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An Artist’s Museum-Like Rental in Cape Town

by Garrett Fleming

An Artist's Museum-Like Rental in Cape Town, Design*Sponge

When it comes to decorating a home, artist and shop owner shirks design labels like “traditional” or “modern.” Instead, he believes the common denominator of any house should be you. With this approach, if you love a piece, get it. If it doesn’t match, who cares? “Live in the moment!” Michael exclaims, and make yourself the axis around which your space revolves. Design with this in mind, and “all the seemingly-unrelated pieces [you’ve collected]” will organically blend together to create a deeply-personal retreat, not because of what it’s made of but because of who crafted it.

Step inside Michael’s own retreat, a 900-square-foot rental in South Africa’s Cape Town, and you’re immediately transported to his world. It’s a place where his past mingles with the present, a wall can always hold one more painting, and a constant parade of new finds eagerly tries to catch your eye.

Oftentimes these new works of art find their way to Michael through his gallery and shop, . It’s there that he gets the opportunity to not only meet many of Cape Town’s creative players but to fall in love with their craft. One such artist is , whom Michael recently worked with to create . Always on the lookout for exciting accessories, Michael ended up bringing one of Olivié’s Madonna statues home so he could create his own “quiet space” inside his rental. You’ll find it sitting beneath a lampshade spiced up by a tasseled trim of dangling coral. Nearby, an ever-growing collection of blue-and-white ceramics bursts from the painted interior of an antique hutch.

While the inside of the apartment is undoubtedly eye-catching, the part of Cape Town it sits above seems downright picturesque. Open any window of the top-floor unit, and murmurs from the bustling bagel shops and restaurants below float through, providing a hushed soundtrack to nights in with friends. Come sunset, guests can even sit back and enjoy the home’s unbeatable view of Table Mountain, South Africa’s most iconic landmark.

All things considered, the element Michael speaks most fondly of isn’t the apartment’s curated walls or buzzing location. No, it’s the home’s proximity to the nearby Muslim neighborhood the Bo-Kaap that Michael seems to cherish most of all. Five times a day the mosque calls its followers to prayer, and Michael can hear it right there in his bedroom. “It’s wonderful,” he says, and something he’ll greatly miss when the time comes to move on to his next home. He isn’t sure when that will happen, but he knows a change is inevitable. Until then, you’ll find him savoring every minute inside this colorful, layered roost. 

Photography by Michael Chandler

Image above: The previous tenant – an artist who was using the space as a studio – needed extremely-brilliant overhead lights to create their work, and the amount of wattage they left behind was much too severe for a residential space. Rejiggering the rental to make its lighting more inviting and less severe was the first thing Michael did after moving in.

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The apartment building used to be an industrial storage facility.

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Michael’s creative journey is best summed up in his own words: “After finishing high school I studied literature and art history at the University of Cape Town. After working in auction houses and galleries for a few years, I decided to start Chandler House, where I could combine my love of art and antiques with my creative urges. Since then I have really [leaned] into my creativity and enjoy illustration work and decorating ceramics with [cobalt blue] glaze.”

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“The chairs were found [at an] auction and upholstered with fabric from a former lover who I flew to Vietnam to meet,” Michael explains. The wall’s pastel shade of pink was custom mixed by Michael.

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This painting by depicts Michael and his former colleagues celebrating the opening of their shop.

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“The ceramic sculpture of Aphrodite is by  whose work I exhibit. We also once collaborated on a chapel together where I painted the tiles for the chapel and she made the Madonna figure. I loved it so much that I asked the artist for one of my own so I could also have a ‘quiet’ space in my home,” Michael explains.

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A painting by Kate Arthur and Michael’s collection of ceramic fruit rest atop an antique cabinet.

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Michael’s bevy of blue-and-white ceramics features pieces both old and new and even includes an “ancient Chinese porcelain that was salvaged from a shipwreck!”

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Ample seating is imperative when you host as much as Michael does. Some of his most cherished memories have been made here laughing and playing games with friends all night.

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A vintage table and set of chairs from South Africa sit in the combination kitchen/dining room. “The pieces were made in the 1830s [in the] part of South Africa where I am from, and I like to think that perhaps my ancestors once sat on them too!” Michael tells us.

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The latest addition to Michael’s art collection is this portrait by . “It shows two young Muslims in a bus going to celebrate Ramadan in the nearby Muslim neighborhood of the Bo-Kaap,” he explains.

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A gift from a close friend on display near the curio cabinet.

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Michael isn’t inspired by or in love with his current kitchen, but since he’s renting he can’t change much about it. He uses polaroids to cover up the cabinets’ dusty gray hue, a color he wouldn’t have picked if given a choice.

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A vintage ashtray acts as a spoon rest and a vase from Michael’s late grandmother holds utensils near the stove.

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An oil painting by  enlivens the short staircase that leads to Michael’s bedroom. The retreat is perched on the very tip-top of the building he rents in, so Michael calls the area his “sky nest.”

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This plant grows fast and furiously, but luckily Michael has finally found a pot large enough to house it for a while.

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“[The bedroom] has a metal roof, so when it rains it makes the most beautiful sound. My apartment is also very near the local Muslim neighborhood, and I get to hear the call to prayer throughout the day. It’s wonderful!” Michael says.

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Michael commissioned this self portrait from a couple years ago. When Ian finished, he was concerned he had made Michael look too old. Michael says, “I replied that he needn’t worry. One day it would look younger than me!”

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“A hand-embroidered textile from Uzbekistan” acts as the door separating Michael’s bedroom and bathroom.

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Michael’s typically found here at his bedroom desk working well into the night.

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“What I love most about my home is it’s my sanctuary from the world.” – Michael Chandler

SOURCE LIST

Dining Room
Table, chairs – Riaan Bolt

Living Room
Shells – Lucie de Moyencourt
Paintings – Kate Arthur, Patricia Fraser
Ceramic Madonna – Olivié Keck
Portrait of Muslim boys – Yasser Booley
Floral artwork near staircase – Jordan Sweke

Bedroom
Portrait – Ian Grose

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Comments

    • Your comment makes me think that you did NOT read Marie Kondo’s book or you did not understand it. Her message is that you should keep anything that gives you JOY; she never said to live like a minimalist or to get rid of anything if you don’t want too.

    • This is a confusing comment since this is the epitome of a Kondo house: you can litterally feel the Joy and beauty through the pictures. If you are mocking fake minimalism so many people buy these days I agree. But Marie Kondo has nothing to do with that.

  • I loved everything about Michael ‘s home…especially his artwork, blue and white ceramics and his beautiful textiles! His home exudes a warmth and soulful welcoming that draws you in…

  • Those of us who rent have to make do in the best possible way and Michael has done it brilliantly, a true reflection of who he is surrounded by the stuff he loves. The prayer call is so much better than traffic noise. Gorgeous

  • This home is an artist’s dream come through. I don’t think I would ever leave the living room. Those paintings are marvellous. And literally every room in that house looks so amazing and unique. Absolutely love it.

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