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Bloom Time

Text Leigh Robertson Styling Sven Alberding Photographs Mark Williams To step inside Andrea Graff’s Victorian cottage on a quiet, pretty road in Cape Town’s Green Point is to get a sense that you’ve known this glamorous and vivacious interior designer with the trademark berry-red lips and wicked sense of humour for years and years. The home makes you feel instantly welcome and at ease, its eccentric corners and clever pieces encourage laughter and conversation, and you can’t help but openly admire the homeowner’s flair when it comes to pulling a look together, whether it’s the outfit she’s wearing or the way she’s craftily layered patterns and textures in a room. The house that Andy (as she’s known to her friends, old and new) shares with her partner, James Hannah, a rising star in the realm of South African furniture design, appears deceptively small from the outside, yet is amazingly voluminous within. It boasts enough space to double as a studio and showcase for Andy’s work while still affording its occupants plenty of room to manoeuvre. Originally from Johannesburg, and ‘a city girl’ at heart, Andy was drawn to Cape Town for work prospects, setting up a business with fellow interior designer Richard Lankester. When Richard moved to London, she continued on her own, with high-profile projects taking her across Africa and abroad ever since. She settled on a house on the Atlantic Seaboard as it was close to all the action on which she thrives. ‘I wouldn’t change this for anything,’ says Andy, opening French doors to reveal an expansive sun-dappled courtyard – so tranquil you’d never imagine this part of the suburb was sandwiched between two busy thoroughfares. With no structural changes required, all Andy did was fit cupboards throughout and splurge on specially mixed colours for the walls. She left the Oregon floors unpainted ‘for the time being’. With its open-plan lounge, dining room and kitchen, two generous bedrooms and studio (not to forget the luxury of three bathrooms), she had lots to play with, imprinting her bold but easy-going style all around her. ‘My home is totally representative of who I am as a person,’ she says. ‘I love mixing and layering, juxtaposing new with vintage, whether it’s my clothes or my house – like wearing a Marithé François Girbaud dress with a Mr Price T-shirt underneath!’ With Andy, there’s always an element of surprise. Having a penchant for animal print, she’s added flashes of tiger stripes on an ottoman here, a pile of fluffy cushions there, while, in the lounge, a zebra skin makes an appearance alongside gorgeous offbeat hues and clashing patterns. A vast electric-blue velvet sofa is where the couple loves to hang out, watching episodes of Mad Men and Underbelly. For as much as the house presents Andy’s design approach to prospective clients, it’s first and foremost home. ‘Everything is lived in,’ she says. ‘We love being at home.’ The house has of course evolved over time. When James moved in a year ago, he brought with him not just his surfboard and his Staffie, Balthazar, but also several desirable items of furniture – such as an original Alvar Aalto chair and footstool – which Andy couldn’t wait to merge with her own, as well as James’s covetable modernist-inspired creations, like his sleek Scandinavianish table. One subject that has Andy enthusing is her growing art collection, which includes works by Bridget Baker, Maré Van Noordwyk, Arlene Amaler-Raviv and Dale Yudelman – plus eight Cecil Skotnes pieces that her parents gave her. Taking pride of place is a huge painting by Wendy Anziska, which, if you didn’t know better, you’d think was a portrait of Andy’s own rouged pout (it’s ‘Marilyn’s Lips’ … as in Monroe, which is somehow just as appropriate).  

Andy and James's Home Truths

The best thing about spring is Capetonians coming alive (Andy); the longer days ( James). My best tip for an instant spring makeover is re-style, move art and objets, and repaint (Andy). I’m inspired by books, travel and fantastic, genuine people (Andy); being in Cape Town and doing what I love – designing and making furniture (James). Living where we do is great because it’s cosmopolitan (Andy); it’s quaint and central ( James). I collect old tapestries and anything interesting from flea markets – one of my favourites is Milnerton Market ( James); books, art and handbags (Andy). My favourite room is our bedroom. It’s really feminine but luckily James loves it too – it’s me! I love lying on my bed with all my magazines and my books – it’s the equivalent of having an aromatherapy massage (Andy). Our entertaining style is relaxed and chilled, all eating around the table (James); I can cook but don’t – I set a fab table and clean up superbly. My mom taught me well (Andy). Our favourite local dining spots are Pizzeria in Sea Point (Andy); Dias Tavern ( James).   Andrea Graff Interior Design, 021-433-0663, andreagraff.com. JBH Design, jbhdesign.co.za.   This article originally appeared in the September 2010 issue of House and Leisure.