Art Class with Liam Mooney

As a former bespoke furniture maker, Mooney appreciates both form and function — the cabinet is his own design. The regal standing lamp is from Origo.

A monochromatic palette sets a contemporary tone and allows Mooney’s art collection and carefully chosen furniture pieces to take center stage. The dining area, once a bedroom, has been put to much better use by Mooney.

Upholstered in a Champagne velvet, the sofa is a suitably easy-on-the-eye piece in the sitting room.

The sitting room is a comfortable space, complete with a wooden stool which Mooney designed, a Tom Dixon metallic side table and a Parker Knoll armchair.

Certainly one of the most cosmopolitan cities on the African continent, Cape Town is a buzzing playground, and in recent years, has undergone a masterful urban transformation. Once-deserted office buildings have been converted into polished apartment blocks, scruffy old warehouses now play host to world-class eateries and former dingy dives are havens of artisan gin-bars, fair-trade coffee shops and effortlessly cool cronut-serving bakeries. It’s no surprise that many of the city’s design talents have eschewed suburban bliss for city life, where they can access what’s hot and happening any time day or night – and Liam Mooney is no exception. A successful furniture designer and now a respected interiors expert with an impressive black book of domestic and commercial clients, Mooney is clearly delighted to welcome people into his restful retreat, an open plan apartment situated in a renovated, mixed-use Art Deco building on Greenmarket Square, one of Cape Town’s busiest tourist hubs. “When I first saw it, I was immediately taken with the original wooden windows, high ceilings, open-plan space and the fact that there are two terraces,” he notes.

Mooney first lived in the then-two-bedroom apartment for a little while before proposing a structural change to his landlord. “I didn’t need a second bedroom, but I felt that a dining area was essential since I love entertaining,” so out went a dry wall and in its place a table that’s big enough for dinners. “I love to entertain, but my friends know that after I eat, I sleep, so if I have people during the week it’s usually a dine and dash scenario,” he laughs. The removal of the wall opened the space up beautifully and let in an abundance of natural light. Luckily for him, his landlord trusted his vision and initial home improvement and was fully supportive of further proposed tweaks. From the hanging of natural textured wallpaper throughout the main living area to the placement of many of his original artworks, there’s no doubt he has added a fabulously elegant edge to the space. “The open plan nature of the space makes it so versatile and ideal for me, since I love to shift things around on a regular basis,” says Mooney who continues, “I like to put things together that don’t necessarily work ‘on paper’ but because I love them, they work for the way I want to live – and that’s with things I love and which have a story.”

Mooney found the clay heads at a stall on Greenmarket Square, one of Cape Town’s most popular shopping destinations for curios and African objets d’art.

Mooney designed the elegant side table, while the artwork is by Maria Marais.

On arrival at the apartment, a well-stocked drinks table sets a social scene. The chair in the foreground is Mooney’s own design, while the cane chair in the background is a classic junkshop find. The hanging pendant with its retro-modern lines is a perfect fit.

While the world outside his windows – looking down onto the square and up to Table Mountain – is a cacophony of color and activity, Mooney’s home is a monochromatic contrast. “Generally, I like a more neutral palette – it just ages better. Color is important to me, but I like darker, more somber colors than brights,” he explains. Ever the curator, the modern palette of black and white is offset by natural textures and tones, the occasional metallic finish and an impressive collection of contemporary artworks by some of South Africa’s best talents, many of whom are personal friends.

Here and there, sculptural smalls, ranging from antique African busts to ugly-beautiful West German Ceramic can be seen, but most engaging of all is Mooney’s impressive collection of chairs. From a pair of original Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s he picked up for a song years ago to a 1946 piece by Danish icon Ole Wanscher, the collection is eclectic yet cohesive in the way it fits the space beautifully. Mooney is also not precious about his finds, encouraging guests to use, rather than simply look, at each one; he’s known to enthusiastically share the history of each piece as well. “I collect pieces I love, but not always for the same reason. Some I love because of the way they look and others because of their design relevance, like the Robin Day Polypropylene chair (known as the “polyprop” chair) — the first injection-molded chair ever made. Not all chairs in my collection are by famous designers. Some are no name, but still beautiful. That being said, I never buy replicas,” he says, adding “there is no greater thrill than discovering something important under a stack of shit!”

This bathroom has a surprise of blue in it — a punchy shade that’s a suitable backdrop for a print by a former art collective called Avant Car Guard.

The grasscloth wallpaper is a beautiful backdrop for graphic pieces by Rowan Smith and Nico Krijno. The bold rug brings a pop of color to this monochrome space.

Although Mooney has an office in walking distance, he often spends a day working at home, honing ideas for a new project or client.

Mooney approached the design of his own space just as he does his clients’ homes. “I made sure to create several areas so that there is an interesting view at every point while you move through the apartment. I wanted it to be interesting on many levels and to feel like there is something to discover around all corners.” Thanks to the open plan canvas, he can shift things on a regular basis. “I am constantly changing the interior, it’s kind of my hobby. Homes grow with the owner and I don’t think they’re meant to stay the same. Some days I’m feeling minimal and will pack everything away, on others, I crave stuff and will layer it obsessively.”

Although Mooney doesn’t take himself or his home too seriously, he has invested lots of energy into this space – and thanks to its impressive design cred, it’s one that any design loving, would-be urban dweller would be thrilled to call home.

This restful apartment in the heart of Cape Town’s city center perfectly reflects designer Liam Mooney’s penchant for pared-down style, contemporary artwork and classic collectibles.

Photography Courtesy of Greg Cox.

Styling Courtesy of Sven Alberding.

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