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The ilali Story


The one thing they knew with certainty was that they were not going the popular renovation route of flattening half the building.

Instead, the renovation of ilali pop has seen an organic transformation of the house structure almost exactly as it stood 18 months ago – only the bones of the house have simply found new jobs.

“I’m obsessed with recycling,” says Hannia. “For me, renovating ilali became a form of recycling where we were going to work with what we had.”

With the help of interior designers Lantis-Bain Scorgie and Anthony Fourie of antLantis, many of the rooms were simply allocated new roles and quirky décor finishes have turned ilali into an artistic and modern space that has lost none of its old soul.

Usually a renovation would have meant cleaning up the shell of the house and then deciding how to make the space work. Together, Hannia and Lantis worked out how to repurpose the rooms without ticking all those boxes.

The kitchen is now a lounge, a scullery is now a bathroom, the lounge is now the dining room. The only structural changes they made were to chop down or build a few internal walls and the courtyard, and to add two bathrooms.

None of it makes sense architecturally, but the space is usable and live-able and it works. This was a renovation that made sense for this house and for her own style, says Hannia.

For her, South African design is about recognising the past while acknowledging the present.

“Ilali is a new version of South Africa and it expresses exactly how I feel about living here. I am sentimental about the old, but embrace the present and am so happy to be here right now.”

This unique style is reflected in the quirky sophistication of ilali’s design touches: Contemporary South African art sits comfortably alongside oversized Tretchikoff prints. Discarded wooden boxes from mine core samples have been recycled to become dressing tables and book shelves. Mexican mirrors from Hadeda add glamour to a lounge with Hannia’s own aged leather couch and retro ducks flying across the wall.

It’s a South African smorgasbord of style that reflects not only Hannia’s personal taste but also our nation’s uniquely colourful character.

The name ilali means village and it was important for Hannia that the guest house sit comfortably in its surroundings, close to the Parktown North coffee shops, restaurants and shops.

“We wanted to make the guest house part of one of the few street villages in Johannesburg.”

Her approach was also based on what she looked for in hotels when she was travelling: comfort, style and convenience but not at five star prices.

The two areas where she did splurge were on the best mattresses and bed linen and on creating the most luxurious bathrooms possible.

The services of Lantis and Anthony were critical in that they added the design elements that she simply couldn’t get to herself.

“I was anxious about handing over the whole job to them but they understood exactly what I wanted when I asked if they could slot in and out of this job.”

With their unique approach to working with a client’s style rather than their own, Lantis said they helped to speed up the process where Hannia was feeling paralysed by her own anxiety.

“We are not emotionally involved so it makes it easier for us to make decisions. Most of our clients have got beautiful stuff that they like, but it’s just not working. We give them a blueprint to make it work.”

Armed with the knowledge that Hannia’s all-time favourite colour scheme is a faded shade of aqua combined with red, they pulled together the design of ilali.

Anthony and Lantis convinced her to add touches of purple and contributed edgy elements like a tattoo art headboard when they felt a room was getting too staid.The headboards are to be ilali’s signature and all of them have a local reference of some sort – from the old SAA logo to a Johannesburg street map.

It adds to the artistic flavour of the house and Hannia believes will attract like-minded guests.

In the dining room, two giant paintings by her grandmother, famous South African artist Hannetjie van der Watt, reflect Hannia’s affection for not only family but also her birth era of the 1960s and 70s.

Finally, it was in the exterior and garden area of ilali that the cleverness of this renovation really came together.

A cement coloured tyrolean wall-coating has given the 60 year old house a timeless touch – plus it means the owners never have to paint the house. Instead they can watch as the walls age and develop a charm and patina of their own.

This was not the type of house that could have been plastered and painted to look shiny and new, says Lantis. Then every quirky touch would have been out of place.

Hannia designed the garden herself and almost every plant comes from other people’s gardens. Her mother in law gave her the dramatic aloes that stand proud at the entrance.
“There were no nurseries in the old days; people used to help one other to create gardens by giving them cuttings and unwanted plants.”

Even the driveway is a recycled work of art, with broken tiles and bricks arranged in creative swirls.
“We just gave the materials to the builders, telling them what we had in mind and this is what they created; it’s a masterpiece.”

The heart of the home is the tranquil sea green and charcoal courtyard that was once a cold, dark and overgrown backyard.

It is now a sunny, stylish space complete with an Andrew Lindsay mosaic water feature and a cosy seating pavilion where Hannia often finds her guests working on their laptops late into the night.

There’s a fire pit for a touch of African warmth and the foreign visitors love it.

How can they not? With all the heart and soul that went into this organic renovation process, ilali is certain to be a home from home for those who share a love for all things beautiful and enduring.


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