Creating the most suitable silhouette

by Media Xpose

🖊Gareth Griffiths 📷Photos by Karl Rogers, Matt van Niekerk and Gareth Griffiths

Hanno de Swardt is a talented Cape Town-based professional architect and interior designer who clearly makes sense of an often misinterpreted discipline. Maybe that’s because he believes that great designs start with getting the basics right. He shares some guidelines, tips and tricks that a homeowner or business owner can follow. It starts with getting the lighting right.

As an architect/designer in the built environment and also fashion designer, Hanno has much to offer by way of original thinking and design execution.

“As in fashion, architecture and interiors are all about creating the most suitable silhouette, tailor-made to the client’s brief and in harmony with the site and its context. These disciplines all entertain through, and thrive on, the lovely layers of pattern, structure, texture and detail,” he says.

Over coffee at Lazari, one of his more recent commercial projects,  he shared his approach to design and the role of lighting and other key outcomes, which he sees as important ingredients in any project’s formula of success.

Get the budget right

“I always ask my clients right from the start to please consider lighting and allow for it in initial budgets as its role in a beautiful, practical home is crucial. For visual continuity, the approach to lighting inside should flow effortlessly to the outside, so don’t forget to celebrate that tree in the corner with a (concealed) garden spike light,” he advises.

This is evident in two recent design makeover projects, representing the retail and residential genres: Lazari, a breakfast/ lunchtime eatery in Vredehoek in Cape Town, boasting a  ‘Cape Mediterranean’ menu (, and a stunning ‘holiday villa’  in Llandudno. Both of these projects talk to the role of lighting as a key feature of the overall revamp.

Instead of a complete teardown and rebuild, Hanno believes in retaining some of the old elements of the space. In the case of the restaurant, this meant keeping some of the early features that recall the existing space by retaining certain elements, including the positions of light points.

Hanno with Linda of Lazari. Note the collection of 75 coffee cups hanging from the soffit under spotlight.

A lighter and brighter space

Overall, the main design brief from the client was to create a lighter and brighter space. The new lighting solution here is a sensitive mixture between functional and decorative lighting, both of which increase general artificial lighting levels. This was achieved via the lighting and also changing the floor from black tiles to light coloured Cemcrete, and the walls to bright colours. Working ‘coffice’ areas with laptop power were placed along the windows below thin and slender black pendants, acting as task lighting.

The original counter-top was retained, but new oak ribbed cladding was added to change its form and add warmth. Also retained were the three metal hanging lights.

“No matter the product on offer or the service you render, you need to be clearly visible against your competitors with a product that is easily identifiable in a user-friendly environment. Proper lighting might sound like an obvious design approach in any design but is often neglected or left until last when it either cannot be accommodated easily or fit into a budget. In Lazari, the lighting absolutely makes the space, from highlighting main design features, lighting work and dining surfaces and of course, showcasing the food, the product on offer,” Hanno explains.

Indeed, the restaurant features an evocative bright and  colourful sign hung above the compact lounge area, declaring ‘we are here’. It’s an open invitation that can be seen from outside the coffee shop also.

Natural lighting and biophilia

Natural lighting and biophilia, too, feature strongly in his philosophy: “Never over design and only use artificial light where deemed necessary. And when you do so, specify products that are kind to nature. It might cost more but play your role responsibly so we all benefit in the end.

“Investigate the use of natural materials versus man-made and don’t forget that recycling can still be very cool and relevant. As designers it is our responsibility to design around natural light and not the other way around. Again, strike a balance between maximising the source of natural light versus the benefits of artificial lighting,” he advises

Hanno de Swardt’s favourite light fitting? “At the moment it is the humble, warm glow, dimmable LED strip which I love to conceal within my designs whilst it is hard at work ‘behind the scenes’, doing what it does best,” he admits. This is best seen under the edge of the service counter.

Project team – Lazari

Architect: Ohnnah Design

Contractor:  Hassiem Joseph

Flooring (Cemcrete):  Execucrete Finishes

Aluminium windows and doors: Alumin

Shopfitters: Bespokeliving Lighting: Light Enough

Residential: The wow factor

The Llandudno holiday house commands an outstanding sea view and this harnessed Hanno’s indoor/outdoor lighting prowess to the full as part of his overall “lazy holiday in Africa” theme.

“With the holiday villa in Llandudno I had free range and could allow my creative juices to flow.  The lighting solution here is more toned, relaxed as it were, with it being a holiday home after all. Inside, a mixture of ceiling fitted lights, pendants and loose floor and desk lamps were applied to create flexibility in lighting levels and hence manipulate the mood that suits the occasion,” Hanno explains.

“With plenty of time being spent outdoors over the holidays, extending into sunset cocktails and gathering around a fire thereafter, the need for proper ambient lighting was crucial. The well lit pool, surrounding decks, pergolas and the garden all come alive at night and are an absolute feast for the eye. Not only nice to look at but also a pleasure to spend quality time in.”

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