Highveld Georgian Home

Text Sarah Buitendach Production Leana Schoeman Photographs Elsa Young It’s the classic highveld scene: a large sunny stoep looks out onto a rolling green lawn, a crystal-clear swimming pool and a cloudless blue sky. Ask Johannesburg couple Marguerite and Eric why they love their River Club home and that very scene is one of the first reasons they’ll cite. Locals through-and-through, with families who’ve lived in the City of Gold for generations, they have created a home for their sons, Luke, five, and Dylan, three, that not only makes the most of their city but pays homage to it and their heritage, too. The couple bought the house two-and-a-half years ago, moving from a smaller place in the Parks to accommodate a growing family. Situated in a safe cul-de-sac of 10 houses, the Georgian home they saw on its show day was an obvious choice. ‘We’d been looking at houses for ages and knew instantly that this was the one for us,’ explains Marguerite, an interior decorator. Situated on an old property, with a line of palm trees up the drive that dates back to 1935, the house had undergone a major renovation six years previously. While the building had ‘great bones’ the couple realised they would still need to put in a fair amount of work to transform it into the comfortable but chic home it is today. The outward appearance was rejuvenated with the help of a re-landscaped garden and Cemcreted veranda. Inside, they replaced all the tiles with Scandinavian oak floors and with the basics sorted, set about adding warmth and flair to what was largely an open-plan shell. With a traditional South African aesthetic in mind, Marguerite combined family heirlooms with found antiques, contemporary local design with natural fabrics, and classic art pieces with a selection of objects collected from around the globe. It’s an eclectic space and one that tells both the story of this young family’s lifestyle and its passions. Eric and Marguerite are devoted enthusiasts when it comes to South African art; the walls of their home are lined with work by some of the country’s leading artists. They’re also passionate about Tretchikoff, with collections of books dedicated to the late artist’s career lining their shelves. The couple recently attended the Tretchikoff Retrospective in Cape Town as guests and the newest addition to the family – the second of two resident Burmese cats –answers to the name of Tretchi. Upstairs in the boys’ bedrooms, however, you’ll find their own artworks and family photos on display. ‘I was careful not to make Luke and Dylan’s rooms too babyish as I wanted them to be spaces they’ll grow into,’ Marguerite notes. In both rooms she has combined practical jute carpets with wooden toys and furniture, and warm colours to evoke a sense of nostalgia and heritage. The boys’ playroom is a space for fun and magic: a wall covered entirely by an illustrated map of the world looms large over a riotously hued dress- up and play area. If you don’t happen upon the boys in this joyful space it’s because they are out in the garden riding bikes, climbing trees or kicking a soccer ball with their dad. ‘We use our outdoor area all the time,’ says Marguerite. ‘Whether it’s tea on the stoep or alfresco dinner parties with friends at the long dining table, it’s pretty much where everything happens. With Joburg’s champagne climate and long summer days, why would you want to be anywhere else?’

Marguerite and Eric's Home Truths

My favourite space in the house is the island in our kitchen – it’s the centre of our home (Marguerite); my study (Eric). The best thing about living in River Club is the fact that it’s so central, and we have such great neighbours! My interiors style is classic; traditional with a twist (Marguerite); traditional, clean-lined and ‘unfrilly’ (Eric). One change to the house we’d like to make is to move the boys’ jungle gym to our kitchen garden at the back and then build a pool house in its place, which would be perfect for summer. Best for decor shopping is La Grange Interiors in Kramerville and Take it for Granted Antiques in Parkhurst. We also keep an eye out for special antique pieces (Marguerite); the Globe Gallery collection in Pretoria (Eric). Indulgences I can’t live without are champagne, art and Alexander McQueen scarves (Marguerite); Persol sunglasses (Eric). I’m reading The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher. My mom gave it to me as a gift as I love to collect shells. I pretty much just love collecting! (Marguerite); another Classic Cars magazine (Eric). Our favourite local restaurant is Thomas Maxwell Bistro. It has great ambience and the food is delicious. Our favourite way to spend a spring weekend is at Monaghan Farm for a lazy Sunday lunch. It’s organic and has amazing spaces for children to explore and play. We also really enjoy just being at home, relaxing with our boys and entertaining friends. Joburg is the African city of opportunity. My favourite things about it are the energy and the people (Eric). This article was originally featured in the September 2011 issue of House and Leisure.