You’d be forgiven for thinking that this home was located in the heart of the French countryside rather than in Cape Town’s southern suburbs. With its elegant monochromatic palette and uncluttered Gallic charm, it would fit right in. When interior designer Caline Williams-Wynn and her husband, Tim, relocated from Joburg, they were looking for a home that would be in close proximity to schools for their daughter Chiara, now nine (their son, Sebastien, now 18, had gone off to boarding school in Grahamstown). It also needed to be able to accommodate Caline’s generously proportioned hoard of French collectables. A Francophile of note, she spent many years trawling the famed antique markets in Paris and the French countryside in search of unique kitchenalia for her Parkhurst, Joburg, store, Artichoke.
The couple came across a property in Kenilworth that had previously operated as a school. They were undeterred by its uninspiring 1950s style, its rabbit warren-like classrooms, and its pokey windows, and had a vision of how the otherwise sound building could be renovated to become a comfortable family home. ‘It was north facing and had great views,’ says Tim.
While most people would consider a two-year-long renovation a challenge, Caline remained unflustered. ‘We just moved to different areas of the house during each phase,’ she laughs. But then, she does have extensive experience working on projects such as game lodges in Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique, and simply applied her same ethos of working closely with the architects and builders to her domestic space.
The result is a grandly proportioned home complete with a 7m-deep covered veranda, a wonderful additional outdoor living space for the family’s ritual of relaxed entertaining. ‘We live out here all summer,’ says Caline, curled up on one of the comfy sofas.
Inside, the entrance hall with its voluminous ceilings and sweeping staircase could be straight off the set of Gone with the Wind. It sets the tone for the airy flow of the rest of the home, with the living areas seamlessly connected to the veranda and pool beyond via tall double doors. ‘By opening up the internal spaces we maximised the light and the house could breathe,’ says Caline.
Not one to bombard a house with colour, she had the French doors and floors stained ebony to provide a dramatic contrast to the light-filled space. ‘Black floors and doors disappear in a large space and almost become a see-through void,’ she explains. ‘It actually accentuates the furniture rather than overpowers it.’
Covetable antique pieces juxtaposed with contemporary elements add to the casual sophistication of the house. Raw, unbleached linens mixed with soft pink hues complement a baby grand piano and oversized mirrors in the lounge, while many of the carefully selected fabrics in the house were sourced by Tim, who has worked extensively in the textile industry.
The family-friendly kitchen is undoubtedly the heart of the home, where many an impromptu dinner is prepared while chatting around the white marble central island that separates the working area from the rest of the room.
An 18th-century vestry cupboard commands pride of place in the dining room alongside an enormous blackboard. And two identical hunting tables from a chateau in Burgundy are pushed together into a more conversational square. ‘The versatility of having two means that we can arrange them as one long refectory table when we need to seat more than 16 guests,’ explains Caline.
You would have to have a fair amount of resourcefulness and vision to create a home as original and full of warmth as this. No doubt, these are qualities Caline and Tim have in ready supply.
CALINE’S HOME TRUTHS
The best things about living here are the mountain views, the large, leafy trees and the proximity to schools. I’m inspired by the juxtaposition of vintage western European grace with contemporary imagination. My favourite piece of design advice is surround yourself with things that are ‘you’ – don’t try to be someone else. My pet design hate is anything fake – antiques that are not and flowers that never need water. I collect French antique country objets and furniture – and memories. I move from house to house with several pairs of antique French shutters. I’ll have to be buried with them one day! What I love about this time of year is that it’s warm enough to run in the mornings and to enjoy the veranda in the evenings. And full, productive days sandwiched between healthy activities. My favourite room is my bedroom, a sanctuary not only to rest my head in but also to enjoy an early cup of strong coffee before the day begins in earnest. My most inspiring place is Saint Ouen in France. I relax by thumbing through decor magazines, European and local. My most rash purchase was… my last five pairs of boots. My signature dinner-party dish is mussels, prepared using a secret French recipe (an ‘I would have to kill you’ kind of secret!) with fresh sourdough bread.
This article was originally featured in the May 2012 issue of House and Leisure.