A Designer’s Contemporary Meets Classic Cape Town Apartment

updated Apr 30, 2019

A Designer’s Contemporary Meets Classic Cape Town Apartment

updated Apr 30, 2019
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Name: Melissa and James Lawrence
Location: Vredehoek, Cape Town, South Africa
Size: 1184 square feet
Years lived in: 2 years, renting

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Cape Town-based interior designer Melissa and her husband James didn’t want to invest a ton of money in this home since they are renting it. But because Melissa is in the interior design field, they knew exactly what could to be done to enhance the space and in a cost effective way. They’ve been able to cleverly add their own touches to their rental apartment, creating a space that feels like home.

The first task was to tackle the flooring, which was originally dark brown and in a poor condition. The light whitewashed floors that you see now required a lot of work, but the result is a brighter, more contemporary look they both love.

Melissa and James love entertaining so updating the kitchen was a must — and the space needed a major overhaul and some serious TLC. The cupboards were originally a mix of dark wood and grubby white, and so fresh white paint was an obvious choice. They also added pine door knobs for an inexpensive and easy update. James made the overhead copper utensil hanger (which creates a great focal point) and they added cut vinyl to spruce up the existing white tiles. This is also where Melissa spends time producing her soy candles for her Melissa Louise label.

Their apartment goes to show that with just a few clever DIYs and design savvy thinking, you can easily revamp a rental space. Just remember to get your landlord’s approval before you start!

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Our style has evolved over the years, from the eclectic mix of furniture that we first accumulated when we moved in together to now investing in classic furniture pieces that will last. We tend to gravitate to an overall contemporary look and feel with classic details.

Inspiration: As an interior designer, it is my job to stay up to date and be relevant; I am always inspired by the work of my favorite designers. Instagram and Pinterest are great tools for staying relevant and storing beautiful content that inspires.

Favorite Element: Melissa: Our high ceilings and the natural light that pours into every room. Often inner-city apartments can feel small and cramped; I love that our apartment feels light and spacious.

James: The lounge. It’s where we unwind and watch series, play PlayStation and most importantly drink wine and socialize with our friends when they are over.

Biggest Challenge: The defined layout of our apartment. The closed floor plan means each room is separated from the others by walls and hallways. Hallways tend to be narrow and often have very little character.

What Friends Say: We aim to have a warm and comfortable home for our family and friends. Our friends echo this, as most nights are enjoyed over dinner and wine or even movies and popcorn.

Biggest Embarrassment: Melissa: Our bathrooms! They are outdated and tired, we have run over the finances but it simply isn’t viable to do any major alterations to a rental property. Also sloppy workmanship in the past has left our vintage black cisterns speckled with paint…

James: Our bathroom! It’s so old and I wish we could renovate and make it one large wet room! The bath isn’t big enough for me, so a walk-in shower would be great!

Proudest DIY: Melissa: When we moved in, our floors were chocolate brown and worn through in places; they were in desperate need of attention! Having a creative eye I saw the potential they had when we first viewed the apartment. James and I sanded, treated and sealed the floors of the apartment ourselves, while living in the space. It was a tough two weeks, but it has really transformed the space and was SO worth it.

James: I made the copper utility hanger above our kitchen counter; a few trips to builders warehouse and there you have it. Super simple, but effective!

Biggest Indulgence: Melissa: Our five-plate gas stove and electric oven. We love entertaining, this was one of the best investments!

James: Our TV.

Best Advice: A lick of paint makes ALL the difference! It is a cost effective way to update a space, making it feel fresh and brand new!

Dream Sources: I love the convenience of shopping and sourcing online at places like @home living spaces, MRPhome and Weylandts, while finding hidden treasures at local antique shops. And supporting small developing businesses is a thrill!


Stokholm sideboard – MRP Home
Aztec reversible rug — H&M Home
Basket — Milnerton Market.
Tall Basket with lid — Community upliftment program bought when Melissa was in high school
Light — Ikea, gifted to us by friends who were relocating

Sofa — @Home living space
Standing angle poise lamp — Weylandts
Beni Ourain inspired rug — MRP Home
Ladder shelf — @Home living space
Glass coffee table — MRP Home
Round side table — Superbalist
Curtains — Woolworths
Round mirror above electric fireplace — MRP Home
Sewing machine — Vintage piece, handed down from James’ grandmother.
Duros Armchair — vintage shop
Large white pot —M RP Home

Bed — YouMeHome
Bedding — H&M Home
Oval mirror — Vintage store in Woodstock
Sullivan hoop — Hooped by Sue Britz
Lamp base — Milnerton Market
Jewellery stand — MRP Home

Stokholm dining table — @Home living space
Chairs — Chair Crazy
Clock — MRP Home
Fake plants — SuperFloral
Metallic plant pots — Simply Home
Gold candle holder — Home and Giftware Pop up shop at the V&A
Striped runner — MRP Home
Copper book stand — Handmade by a family friend and gifted to us.
Wooden chopping board — Ikea
Copper book stand: Handmade by a family friend and gifted to us.”
Teapot — Le Creuset
Patterned vinyl — Designed and applied by Frizzy Diamond
Diamond hanging pot plant — Typo

Chairs — Chair Crazy
Desk — Trestle legs and pine top bought at Timber City
You’re a gem hoop — Hooped by Sue Britz

Thanks, Melissa and James!

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