A Dubai favorite, interior architect Tristan du Plessis teams up with international DJ Black Coffee to design the penthouse of Johannesburg’s Hallmark House Hotel.
As day breaks over a vibrant urban sprawl, sunlight hits the penthouse of Johannesburg’s famed Hallmark House, a luxury art hotel in the heart of the city. The 46-room hotel was originally built in the 1970s, was redeveloped in 2016, closed for a year during Covid, and reopened in 2021. The penthouse suite was officially launched on September 1, 2022, after a four-month renovation process, a collaborative work between Tristan du Plessis, South Africa’s most awarded interior designer, and DJ Black Coffee.
“It’s a manifestation of the African dream in a contemporary context. Moreover, it’s a celebration of cross-disciplinary creativity,” says DJ Black Coffee aka Nkosinathi Maphumulo, a 2022 Grammy Award-winning DJ, renowned for working with Drake and Alicia Keys. Black Coffee worked with Du Plessis to create the unique interiors of Hallmark House’s penthouse, sharing, “Music is my passion but moving into other forms of creative expression has broadened my horizons, especially working with Tristan who shares my vision.” He explains that everything he does is fundamentally underpinned by a specific message: “That every African child who has a dream of excelling in anything they envision can make it a reality. Incorporating celebrated South African talent at different touch points for my first design project, reaffirms this on every level.”
The 250sqm penthouse offers two open-plan living rooms, two bedrooms, a gym, and a cinema room. While Du Plessis typically designs using monochromatic schemes, he said that here, Black Coffee pushed him outside of his comfort zone. “He encouraged me to use richness in color and bold African textiles. I paired this with a sumptuous blend of wood paneling, bookmatched marble, and bronze details throughout,” he explains. The pair was inspired by Johannesburg – using charred wood panels to represent the city’s rebirth after challenging times – and a local street artist designed a series of “tagged” carpets. The urban, grungy elements of the city were embraced in a luxurious manner. The design of the double-volume, two-bedroom suite features countless textures, from hand-picked viola marble to charred wood panels and gold elements highlighting the kitchen. Local art is scattered throughout with pieces by the likes of African Ginger and Maxhosa.
The suite also tells of Black Coffee’s love of music, with CDJs – digital music systems designed for DJs – integrated throughout. “We wanted to steer away from an expected musical motif and rather meaningfully incorporate it in the space. The pièce de résistance must be the marble-ensconced CDJs; it’s unexpected because it’s elegantly tucked away and appears when you’d like, which respects its true purpose, which is to be lived in,” says Du Plessis. “It’s designed for the dreamer, for all the collaborators in this project, our careers are testament to a dream actualized. The interior luxury of the space is offset by its location in the heart of Johannesburg, a city known for its hustle culture, so we’d like it to spark hunger to create more, collaborate more, and do more particularly in the African context.”
While a star in South Africa, Du Plessis is also the creative force behind some of the GCC’s leading destinations. Restaurants Clay in both Bahrain and Dubai, Katsuya in Hyde Hotel Dubai, and The Meat Co. in Souk Madinat Jumeirah, as well as Dubai’s first Africa-inspired beach club, San Beach Club, all bear his signature style, which is defined as masculine luxury with contemporary edge. Since launching his eponymous studio in 2015, Du Plessis has served a wide range of hotels, dining venues, and private residences around the world.
The penthouse, which starts at US$ 1 445 a night, can be enjoyed in a hotel that offers an impressive line of amenities including three dining options: The Marabi Club, which offers live jazz sessions; Thorn, which serves fantastic roasts; and a chic rooftop destination. With an in-house barber, a dance studio offering lessons and run by famed entertainer Bontle Modiselle, and the Curious Curio store selling some of the best gifts in town, Hallmark House has something for everyone.
Originally published in the Fall/Winter 2022 issue of Vogue Man Arabia