‘I really don’t like it when people say “hoarder” – it’s such an ugly word,’ says Sarah Scott. ‘I much prefer “collector”.’ She’s attempting to sum up her eclectic tastes, which have managed to affably settle down together in her quaint Sea Point heritage cottage. ‘I actually wanted to go for the minimalist Scandi look when I moved in,’ she adds, ‘but I kept adding to the space and soon realised that it’s just not me: I like stuff.’
Going from living in a large stately home in Durban to a 150m² cottage in Sea Point has understandably provided Sarah with plenty of amusing anecdotes about adjusting to small-space living. Like the fact that her obsession with scatter cushions has had to change to being just about scatter cushion covers, because she doesn’t have enough room to keep the inners. Notwithstanding those cushion inners, Sarah’s home is bursting at the seams with beautifully curated and accrued objects, as well as plenty of history.
The stretch of identical cottages in which her home is situated dates back to 1901. The houses were built for a set of naval officers’ wives who, having grown tired of the dreary weather in Newlands, staged a protest of Desperate Housewives proportions and soon left the ’burbs for sunny Sea Point. ‘According to them, it was for their self-preservation and longevity, because the sun shines perpetually on this side of the mountain,’ says Sarah, whose research into the cottages’ history turned up this very believable story.
Although she’s no naval officer’s wife, Sarah’s journey to Sea Point has a similar trajectory. After working abroad for a decade as a visual designer and then moving back to her hometown of Durban, Sarah started to feel like there was more to life than just work. ‘Monday was becoming Friday in Durban and there didn’t seem to be much going on culturally. I was working hard but not out of choice – it was because there wasn’t much else to do,’ she says. When Sarah made the decision to relocate to Cape Town, she knew that Sea Point was where she wanted to live, and for months she drove around looking for ‘For Sale’ signs. ‘One day, I saw this house. The owner was in the process of renovating and it wasn’t actually on the market, but I made an offer and he accepted,’ she says.
To do her own renovations, Sarah hired a team of Cape artisans who are specialists in their fields, with herself acting as project manager. ‘It’s been the best learning experience of my life. For instance, because I know what’s in the walls, I now know where the pipes are if ever there’s a leak,’ she says. And hiring local craftspeople was a great idea. ‘A lot of the things my team advised me on were based on old-school building techniques. No lines are straight here but these men know the tricks about making it work,’ she says.
Looking at the ‘before’ pictures of this house is a jaw-dropping experience. The change is utterly dramatic. Sarah’s studio used to be the kitchen, which is now at the front of the house and was fitted out by Durban-based company, The Kitchen Studio. The main en suite bedroom at the top of the stairs was built into the pitched roof, along with very clever storage solutions. ‘The builders made extra space in my cupboards because of the pitch, so I now have a double clothing rail and huge storage boxes for things like Christmas decorations. We also decided to make a gap in the upstairs bathroom wall which serves as a crawl space if a pipe bursts but also as a hiding place for stuff – or for myself!’ she says with a laugh.
The gorgeous outdoor spaces – which include a rear courtyard and front-facing enclosed stoep – were the last parts of the house to be made over, and perhaps the loveliest area of the entire house is among these: an upstairs deck that adjoins Sarah’s bedroom, which has views of the neighbourhood, Cape Town stadium and the harbour. ‘I still get goose bumps when driving around my new neighbourhood,’ says Sarah, ‘as I still can’t believe I live here. It feels like I’m always on holiday.’
This home originally appeared in House and Leisure’s Before & After issue.