Gallery: A place in the sun


When interior designer Sandra Bowler mixed her signature eclectic style with architect Peter Cohen’s artful approach, the result was the transformation of an Oaklands, Gauteng dwelling from a bland single-storey into an inviting and spacious two-storey home.

With an open-minded but decisive client, the pair’s vision of a free-flowing, functional and vibrant family space was able to come to life.

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'Alive with pattern and colour, the living room has an energetic atmosphere that draws people into it,' says Sandra Bowler. Picture: Elsa Young/House & GardenA side seating area connected to the living room is part of a larger multifunctional space.  Picture: Elsa Young/House & GardenArtworks by Sam Brown add a personal touch to the space without competing with the colourful and patterned decor scheme.  Picture: Elsa Young/House & Garden'Soft furnishings create a luxurious feel and the courtyard provides a connection with the outdoors, which I love,' says Peter Cohen.  Picture: Elsa Young/House & GardenThe blue-green tiles in the main bathroom were selected to reflect a Turkish-bathhouse feel.  Picture: Elsa Young/House & GardenThe Bird wall mural by Trevor Opperman is a graphic focal point in the entrance hall.  Picture: Elsa Young/House & GardenTwo large decorative drums from Amatuli create impact in the entrance hall.  Picture: Elsa Young/House & GardenOtto de Jagers striking wire horse sculpture adds interest to the garden.  Picture: Elsa Young/House & GardenA new covered patio was added to the front of the house to allow for easy outdoor entertaining.  Picture: Elsa Young/House & GardenA new covered patio was added to the front of the house to allow for easy outdoor entertaining.  Picture: Elsa Young/House & Garden


What was the point of departure for the design of this project, taking into account your philosophy of ‘mixing not matching’?

SB: At the Maison&Objet Paris trade fair, I found a gorgeous Suzani (a type of embroidered and decorative tribal textile from central Asia) in bright yellows and pinks with a design that really stood out. I showed it to the client with a mix of fabrics and she loved it, so we developed the concept from there.

We eventually used the fabric on the living-room ottoman. Many traditional Suzanis are bold and graphic with timeless appeal and they mixed really well with more contemporary patterns.

Despite the abundance of colour and pattern, the end result is calming and balanced. How did you achieve this?

SB: I chose a raspberry tone from one of the Suzanis as my central colour and extended it to larger surfaces, like accent walls, to create cohesion.

I balanced it all off with dark anthracite and pure-white walls, which ground and simplify the space. The art – which is mainly black and white – also anchors the colour and pattern.

How does a home like this, which is geared towards functional living, still manage to feel so comfortable?

SB: We worked towards a concept of easy luxury that is casual and inviting. I think the mix of unexpected colour combinations, interesting one-off pieces and bold pattern helped to achieve this.

What counts as luxurious is quite subjective – the client wanted the space to be relaxed and approachable so this is what we aimed for.

The renovation opened up the interior to create larger, more functional spaces. How did this impact your design?

SB: Peter gutted the interior, creating an openness between the living, dining and verandah areas and this called for an extra side seating section in the living room.

The playroom was opened up onto the verandah, which created a larger entertainment space, so we increased the proportions of the dining table and seating accordingly.


How blurred are the lines between architecture and design – where does one end and the other begin?

PC: I think they can never truly be separated; design and architecture must complement one another for each to work successfully.

This is why Sandra and I always enjoy free debate. The open entrance hallway is a good example – the large light-filled area is made more welcoming by the mosaic on the floor, reclaimed doors and minimalist furniture.

Is this why you kept finishes minimal?

PC: Yes – my aim was to create a space that was simple but cosy. Timber floors with coloured screed have a natural warmth and make people feel welcome.

I left out cornicing and architraves completely so that the house remained contemporary but I did use timber doors and windows to add the comfort required for a livable family-friendly space.


Sandra Bowler Interiors 011 341 0819;

Peter Cohen Architects 011 442 935

This article appears in the August issue of Condé Nast’s House & Garden magazine, which is on sale now.




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