The Woman Who Helped Shape Inner City Joburg Just Moved to the Suburbs

Urban renewal and development specialist Shruthi Nair invites us into her new home

Shruthi Nair

Photography: Karl Rogers

Driving through inner city Johannesburg today is a considerably different experience to what it was like a decade ago, when Shruthi Nair first moved into the Maboneng Precinct. 

Living next door to the developers of Main Street Life, Shruthi's gift of gab resulted in Propertuity's founder and CEO Jonathan Leibmann inviting her to join as employee number four, where her sunny disposition and solid networking skills made her a good fit for a role in marketing and sales.

Having embedded herself in the world of urban renewal and development, Shruthi's background in art steered her towards the design and development department as the company grew to over a hundred full time staff, developing more than fifty buildings. 

Shruthi Nair

"2014 was a defining year for me, where I was lucky enough to travel to London to launch Hallmark House at our architect Sir David Adjaye's offices, which cemented my love and appreciation for interior architecture. That same year I moved onto creative projects, urban installations in the neighbourhood, product and interior design."

Shruthi Nair

Studying technical drawing part-time, with a goal of pursuing her masters at the Royal Academy Of Art in the Hague where she's been accepted into the Interior Architecture program for 2019, Shruthi's eight years' experience working in the urban development field alongside city stakeholders and players has made her a powerhouse. 

Realising this, Shruthi quit her job – a move made even more important with her decision to escape the city's madness for the calm of the suburbs. Together with her husband Dave Durbach, aka DJ Okapi, the couple has shared eight homes in four cities and three countries. Shruthi calls this latest acquisition their "forever house" and a place where she's now finally ready to put down deep roots. 

"Kensington is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Johannesburg and interestingly diverse with Malvern around the corner, Bezuidenhout and Troyville over the hill, and Bedfordview at the end. Most of the homes have been gaudied up, tiled and carpeted, with their antiquated charm now kitschified. Then came ours. She was on the market for two weeks, we put in the full price offer and are now the fourth owners of a tiny mansion that dates back to 1932."

Shruthi Nair

With ample space for the small family to grow, Dave can now store all his crates of vinyl and Shruthi has an office from where she runs her empire: a small interior design and custom furniture company, a retainer with Propertuity, production for The Centre For The Less Good Idea and her work with international NGO Skatetistan. 

"As a consultant I have time for my family now. I'm earning more and I'm happier because I still get to do what I love, but on my own terms."

Part of these terms is making a beautiful home and then sharing it with the people she loves. Her degree in aesthetics (Shruthi graduated from Michaelis in 2006),  means that there's "an appreciation for the poised and dishevelled, beautiful and macabre – in fact all the visual and cultural dichotomies out there. My home is a unique visual mess and tangle with no real overarching theme other than an appreciation for found and collected objects, colour texture and tone."

Shruthi Nair

This is a very relaxed environment where the family takes turns playing their favourite music (Shruthi defers to Dave for exposing them to such a rich variety of sounds), and socialising is as chilled as she is. Describing herself as "more of an eatie and not a foodie" Shruthi enjoys preparing a quick pressure cooked pot of lentils and basmati rice with salad, preparing mostly Indian or Asian food for friends, inspired from her time living in Korea and India. 

"I'm about simple, healthy, home-cooked meals that nourish and make a guest feel the care and goodwill of the hands that made it. I want my guests to leave feeling happy and hearty."

That's if they're able to pull themselves from the patio, which is nestled in a lush garden overlooking the pool and is the perfect place to take in a Highveld sunset while enjoying a beverage of sorts, or some such other delight. 

seen this?
Hip hop herstory
filters and feminist values
superbalist staff love this decor trend