Karoo-born artist Robert Plotz has turned a Fifties apartment into a designer living space.

Robert Plotz, 42, has a “nothing lasts forever” attitude to life, which is reflected in his living space as well as in the way he approaches his career. A UCT architecture graduate, he enjoyed a decade-long stint as a magazine and ad-agency art director before turning his attention to art a year ago. A long-time runner, Plotz recently took up swimming and is a newly converted triathlete. “When I turned 40, I realised that new territory needed to be explored. New things presented themselves, like painting and swimming…”

When it comes to his living space, Plotz says, “A room is a box, a stage, an empty shell, and the things you fill it with are your props, which change as the seasons, your mood and your life change. Nothing in my apartment stays in one place for longer than three months. I’ll come home one day and put, say, a vase of flowers in the corner and suddenly the carpet looks out of place, so I start playing. My space is in a constant state of flux.”

Here Plotz shares his top tips for creating a clean-lined interior that’s comfortable and contemporary.

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CHOPPING BLOCK: The oversized butcher’s table is integral to the living room.

Unify your canvas
Plotz achieved this by staining the mottled, shabby-looking parquet floors chocolate brown. “I chose a matt finish rather than high gloss, which gives a liquid, even appearance. It’s hell to keep clean, though.”

Open up the space
“When I bought the apartment, it was dark and poky. So I knocked down the window and replaced it with a floor-to-ceiling French door that leads onto a balcony and the cityscape beyond.” Natural light, fresh air and an indoor-outdoor flow were priorities for Plotz. “The balcony is a natural extension of the living room and, in the evenings, the twinkling city is my garden.”

Smooth rough walls
Plotz smoothed down uneven walls by crete-stoning them. “It’s inexpensive and immediately updates a space by giving it a crisp, clean look.”

Choose neutrals
And stick to it. “I’ve used three shades of grey throughout: the soft, almost white grey on the living-room walls creates a sense of tranquility; the further you move from the balcony, the darker the shades become.”

Salvage old gems
“I don’t consciously go shopping for furniture and decor, but I know what I like and if I see something that resonates with me – whether it’s at a friend’s place or in a junk shop – it’s coming home! When I spotted a Swedish chair at an auction in Wynberg, it was completely dilapidated, but its delicate shape and lightwood legs grabbed me.” The designer display cabinet, which houses a collection of voluptuous white and cream ceramic vessels, was scavenged from under architect Bert Pepler’s nose during a dinner party at Pepler’s house. And the oversized, stainless-steeltopped butcher’s table was found in an antique shop in Stanford.

Buy art
“My greatest indulgence is investing in good art. Among my favourite local artists are Conrad Botes and Walter Meyer. If you’re unsure about buying art, seek expert advice. But avoid those generic paint splashes on canvas. They might match the couch, but they lack soul,” says Plotz.

Create texture
Plotz has carefully combined a series of unlikely textures to dramatic effect. An oversized, sumptuous two-seater couch slip-covered in white linen sits next to a sleek, retro chic, faux-leathercovered Swedish armchair. The animal-skin rug is beautifully offset by chocolate-stained floors. “No piece is that strong that it competes with the rest of the room,” explains Plotz.

Play with lighting
Plotz prefers a clean ceiling line, so he opted for down-lighters, “which can be adjusted for softness or brightness, depending on the occasion or my mood. Avoid fixed lighting – it’s too permanent. Standing lamps of different heights, or clusters of lamps, can be shifted around your space to create different looks.”