houses, Indoor / Outdoor

Playful Cape Town Home

Styling Jaco Janse van Rensburg, Jeanne Botes; Photographs Russel Smith, Adam Letch


When Scott and Nina Campbell moved back to Cape Town after a stint in New Zealand, they looked no further than a spacious, courtyard-style house in Newlands. ‘I loved its proximity to the mountain and the river, and the lushness of the surrounding area,’ explains Nina, who saw its potential to be ‘a lovely family home’ for the couple and their two children, Jack, six, and Georgie, nine.

After a few structural changes, the Campbells called in designer, stylist and friend Jaco Janse van Rensburg to take on the interiors. His brief was not only to decorate the house, but also to improve the overall functioning of its spaces. Although generously proportioned and already possessing a good flow, the rooms felt bare and lacklustre. ‘We started the process by producing personalised moodboards and tasks for each room,’ says Jaco. ‘Then we listed what furniture would be retained, ditched, up-cycled and added, as well as where we could splurge and save. The primary idea was to use colour and texture in an unusually brave and playful manner.’

The effect is evident as you step through the front door. In a theatrical move, Jaco incorporated a double-sided, purple and chartreuse curtain to separate the entrance hall from the kitchen area and the living room beyond, creating three intimate spaces. Typically, the luxurious fabric is swept back, providing views all the way to the rear of the house.

‘The curtain also sets the tone for the Alice-in-Wonderland theme in the kitchen,’ Jaco adds. ‘Here the concept plays out with a bespoke, oversized dining table, a large chandelier, an over-scaled print, and colourful, mismatched chairs.’

The living room has a more sophisticated, grown-up feel. Its calming palette of greens and blues is a direct reference to the neighbouring Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Hanging above a comfortable, plump-cushioned sofa, a black-and-white print of a forest, sourced from the National Geographic archives and a nod to Scott’s New Zealand heritage, does double duty by concealing the television. However, the room isn’t all muted shades. True to Jaco’s style, bright pops of colour are introduced in pieces such as the yellow and blue Moroccan pouffes that rest comfortably alongside Nina’s personal accoutrements and considerable book collection.

Jaco reworked the layout to include two studies, each reflecting Scott and Nina’s individual requirements. Scott’s is an open-plan area defined by a large desk, natural grass-cloth wallpaper, and a colour scheme inspired by his signature chinos and chambray shirts. ‘Nina’s first-floor retreat, which she uses for yoga, writing and reading, has a “Virginia Woolf goes to Palm Beach” theme,’ Jaco adds. One of his favourite features is the vinyl decal of white swallows dancing across the soft green ceiling. (He’s used wall tattoos to similar effect in the house’s entrance hall, where a pretty scene of birds flitting between branches is paired with a mirror that echoes the shape of a birdcage, and swathes of freshly picked greenery.)

It’s not just the adults who benefit from freshly appointed chill-out spaces. The children’s play area includes a toy cupboard painted a joyful shade of red, ample shelving and generous beanbags. The space is characterised by matching red and blue paper lanterns. ‘They were hung purposefully low to encourage grown-ups to stay out!’ Jaco laughs. Their bedrooms are just as lively: Georgie’s in funky turquoise and pink, Jack’s in vivid green and yellow, with a customised tent fitted above the bed.

In contrast, Scott and Nina’s master bedroom is sophisticated and plush, defined by luxurious wallpaper and a deep-buttoned velvet headboard, in a colour scheme inspired by the family’s oriental cat. Jaco also maximised the views by removing blinds to create a picture window above the bed.

Overall, the house has a lived-in feel made possible by Jaco’s adventurous approach and his inspired placement of the family’s treasured possessions. ‘The Campbells wanted to make the love in the house visible,’ says Jaco. By all accounts, he has more than fulfilled the brief.

SCOTT & NINA’S HOME TRUTHS

The best thing about spring is the changing quality of the light, and not having to do the school run in the dark (Nina); better weather (Scott). My best place to shop for furniture is O.live (Nina). My favourite rooms are the lounge and my study – they have a very restful atmosphere and the colours we used are so beautiful (Nina); the open-plan kitchen (Scott). My style is fairly traditional, with a few unusual touches. The emphasis is on comfort and a family-orientated lifestyle (Nina). Design advice I like to dish out is, imagine exactly how you want to live and feel in a room, and then take the decor to that place (Nina). The best places for bargain homeware shopping in the Western Cape are the second-hand stores in Woodstock, Wynberg and Kalk Bay. The piece of furniture I most love is the silver coffee table in the lounge, which makes me feel like I’ve just returned from an adventurous travelling expedition with a trunk full of treasures (Nina); our beautiful Welsh dresser (Scott). My most rash purchase is the Nguni rug in the spare room (Nina); a new flat-screen TV (Scott). I could never live without my family (both). Our entertainment style is early suppers with friends and lots of children running around (Nina). When it comes to cooking Scottie makes a wonderful risotto. I’m still a bit tentative in the kitchen but I can be quite creative with salads, and I make a devilish rocky road fudge (Nina). In our fridge you’ll always find apple juice and tomato sauce – prerequisites for the children (Nina). I don’t tend to shop by designer. I usually just buy pieces which I love and respond to (Nina). The place I’m most inspired by is Cape Town, although I’m very much in love with France at the moment (Nina); Franschhoek, and Ohope in New Zealand (Scott). My favourite way to spring-clean is to go on a rampage for a few days, annoying everyone and purging every cupboard of excess, then I relax for six months and let it all accumulate again (Nina). My favourite local holiday destination is our farm near Worcester (Nina). I always take tourists for a walk in the forest and up on Table Mountain (Nina). The best spot for a lazy Sunday breakfast is Tokara wine farm (between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek; Nina).

This article was originally featured in the September 2012 issue of House and Leisure.