The Insider SA visits the colourful home of Cameroon-born interior designer, Christelle Afana Fonkem, who uses her home as her personal show-reel.

Inside the home of interior designer Christelle Afana Fonkem is the expression of an acclaimed career brought to life. Her colourful display of influences and inspiration exudes luxury and French elegance. Christelle gives The Insider a personal tour as we get to know her style and her ultimate muses: her husband, Stephen Fonkem, and their three children Raymond, Claude and Stephen.

The exterior of Christelle's stunning Joburg home. (PHOTO: SA HOME OWNER MAGAZINE)

Christelle was brought up in Cameroon, and while her first language is French, her parents grew up in Germany and she’s mastered English while in South Africa. “It’s a beautiful mixture of a trilingual kind of culture”, Christelle describes. “I try to bring that into my interior design so that it transcends all the beautiful cultures and everything that I’ve been exposed to as a young girl and as a woman today”.

As the daughter of a renowned engineer-architect and the granddaughter of a developer, design was always in Christelle’s blood.

“My life is a beautiful mixture of culture which I try to bring into my interior design."

Interior Designer, Christelle Afana Fonkem Tweet

Even though she first studied business administration, it was her husband, Stephen, who encouraged her to go back to school to study interior design. “He is my biggest fan and my number one client” shares Christelle. And with three little boys under seven on their hands, he’s also been her greatest support system. “He helps in every category that he can. There’s nothing I could complain about”.

The Fonkem home is a work of art and reflects Chirstelle’s exquisite and eclectic style that she so dearly dedicates to her clients. They started designing and decorating their home in January, and in just three months, finished it off before lockdown began. As a product of the global community, Christelle drew on a multitude of cultural inspirations for her home.

“France was a very big inspiration. When we would go there, we would stay in these beautiful hotels with these gorgeous flower arrangements in the lobbies. It’s a nostalgia for me from childhood. It’s like denying my own self if I didn’t do that in my own home”.

Christelle explains, “I love everything to do with this old French kind of regency. It’s a style of fashion and of luxury”. Inspired, Christelle added a special touch of this style in each room of the house, giving all of them an extra flair of polished poise and elegant sophistication.

In the dining room, you’ll find 3D mirrors lining the walls to give guests a 360° view of their home. In the open shelves, you’ll find golden vignettes to compliment the colour palette of the first floor: neutral beiges, whites and pinks to give the space a true Parisian tone.

The formal lounge was inspired by a hotel lobby. To mimic the architectural structure of the house and juxtapose the high ceilings, Christelle chose low furniture with touches of pink. “It’s just a beautiful show”, describes Christelle. “The home is a glass house. It’s very modern and contemporary at the same time. The open plan house allows for a free flow of air and energies”.

Stephen’s favourite area of the home has to be the bar – a space he personally helped design. In contrast to the rest of the home, the bar is dark and masculine with accents of gold. The multiple clocks along the wall allow him to keep tabs on his friends from all over the world.

Christelle has also made sure that the home works for the comfort and convenience of every member of the family. As much as the home showcases the best of Christelle’s interior design, it also prioritises comfort for the whole family.

Inspired by a French cigar lounge, the Fonkem family’s movie room is furnished with leather for easy-to-clean surfaces and has no sharp edges. “We wanted to allow the kids to sit down anywhere, so it was intentional to replace the coffee table with a big ottoman”. The boy’s favourite spot is the pyjama lounge where they get to spent time together and watch cartoons. While it’s main priority is to be comfy, Christelle made sure to pop in a cool blue Victorian touch.

The master bedroom is Christelle and Stephen’s sweet escape – “la piece de resistance”, in her words. With gold and mustard accents on the darker walls, Christelle designed the space to replicate a boutique so they’ll always be inspired to glam up.

Finally, the kitchen was ultimately designed to gather the whole family, bringing them together for irreplaceable moments of bonding and connection – the one thing that will never go out of style.