Thursday, June 21

A beautiful universe

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Arno and Mel Carstens have turned a grand old dame into a family home that feels like a holiday house

Musician and artist Arno Carstens should need no introduction, but a recap of his stellar career is always interesting.

The platinum-selling, award-winning, singer-songwriter has released 12 albums, five as lead-singer of South African band phenomenon Springbok Nude Girls, one as part of the electronica project Bhelltower and six as a solo artist.

He’s had more than 20 Top 10 singles and won five South African Music Awards including Best Rock Album in 2004 for Another Universe and Best Adult Contemporary Album in 2006 for The Hello Goodbye Boys.

During his 20-year career, Carstens has performed with U2, The Rolling Stones and REM, among many others; headlined every major South African music festival; and performed at exclusive international music festivals including Isle of Wight, Glastonbury, V Festival and Hard Rock Calling.

Also a celebrated fine artist who paints in oils on canvas, he has collaborated with legendary artist Beezy Bailey and the late Barend de Wet. His work has been exhibited at galleries in and around Cape Town. 

Carstens is working on a second major art exhibition and has just finished a national tour and single release with Springbok Nude Girls, who have an album due towards the end of the year.

The enclosed stoep overlooks the ocean and the home is filled with paintings by Arno and Melanie, and collaborations. The view is Arno’s favourite feature of their home. Picture: Tracey Adams/ANA

He married Melanie on a beach in Zanzibar in 2007. Born in Kwa-Zulu Natal, after matriculating, Mel studied for her Bachelor of Arts (English and Industrial Psychology) and Bachelor of Social Science Honours. She worked in advertising until 2003 and now manages her husband, renovates properties and writes short stories part-time for her blog.

They live with their son, Hayden, on the beach in the Southern Peninsula.

What made you choose the location? How did it realise your vision?

ARNO: Mel and I were living in Kalk Bay and had become parents to Hayden. We had been on the road for almost 10 years. Before we had Hayden, we lived a nomadic lifestyle: we had a house in London, a house in Joburg and a house in Cape Town and we moved between them, without ever really feeling like anything was permanent. After we had our son, all of that changed. We sold the properties and searched for a house we could transform into a home for us and our son.

MEL: We knew we wanted something that could be a family home. Our only criteria were the location must be awesome and the land a good size. I’ve been renovating houses for almost 10 years and had a good team who could bring our vision to life, so we didn’t care too much about what the house looked like, as long as it had good “bones”. We walked into this house and within seconds knew we had to have it, even though it was in a terrible shape.

It was a real grand old dame that needed life breathed into her. Arno has four brothers and I have two, and we wanted a place where everyone could come for family holidays and create memories. Because we have a gruelling work schedule, we wanted our property to feel like a holiday house.

What was the inspiration for the decor, style and design? What did you want to achieve?

MEL: Because we had a young child when we began renovating and because we have a large extended family, we wanted the house to feel comfortable, easy to be in. We entertain a lot and it was redesigned to be a house that could embrace lots of people without feeling crowded. We knocked down walls. I think we’ll probably go on building as our needs change. 

The back garden of the Southern Peninsula home. Picture: Tracey Adams/ANA

Did you work with architects and/or interior designers?

ARNO: No, we did it all ourselves. Mel also decorates. We have a unified aesthetic and work well together. She does tend to prefer more muted tones, whereas I like huge bursts of colour. Sometimes I might have to arm-wrestle her for a final say.

How do your friends and guests relate to the surroundings?

ARNO: Our guests love the house. The view is so incredible we could have cardboard boxes and plastic crates for furniture, and I am not sure anyone would notice. The sense of space is amazing.

How would you like them to feel during their visit?

ARNO: Comfortable, happy, entertained. We have many spots in the house to lie back and enjoy the view, with a book and a glass of wine, and other places to get together and celebrate. It’s a happy house.

What is a favourite about your home?

ARNO: The view, the endlessness of it, the sheer magnitude of ocean that greets me every morning. Each day the colours of the ocean, the sunrise and the sunset create an ever-changing vista.

Any tips or advice to offer readers?

MEL: I think it’s important to know what you want before you begin looking. There are so many options and it’s easy to get sidetracked, especially with apps like Pinterest, which can make you want to try to incorporate too much into your aesthetic.

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