Designer, furniture buyer and first-time homeowner Anna Weylandt recently renovated her charming Victorian semi-detached house in Woodstock, Cape Town. We asked her good friend (and ex-colleague) Mardre Meyer of Source IBA interior architects to chat to Anna about how she managed to update her house so beautifully on a budget.
You always loved living on the Atlantic Seaboard. Why suddenly Woodstock?
It just got too expensive, especially for a first-time buyer. I’ve always dreamed of owning a little Victorian semi, but honestly never thought that I would live in Woodstock. I’ve discovered that it truly is the best neighbourhood ever.
Does it feel young?
Young, diverse, colourful and quaint. And you actually know your neighbours.
Is there a strong sense of community?
Definitely. Everybody’s looking out for one another. When you walk up the road in the morning to get a cup of coffee, you see the same people. So you get to know everyone and there’s a great sense that everybody’s trying to make this a better place to live.
So there’s a common goal?
I think so.
Did you look at a few places in the area?
One other, but I gave up looking for a while until I stumbled upon this house, went to view it and fell in love. I made an offer without discussing it with anyone.
And what was the appeal?
The original timber floors, the high ceilings, a good existing layout, an outdoor space – and I could finally fit more than four people around the dining table! That is important.
Since there was a good layout in place, what was the most significant change you made?
I replaced all the windows facing the courtyard with the largest possible versions to capitalise on the natural light. I love the full-height window between the dining area and courtyard. It used to be an awkwardly positioned door with a fanlight, so I used the original opening and inserted one large static window into the space.
If we lived in a fantasy world where budget wasn’t a factor, what else would you have changed?
I probably would go up a floor to have a view. That’s the one thing I miss about Sea Point – the views. Other than that, you buy into the fact that your house was built in a particular time and you have to respect it. Also, we need to learn to live in more conservative houses. I’ve been testing this idea for a while. I don’t need a big garden and four en suite bedrooms.
Exactly. I even find that most days I don’t actively use all of my small space.
South Africa has to seriously work on its obsession with large homes. It’s just so wasteful.
It is. But back to your renovation. Have you achieved what you set out to do?
I feel happy with what I’ve achieved, but obviously, as a designer, you’re never really done. There is always something new, or we launch another product at Weylandts and I simply need it.
With regard to Weylandts, do you feel pressure to always represent the brand?
No, I don’t. I don’t think my home looks typically Weylandts. This place is really me. The iconic Weylandts look is about big pieces and quite masculine. We are just starting to consider smaller pieces.
I’ve actually noticed some smaller, more urban pieces in Weylandts. Is this your influence? Is the change inspired by your moving into a compact house?
I think so. We also need to cater to a market that is increasingly living in smaller spaces, but still has great taste.
How important are trends?
Furniture has to be timeless. Great furniture is an investment, so we look more to trends in the way that people live than in furniture per se.
You’re known for always oozing effortless personal style, but is it really so effortless? Or do you secretly spend your nights pre-selecting outfits?
Absolutely not. I see it all as design, which should be based on gut feel. Designing my own house, though, was quite difficult as I had to be more calculated to keep focus. I modelled the whole space about five times before selecting anything.
And so you should – use all your specialist skills!
The kitchen was the toughest room. You gave me the idea of finishing the one wall entirely in black units. That was a lifesaver. It’s a bold choice, but it has personality and conviction. I was definitely nervous, and had to check my Pinterest board daily for reassurance.
It clearly has the right personality for you, but I do think that it is adaptable.
For sure. The building is small but has a lot of natural light, so the space doesn’t feel dark. I also combined different materials so that it doesn’t become overwhelming.
So is this house finished?
I think so.
Are you sure? I know your homeware buying patterns!
Yes, I’m definitely a homeware hoarder. I have cupboards full of things that I can use to update this house.
Visit weylandts.co.za to shop the furniture in Anna’s home.