n walking through Rupert Smith’s extraordinary and beautiful inner-city Cape Town loft, it’s easy to appreciate why he is in constant demand in South Africa and abroad for his work in visual merchandising, installations, and high-end media events. As well as Rupert’s consulting work in the retail, fashion, creative, and advertising industries, he is a lecturer at VM Central, the design consultancy and training studio that he co-founded with long-time collaborator Sanet Coetzee. And then there is his new shop, CENTRAL; the successor to O.live, his much-loved concept store that was the first to offer the wunderkammer aesthetic to eager, local decoristas. Just like its predecessor, CENTRAL has become a magnet for the city’s magpies, design lovers, and seekers of one-off treasures for the home.
Rupert’s own home is a double-volume industrial space with million-dollar views of Table Mountain and a spellbinding interior that is “a curation of all the gems that I have found on my life’s journey, things that have meaning to me.” It is in this urban, stripped-back setting that Rupert has foregone the conventional Christmas sentimentalities and instead conjured up a darker, more dramatic vision that marries the Gothic elements he loves with opulent accents and lashings of foraged botanicals—all of which are connected by a colour palette inspired by the paintings of the Dutch Old Masters. It’s a kind of magic.
In describing his design aesthetic, he comments, “For my interiors, I prefer a canvas of black and white which I then Iayer with texture, plants, and objects that reflect my love for vintage and the unusual.” He also expressed a love of entertaining and having friends over. “Normally, it is very relaxed and low-key, but I do like to make a bit of an effort for special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and New Year,” he adds.
When asked about his tips for entertaining, he said, “Setting an interesting table is something I really like spending time on. A beautiful table can make a get-together so much more memorable. Colour and textures are very important to me when putting together a table. And of course, greenery, beautiful ceramics, and glassware complete the setting.”