On a leafy street she’d already fallen in love with, full of Victorian properties, Advertising Stylist Charlotte Collins spotted a run-down house brimming with untapped potential. Charlotte knocked on the door to ask if the owner was interested in selling. She wasn’t. A year later, however, charm, persistence and persuasion won out, and the Higgovale, Cape Town, home was hers. Then the real work began.
‘The previous owner was a hoarder. We ended up removing six skips full of junk,’ says Charlotte. ‘Then there was the hole in the roof to contend with.’ But, she admits, with six home renovations already under her belt it’s during them that she is happiest. ‘I don’t like houses that are done,’ she explains. ‘Why pay for someone else’s tastes? Chances are they aren’t yours. I would much prefer to start from scratch, to decorate and design something that suits me.’
At this Higgovale, Cape Town, home the backyard looks into the kitchen. Charlotte Collins plays with Conner the rescue dog. Two doors from OnSite Gallery tell a weathered story from Argentina while framing one of the two tall apothecary cabinets that the kitchen was built around.
The heart of her home, the spacious kitchen, where she and daughter Willow, 11, spend most of their time, was a new addition. Its high ceilings accommodate two three-metre tall antique apothecary cupboards. An old shop counter serving as the kitchen worktop completes the vintage country cottage feel while the two turn-of-the-century portraits hanging in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows that draw the backyard in, give the space an innovative touch. ‘They weren’t put there with any design aesthetic in mind,’ Charlotte laughs, ‘but to ensure that unsuspecting people don’t walk into the plate glass.’
The tiles that run throughout the home may look like the original flooring but are in fact from Vietnam, bought online. ‘I’ve bought a lot online. Although it is often a case of pot luck; the first batch of tiles they sent me were a luminous turquoise. They couldn’t understand why I wanted to return them,’ she laughs.
Not that everything has to be perfect. While her formal living room has a decidedly 1950s aesthetic with its angular lounges and Art Deco lamps sourced from Yesteryear (011-726-5096) in Joburg, one wall that had to be stripped to address water damage was left ‘as is’ after the repair. ‘I meant to get around to repapering it and then decided I liked it just the way it was,’ she says. ‘I like a bit of distress.’
On the covered veranda, an outsized sofa is a comfortable perch for a lazy Sunday. The crown sign from an Argentinean coffee shop was bought at OnSite Gallery. The historic tiles are from Vietnam.
The same single-mindedness that won Charlotte her home helped her procure a coveted charcoal artwork, ‘Sarah’ by Richard Smith, in the formal dining room. She spotted it while watching television – it was hanging in the background during a television interview. She instantly fell in love with the piece and tracked it down. Within a week it was hers.
She certainly has an eye for unusual statement pieces. In the entrance hallway, looking like something straight out of The Jetsons is her prized possession, ‘The Perfect Housewife’, a robot sculpture/light by Philippe Bousquet, its proffered plate used regularly to hold house keys.
Charlotte gave a French antique bed for Willow a fresh take by reupholstering the headboard in a ‘younger’ fabric. Cake plates double as shelving.
Old telephones mounted on Perspex shelves line the wall leading up the stairs to the second-floor. ‘It’s almost a museum piece now,’ laughs Charlotte. ‘Kids today don’t even know what a rotary phone looks like!’ The phones all come from Cape Town’s Milnerton Market, a favourite haunt. ‘A lot of the stuff is bric-a-brac, but there are a few stalls that offer up gems time and time again. The trick is to get there early.’
Providence often dictates her distinctive choices. Charlotte has a fascination with Argentina, even though she’s never been (but plans to soon). ‘There is something about that country’s faded glory that translates to so many of the pieces I’ve sourced from OnSite Gallery,’ she says, initially reluctant to mention her ‘source’ for so many of her home’s eclectic artefacts. ‘I am nostalgic. I like history. It adds depth and offers up a story to be told and shared.’
Originally published in HL September 2014.