x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Marie-Inez Botha: 'If the walls could talk ...'

A home in the life of Marie-Inez, an interior designer for Etcetera Living who won the Commercial Interior Designer of the Year award in 2008.

Where did you grow up and have you moved house a lot? I grew up in Johannesburg, in a house that's more than 100 years old. My parents have been renovating it for as long as I can remember, so I've always been surrounded by home improvements. For the past almost 10 years I've been pretty nomadic - moving from one house share to another for my four years of studying in Stellenbosch and my first five years in Dubai. I finally bought my own place almost a year ago in Dubai Marina, and that's what I call home for now. I absolutely love it; it's like going on holiday every weekend.

Do you enjoy the stimulation of changing houses? It's disruptive in the sense that it's a hassle to pack up and move every 12 months but, on the other hand, it is a very good spring cleaning tool. All my moves are slowly but surely teaching me not to buy every thing I can lay my eyes on. What, above all, does home mean to you? Home is my sanctuary, my escape from work, but it's also where all my creative thoughts brew. It's a comfortable venue for friends to get together and will always be a work in progress.

Which is your favourite of all the houses you have ever lived in? Home to me will always be my parent's house in Johannesburg - as they say: if the walls could talk. There are so many memories of growing up there with my three sisters and all our friends. Ideally I'd like to see myself living in that house one day. Has any home in your past had an influence on your choice of profession? Absolutely. My parents and both sets of grandparents have always lived in beautiful old houses. My love of collecting junk pieces from scrap yards and giving them a new lease on life from my grandmother, who used to raid old building sites in Johannesburg CBD and then build her dream home on her farm around her plumages. She even dug a basement to accommodate an old wooden staircase. My love of collectible furniture and art would come from my grandfather and father, who are always browsing the auction sites.

Which is more important to you: the location of a home or its internal spaces and decoration? Location, location, location. But in saying that, you can always problem-solve any interior with great decorating solutions. So have you made any changes to your present home? I painted everything antique white and had parquet flooring installed over the tiles. The next step will be to make the wardrobe bigger, and incorporate the bath into the bedroom.

Is there anything that drives you mad about it? There's not enough storage space. Do you have a favourite space there? The hidden door I'm still looking for that will lead me to a walk-in wardrobe. And your favourite room, ever? The TV room in my parents' house. There is a sun spot that is amazing for afternoon sleeping in winter while listening to the world go by.

How would you describe your decorative style? My apartment will always be a work in progress as, being in the profession that I am, I constantly see amazing accessories and finishes - and obviously I want everything. But there is only so much I can squeeze into my 60-square-metre apartment before it becomes a mess. I try to keep my furniture simple, neutral and to a minimum. My living area is predominantly white, grey and charcoal, whereas my bedroom is white. How much do the design and décor of your new apartment reflect your professional style? The décor in my tiny apartment is totally me. For once I was the client and everything is done to accommodate my needs, from the spatial layout to the choice of furniture. All my accessories and art -and even some furniture - are treasures I have found on my travels.

Are you're a collector, a hoarder or a ruthless de-clutterer? I'm a selective collector. I'll never forget some words of wisdom that my dad gave me when I was a continuously broke student complaining that I could never become a designer because I want to buy everything I see: he told me to become a window shopper. I used to go "shopping " without a purse and, in that way, learnt to realise the value of goods and also to determine if I really need it.

Which possession do you treasure most at home? I honestly don't know what I would grab first if there was a fire in my building - I love everything. With such a small space I really have to be selective with what I let in. But, let's say, I'm very excited about my latest addition - it's a solid steel dining table that Gregor Jenkin, a South African designer for The Conran Shop, custom-made in a smaller size than usual for my apartment. If you have outdoor spaces how do you use them? I have the smallest balcony in Dubai. However, I've had some seating put in and I love spending time there watching the world go by.

What makes your house a home? Fresh flowers, Jo Malone candles, Nina Simone CD and a glass of wine. What is the true meaning of luxury, when it relates to your home? The true meaning of luxury is to feel comfortable, happy and relaxed in my home, no matter where in the world it is or how it's decorated. Just the feeling of being home.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be? I'd love to live on a remote island, in a wooden house, with no walls and no lights, only sheer curtains and candle light - and no air conditioning, just fresh air. I'd be surrounded by big trees and birds, but no snakes or bugs. I would like to have an internet connection but never hear the phone ring. So, all in all, a pretty ideal life, back to basics. Alternatively I'll settle for second best - the complete opposite - a Manhattan penthouse with views of Central Park and New York's roof tops that I can renovate to my heart's content.