IN THE MEDIA
PLEASURE IN PROFUSION
A furniture purveyor’s love of all that is lavish makes for a home of high-spirited glamour and extravagance
“Don’t give me plain passages.” It’s the first in a day’s worth of effusive comments proffered by Mark Abraham, owner of uber-eclectic Kramerville-based furniture showroom, Batuka. The manifest truth is that Mark doesn’t do plain, period! The opulent celebration that is his home begins full force in the entrance. There’s really nothing quite like an iridescent gold-leaf clad triple volume, to bring ones senses to immediate attention.
Prowling the perimeter of a Persian rug, a bronze panther stalks towards an elaborately carved monkey-hugging tree trunk. Up and beyond a small flight of travertine stairs, an impressive Bonsai specimen is haloed by light and heavily-embroidered velvet drapes. To the right, raw and brash in contrast, an installation of metal art trawls its way up one of the lustrous planes and overhead, in mandatory position, a black crystal chandelier crowns the voluminous shimmering spectacle. In residential decor, this is what it means to make a grand entrance.
Over-the-top maybe, engaging undeniably, the home fulfils a requisite element. It speaks – with dramatic transparency – of the character of the person who inhabits it. But not only does Mark’s house reflect his bold and disarming exuberance, it displays an indigenous approach to decor that he advocates with zealous vehemence. “In terms of interiors we as South Africans are afraid to showcase the colourful diversity of our diverging world cultures.” The sentiment finds its most audacious platform in the decidedly neo-classical styling of the formal living area, a dynamic contrast against the rustic and afropolitan feel of the informal entertaining area it spills out onto. “I am not afraid to mix,” he says with unquestionable conviction. It’s a declaration grounded in the refreshing witness of a variety of unrelated stylistic influences, comfortably accommodated both within and from any given room.
Experience nurtures confidence so it’s not surprising to hear Mark reveal that ‘for the best part of his sins’ he has been involved in the industry for 21 years, starting out in a ‘pandokkie’ on the outskirts of Soweto manufacturing lounge suites before venturing into the import of Asian, Brazilian and Italian furniture. His passion has seen him persevere through what he terms ‘The Bentley Mindset’: the challenge of convincing homeowners that interiors are worth investing in. “The average person would sooner drive an expensive car than spend money on their home and then,” he adds, “there are those who do create a beautiful house, but refrain from spending on the little things that make all the difference. A home is where one should find one’s solace at the end of a working day. It is a safe haven showcasing one’s mindset and experiences in life. It is not about having expensive pieces but rather about taste, combinations and a reflection of self. ”
Gardens too, pose debate. “So often great care and attention is given to the interior and then you go outside and the garden is a disappointing blank canvas.” He sternly enforces, “Life is about excellence and going the extra mile.” Mark’s home is his pride and joy and it’s clear that as much thought has been put into the enjoyment and pleasure, that the exterior environment provides, as that of the interior. He and good friend, Donovan Diab have established a textured palette of striated slate, rose quartz, white and coloured stones in different sizes that swirl around in a cheer of colour. An immaculately structured, compact selection of palms, cycads, aloes, desert roses, cacti and hardy groundcover translates into minimal watering and tending requirements making it an ideal urban solution.
What elevates the garden from commonplace verdure to a captivating floriferous production is the integration of rustic objet and hardscaped areas designed to promote calmness and spiritual contemplation. “People are always in shopping centres,” admonishes Mark, “when they could be regenerating their spirit in their gardens.” Where he does this with greatest pleasure is at the foot of his 2m high sleeperwood crucifix, erected beside two Joseph-inspired technicolour tile clad water features.The pond that extends from the water features is mirrored in the shape of the crucifix and is fronted by ‘walking on water’ stepping stones. It is anchored by an east-facing mirror that reflects a symbolic ensemble of 3 stone figures representing the “3 wise men” situated at the far end of the space. Elsewhere, meandering paths lead past a moored African Makoro canoe – the perfect herb-cultivating vessel – and a rusted plough dated 1969. Even walls do not escape attention. They serve as a gallery for customised metal artwork, antique Indian doors and unusual pieces such as the diamond mine cores that Mark found knee-deep in mine dump mud. “A garden is an art and it takes skill,” Donovan ventures, “but if your passion isn’t fuelled by your client, it will most certainly reflect.” In Mark’s case, passion is all pervasive and if it were to be measured, it would read a 10 on the Richter scale.