The horse-riding trails and vineyards of Cape Town’s Constantia couldn’t be further from New York’s hip and edgy Brooklyn, especially for fashion designer Lindy Cohen and her music-producer husband Marc Algranti.
Yet, that’s precisely the move they have made. ‘New York was incredible, but it was less great when we had kids,’ explains Lindy, who worked as a buyer for Anthropologie and as creative director for fashion label Liquid during her 11 years in the Big Apple. We wanted to have space, nature and family,’ she says, ‘to give our children the same sort of upbringing that we had.’
Having spent two long years looking for a house with ‘good bones’, when they walked into this capacious residence they couldn’t believe their luck. ‘It had high ceilings, lots of light and we got all this as well,’ says Lindy of the leafy garden with its views of vineyards and the Elephant’s Eye beyond.
While it didn’t meet all their practical requirements, issues such as not having a garage didn’t matter. ‘It’s quite romantic and magical. These trees whisper to each other all day long,’ says Lindy of the dozen or so London plane trees surrounding the house. There’s even a resident owl that hoots in the one tree. ‘It feels like a holiday home,’ adds Marc. ‘People say that when they come here.’
The previous owner was ‘a very stylish, brave, British woman’ who discovered this property when it had a different house on it. She was inspired to knock the original house down after seeing Marie Antoinette’s château Petit Trianon at Versailles while on holiday in France. She planned to build a two-storey ‘château-style place’ but by the time the builders had completed the ground floor she had changed her mind. It was big enough as it was.
‘Not many people would want a two-bedroomed house on a property this size,’ says Lindy, but this arrangement suits them perfectly. The separate guest cottages have been converted into office space for her and Marc. I’m a ‘half-time mum,’ explains Lindy, who designs a range of T-shirts called Continent Africa in between looking after Luca, six, and Sophie, four, whose playroom adjoins her office.
When the family moved in they didn’t make any dramatic changes. ‘We just stripped off the expensive wallpaper and painted the walls white,’ says Lindy. ‘I stripped away lined curtains to put up patchwork linen curtains that I made on my sewing machine. Our style is more Brooklyn. It just feels more like us.’ Their furniture ‘is from all over the show’ – items they brought back from New York (‘we did really well out of Ikea’); purchases made via Gumtree; vintage pieces they found at stores along Wynberg Main Road. ‘I’m a bit of a magpie for fleamarket things,’ she quips.
‘This house feels magical and informal,’ says Lindy. ‘Anything can happen if you have a great shell.’ Here they have French-oak floors laid in a herringbone pattern, 4.5m high ceilings, and exquisite finishes such as carved Argentinean doors and dramatic light fittings. Outside, chickens hide their eggs all over the garden, and rope swings in the trees reveal the pace of life in this family.
With rescue dogs Maggie and Ella, seven hens and two chicks, their life couldn’t be more different from the one they left behind in New York but it’s an adjustment they made easily. As Lindy says, ‘it’s a bit of a pinch-me situation having all this space.’
This article originally featured in the May 2013 issue of House and Leisure.