In February this year we moved into an apartment in Maboneng’s Revolution House, on the corner of Main Street and Kruger Street. We moved for a number of reasons. We had been living in a garden cottage attached to a digs for almost a year and we wanted more space and more privacy. We also wanted to explore new parts of Johannesburg.
When we thought about moving to Maboneng we tried to do some research on the area. You can find articles that question how integrated Maboneng is and the effects of gentrification in the area. These are important to read if you are thinking of moving there. My opinion of Maboneng has changed since I have lived there but that’s a blog post for another day.
What I couldn’t find was an account of what it was like to live in Maboneng. So, after living there for seven months, these are the five things I wish I had read about.
1. The noise
Maboneng is noisy. And it’s not always noisy in a cool “I live in the city” kind of way. Sometimes it’s so noisy for so long that you start going a little bit crazy. From Monday to Thursday it is better. You can expect normal traffic and a few rowdy people on the street. There’s weekly drag racing. It’s wonderful if you want to be woken up at 1am by screeching tyres and screaming women.
From Friday to Sunday things really kick off. There is always a party happening somewhere in the area. It could be across the road or it could be three blocks down the street. Either way it’s going to feel like it is happening in your flat.
I think part of the problem is that Maboneng is trying be both a place where people live and a place where people go to party. Maboneng is only going to work if it is a place people want to buy apartments and live. The residents need to be the first priority and I don’t think they are. Last week they closed off the street that our balcony looks on to and set up a stage in the middle of the street. They also placed a row of portable toilets right under our balcony (we’re the bottom left balcony in the picture below).
2. The cold
Our apartment is a 86 square metre studio – so about the size of a two bedroom apartment. It has double volume ceilings and ceiling high windows that wrap around the whole apartment. The floor is polished concrete and there is no insulation. My sister likes to refer to it as “the tomb”. It’s cold.
We moved into our apartment at the end of summer. It stayed cool during the warm summer nights and all we had to worry about were the mosquitoes. But then winter came and it got so cold that it was almost unbearable. Our apartment only gets about 2 hours of direct sunlight a day. After that the sun slips behind a building, never to be seen again.
There’s very little you can do to warm the apartment up. Heaters don’t work because the apartment is so big and made of concrete. Our only solution has been wearing layers (as I type this it is 2pm and I am wearing track suit pants, a hoody, a puffer, socks and sheep skin slippers) and buying an electric blanket. If it gets really bad we try to get out of the apartment because it’s usually warmer outside.
3. The grim
The apartment’s kitchen and bedroom have open shelves. (A side note: there is no built-in storage in Revolution House apartments). Open shelving looks very modern but it requires two things: you have to be very tidy and you have to clean a lot. I do neither of those things well.
Keeping things clean is nearly impossible. There is a constant layer of grease and dust on everything. I think every kitchen has this problem to a certain extent but I have found it to be much worse in the CBD. Somehow (even if you try to keep your windows closed) a fine dust covers everything.
One block down from us is a corner where people burn rubbish: mattresses, plastic, wood, wire. Most mornings we wake up and there is a plume of smoke rising from the corner. I think this smoke contributes a lot to the grim and dirt in our apartment.
4. The space
One of the main reasons we moved to Maboneng was the apartment we found. It is a corner unit so we have lovely big windows and more space than most of the other apartments. We were also very lucky because our apartment came with blinds. All the apartments in Revolution House have enormous, ceiling high windows. Sleeping past sunrise without blinds would be pretty tough. They also provide a little but of insulation. The bathroom is also great. It has an enormous bath – it’s really like a plunge pool.
When we moved to Maboneng one of our main concerns was security but we don’t feel unsafe in the precinct. Our building has 24/7 security in the foyer and the guards are very helpful. I actually feel safer spending a night by myself in the apartment then I did when we lived in a garden cottage in Melville. I know that no one is going to come through my window and if I have a problem I can call a security guard.
The only time that I have felt unsafe is driving through the CBD. I have had people trying to open my doors and following me through the traffic. They were pretty scary experiences so now I sit in the traffic on the freeway.
For a while we parked one of our cars on the street and we had no problems. Now both of them are parked in secure parking. It is quite pricey through – you’ve looking at about R500 per parking bay per month on top of your rent.
If you have any questions about what it’s like to live in Maboneng you can post them in a comment below.
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