When one of the most exclusive hotels in Southern Africa gave OKHA an open brief to redesign its Cellar bar, lead designer Adam Court opted to combine Japanese reductionist minimalism and post-war Italian Baroque – two seemingly opposing visual styles. The final result is a complete transformation, delivering what Court refers to as “Naked Maximalism”.

Ellerman House is a family run hotel comprising several freestanding villas, a wellness spa, extensive art gallery, wine gallery and terraced gardens which surround the central house, an Edwardian Villa dating back to 1906. The Villa boasts many of its original features such as rich wooden panelling, intricately sculpted columns and pressed ceilings, as well as newer ones like the expanses of carbon fibre and articulated glass walls. The setting too has a dramatic contrast; the bar overlooks the deep marine blue and turquoise palette of the Cape Atlantic Ocean and is set against the monumental granite boulders of Lion’s Head mountain.

In addition to designing the new interior for BAR ROC, OKHA custom designed all of the furniture, fittings and lighting. “The precisely articulated material palette is raw, brutal yet sumptuous”, says Court of the long and narrow space which has many intimate nooks and an enormous granite boulder jutting out through its lounge wall. Court completely stripped back the space to its core, physical components and reconstructed the interior in a ruthless and decisive manner, bringing much needed natural light into the previously dark, tavern-like space.

The design is sleek yet emotively resonant and through its effective use of materials is both polished, organic and also delightfully crude. Court has applied his lean material palette in an elegant and precise way. This is evident in the very finest details from the subtle brush-strokes of brass inlaid into chalk white Terrazzo floors to the dramatic swathes of solid brass that frame the terrazzo bar, creating an almost psychedelic hall of mirrors effect (Court’s humorous play on the effects of overindulging on the home-grown gin varieties).

In the tiny wine cellar, a sculpted brass “bunch of grapes” clings to the ceiling, mirror-lined and backlit rectilinear brass boxes house “holographic” shelves of wine glasses and the black and white relief walls collide in a Yin Yang symphony.

In the central lounge space, a bespoke fern-green velvet couch wraps around the length of the granite boulder and bespoke Roc Tub seats in cerulean blue velvet encircle marble-topped tables. The marble and cool sea green-blues are carried through to the bathroom’s wash basins, walls and fittings where even the custom designed bathroom signage has a meaningful decal carved into solid brass.

“It’s a transportive place where one loses the sense of time, something we all need”, says the designer. “The terrazzo floor and bar counter, the exuberant use of solid brass, these things are reminiscent of the halcyon days of the Milanese bar and bistro, I love that theatre and where it takes you”.


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[Images courtesy of OKHA. Photography by Adam Letch, Micky Hoyle & Austen Johnston.]


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