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Meet John Jacobs: A purveyor of contemporary taste

“From an early age, I’ve always been incredibly creative and drawn to anything that had a luxurious feel and appeal.” – Interview and article by Khotso Ramorwesi.

John Jacobs is an internationally acclaimed Cape Town based interior designer  that masterfully orchestrates luxury living environments. Having spent 17 years in the industry, one could refer to him as a purveyor of contemporary taste whose works can be found celebrated on the covers of numerous design magazines and talked about TV shows. Recently, he was one of South African interior designers, selected out of 100 interior designers in the world to be featured in Andrew Martins Interior Design Review Volume 22, for 2018 – an annual publication referred to as “the Bible of interior design” by industry insiders.

What method do you use to connect with a space in order to enhance its natural beauty through a sophisticated eye?

For me, my approach to interior design has never really been about a room with things, but more about creating harmony through the understanding of composition.

It’s about finding the beauty that lies at the crux of the composition of architecture and interior through constantly interrogating the language of color, texture and proportion. So my “method” is less about the “things” and more about analyzing the space and interrogating its interplay with light space and confinement.

Your generous use of texture, not only creates a visual feast but a deeply sensual one as well. Is this a deliberate decision on your part? 

My 17 years of experience in this industry have taught me that ultimately, we all want an emotional connection to our spaces. So when clients come to me with pictures and references of how they’d like their spaces to look like, I need to understand the feeling they want to capture. That sensual experience that you’ve identified is more of a bi-product of this deep and thoroughly researched understanding.


How did you come to realize that luxury living is where you want to channel all your creative and passionate energies?

From an early age, I’ve always been incredibly creative and drawn to anything that had a luxurious feel and appeal. I’d even convinced myself that I want to own a slew of luxury hotels and restaurants because of how daring and beautiful to see. I’ve always been acutely aware of spaces and how color and texture affects its inhabitants. Having identified this awareness led me to understand the sensitivity of spaces that ultimately exposed the passion I have for detail and luxe finishes.

You’ve had such an inspirational journey filled with a number of successes. What would you like your younger self to know about life in 2018 as John Jacobs?

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The creative spirit is incredibly liberating but it can get a little volatile especially for perfectionists such as myself.

I’d want the younger me to understand that it’s okay to ask for a little help or invite someone into their space to teach. I have found that the younger me made things much more complicated than they needed to be all in the pursuit of attaining perfectionism through their own strengths. I’d want the younger me to trust their creative instincts as that’s never going to leave and to believe in themselves enough to not be afraid to explore and have fun with the technical aspects of interior design.

For the Andrew Martin’s “Interior Design Review”  Volume 22, 2018 edition, you were amongst the few South Africans out of 100  interior designers in the world nominated and featured in “The Bible Of Interior Design”. Granted, this is not your first feature in this publication, but what does this type of international nod mean to you as a designer; as a South African; as a dreamer? 

I am extremely passionate about what I do. I’m a big dreamer and I’m always trying to find new ways of outdoing myself and sometimes outrun myself too. But when such international nods happen, I take a moment to appreciate it for what it means and that continues to burn my ever increasing desire to dream more larger, bolder and fabulously.

So ultimately, it pushes me to challenge myself even more and align myself better with myself.

Your contemporary projects featured in Andrew Martin’s Interior Design Review Volume 22, celebrate the vast landscape of luxury spaces that exist.  How do you consistently manage to capture such sumptuous sophistication in an effortless and relaxed manner that seems easy to achieve?

Interior design is more than just furniture. I intentionally create aesthetics that seem as though the furniture just sits there. But I’m deliberate in my intention of understanding the language of proportion in relation to the language of the architecture. Everything is created. Everything is deliberate. So it first starts off with understanding the emotion we want imbued in that room and then being conscious about what that emotion feels like, look like and even taste like. Once this interrogation is complete, everything else is a breeze.

What are some of the top 3 DIY tips you’ve gained through the years, about creating a luxe update to your home without breaking the bank?

I have found that people often confuse money and effort. Finishes cost a lot of money. Sometimes, all that’s needed are a few minimal structural changes to give the home a different feel and updated mood. So I would add a window; open up the place by breaking down a wall and introduce some new light, air, space or flow. Decorating only comes secondary.

You’ve been cited as being quite skilled in understanding the language and interplay of colour. Where does this deep understanding of color come from?

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Colour is an emotional tool and probably one of the most powerful ones too. It not only sets the tone, but it ignites something in you which I find quite exciting. It’s all about capturing a feeling and color allows me the opportunity of exploring these feelings.

When presented with a space of either grand or miniature in scale, what’s the one most important thing you prioritize above the rest and how does it impact the design process?

I’ve always believed that any creative expression is supposed to move you somehow and that’s the first thing I always remember at the genesis of any project. So in any space, grand or miniature, I always think about these three things: light, space, containment. I find ways in which I can create a balanced and more harmonious feel. Whether it be raising a ceiling, creating more light entry into the home etc. That’s what I’d consider.

In your opinion, what does the future of interior design look like – What’s next?

The future of interior design looks more to creating more feel good and inviting spaces that boast refreshing breathing spaces and find innovative ways of celebrating the lightness, openness, expansiveness and comfort of the space while maintaining the balance between containment and space.

Well there you have it – it seems that the future of interior design lies in being deliberate in creating a deep emotional experience, full of comfort and ease through celebrating all the senses. To capture it all is as simple as breaking down a wall or opening up a space. Who would have thought? John Jacobs has a fascinating perception of the world. The perception stems from a deep understanding of the human experience and how to better create spaces that make people feel good about themselves, comfortable and even celebrated in their own environments.
Andrew Martin’s Interior Design Review Volume 22 is available for purchase online.

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