every part of their new home, from the artworks that they’ve almost hidden from view – nuggets of appreciation for their eyes only – to the architecture itself. Seen from above, part of the building’s shape resembles a heart, so they covered the top with a coat of crimson, a perfectly personal symbol. ‘There is always an element of surprise in everything we do,’ Christiaan says.
At the entrance of the shop, surprise hits you with a jolt of citrine – ‘tennis ball’, Christiaan insists – that covers the door frame. ‘We are not beige or grey people,’ he notes. ‘We are about colour and colour juxtaposition and print, and we love mixing it and pushing ourselves.’ Spread over two stories the shop is the embodiment of their love for hue. On the ground floor a Yves Klein Blue desk stands in contrast to the dusty pink walls, the brand’s signature colour called ‘You’re My Sweetie’. The staircase that gently curves up to the second floor is offset with a geometric steel balustrade by local artist Rodan Kane Hart. Even the structure itself stands as an anomaly. Back in 2014, when Bree Street was just beginning to gain its reputation as the city’s hippest thoroughfare, the couple approached interior architect Craig Kaplan to create an altogether new building. Brick, black and glass, this facade was something the likes of which Cape Town had not yet seen. ‘We push our own boundaries and take risks and we are prepared to live with that,’ Malcolm explains.
‘There has definitely been a change in our aesthetic,’ he says. ‘We used to talk about how the house had a “Miss Havisham overgrown quality. While the eclecticism remains, it’s much more contemporary.’ Just about everything you see here comes from the Kluk CGDT showrooms or the old home, but recovered, repainted and reworked. ‘We aren’t ones to go into a store and buy new stuff,’ Malcolm notes. ‘We do love items that have provenance. I don’t think our look is retro or even mid-century – it’s more about something that is a little different or unique and making it our own.’ And the living zone is peppered with these unique finds, from an old chimney flue that’s now a coffee table to the navy armchairs they found in a junk shop – ‘possibly Cassina’ – and reupholstered in velvet. All the colourful modernity mingles well with the couple’s own pursuits in product design, such as the vibrant and playful tiger rugs, produced in collaboration with Mae Pakdoust.
‘Emotion, experience and indulgence,’ says Malcolm, ‘that’s what we are about.’ And while the city pied-à-terre was a lesson in downscaling, Malcolm and Christiaan realised that sometimes the biggest indulgences are found in the smaller delights, such as the urban rooftop, complete with requisite greenery and a grass patch where their schnauzer Yohji can roll around and where they can steal away for a bite in the sun, or a sundowner overlooking the bustle of Bree Street. ‘Despite what you might think from looking at it, simplicity is the essence of this home. It’s emancipating’ Malcolm insists, and Christiaan agrees. ‘I feel connected to the city. Getting home excites me. It makes me feel alive.’