London Flat With Cape Town View
Tuesday, 22 May 2018 10:35:19 Europe/London
'Look,' he insists as he waves his hand across the view outside his window,
'it's like living by the beach ... there's the same feeling of space.' All I could see was a large
sand pit in the children's play area, lapped by a sea of grass. But listen long enough to Jonathan and he will convince even the most unimaginative that they can hear the ocean just beyond the Victorian terraces bordering Queen's Park in north London.
Until the age of 14, Jonathan was brushing Cape Town sand from between his toes, and the
one thing he misses about life in South Africa is his view of the sea. Although he seems to
think his corner-terrace flat offers the next best thing when he recalls his first impressions it
doesn't sound like a day at the beach. 'We are talking hideous here; says Jonathan. 'Threadbare
fleur-de-lys carpets; orange walls; six people living on one floor; everything stinking;
and a fridge at the top of the stairs. I mean, I thought, how bizarre- a fridge on the landing.'
But Jonathan quickly overcame the spectre of the fridge. In fact, he was only halfWay up the
stairs when he stunned the anxious estate agent by saying, 'Don't worry, I'll take the flat.'
The flat would be gutted- he was buying the view and the light offered by a corner terrace.
Seeing the big picture is Jonathan's job. He was behind Yasmin Cho's shop in Soho, where, before
you can browse through the cutting-edge designs, you need, to ring the buzzer and
climb the stairs to a space that was once residential. 'It's not mainstream fashion, so it had to
be intimate and off the street.' Much of his spirit is behind the mirrored iilteriors of
Ghost stores in London, LA and New York. Jonathan says the philosophy of Tanya Same.
owner of Ghost, is that her designs should suit everyone; be glamorous but not precious.
An unusual harmony fills the flat. A CD plays a Buddhist chant and mixes with the
sound of children playing in the park. The scent of incense blends with strong coffee. And
Jonathan's soft voice explains how Richard Wilson's oil installation at the Saatchi inspired a
beach-house atmosphere. If an oil-black floor doesn't immediately conjure the base for a
seaside palette, Jonathan explains: 'Walking through a living room full of oil was completely calming;
it felt very pure. And when black is very shiny it picks up any available light.' Another quality
of the dark background is that it allows a mixture of lots of different things. This appeals
to Jonathan. He has found driftwood mobiles from Mexico. headrests from China and Africa,
fabrics from India, dining chairs from Ethiopia and old cricket-pavilion chairs from the East End.
It is perhaps those closest to home who have had the greatest influence on the interior.
Most of the people who worked on the renovation are Jonathan's friends. Discussing the sixmonth
project. which involved adding another floor for bed and bath, Jonathan says he listened
to everyone involved because 'these are people whose opinions I trust.' This humility
spreads from architect to builder; no-one is willing to claim any idea solely, even down
to the use of raw and recycled wood; which is one of the main characteristics of the flat.
'I explained the kind of texture I wanted, like unfinished plaster - hard and soft at the
same time; says Jonathan, 'and someone came up with the idea of sawn timber.'
In Jonathan's circle, it is difficult to remember who came first. But Catherine was introduced
through Rachel, who was introduced through Ruth, who is married to the architect, who
knew Sam, the painter and furniture designer, who is married to Helen. Ruth J?.Iliot, a
painter sculpted a fabric bowl as a housewarming present; Helen Miller's platinum photography
is dotted through the flat, and Jonathan found Rachel Schwalm's sculpture at her shows.
Rachel's work, as she explains it, is about the 'essence rather than actuality. It's about objects
that take on another meaning when they are put in a different context.' Each piece is
composed of a tough building fabric, such as concrete or marble, and houses an object
that is viewed at a remove, through a lens. One particular piece, titled Renaissance
Fragments 11, contains a section of a ruined fresco from an abandoned Italian church.
Catherine Parkinson sat talking to Jonathan until they came up with an idea for a mosaic
shower. Catherine's intricate designs (broken glazed ceramic from a potter's studio, fossils
found in a South Coast estuary) have been sporadically embedded into the plaster. This
meant Jonathan ended up with a commissioned piece that cost less than a shower covered in ordinary, cheap tiles. Later, when he saw some of Catherine's sketches that reminded
him of a Missoni textile, he said 'do that for me', and it became the fireplace surround. When Jonathan connects with something he stays with it.
He has five sculptures of Rachel's and seven pieces of furniture by Sam Miller. He likes Sam's furniture because 'he leaves
what is there in the wood and doesn't fiddle with things too much: This makes a pleasing
symmetry - Sam likes working with Jonathan because Jonathan doesn't fiddle with his designs too
much. Despite their seeming simplicity, great attention has been paid to detail. 'For me the
stuff you don't see is important,' explains Sam. This becomes apparent in the modern home office desk and
unique coffee table, with Jonathan's antique own mats incorporated into the design. Using beeswax
inherited from his grandfather, Sam seamlessly fused two disparate fabrics together.
Once a week, Jonathan's friend from the florist Harper & Tom's, drops in with a box
of flowers. They are usually second-hand, thrown out before their due date. 'I like them to
be blown; says Jonathan, 'they look fake when they're fresh and new: When he adds, 'I like loose
things, not tight and restricted', the flowers seem to sum up his general philosophy.
Jonathan wants to live in a place that is plain and simple, quiet and calm. I can imagine that
when he gets home from a busy day he can always rely on the reclaimed and
rescued - stones, fragments, wood, flowers - to reclaim and rescue him right back.
The only thing we would recommend to enrich this lovely space is comfy corner sofa or large 3 seater so the resting process would be more effective.
lovely bedroom made from reclaimed wood. Looks so bright with roof window