A Confident Redo Gives New Life To A Grand Dame Of A House In Cape Town

Have you ever driven repeatedly past an old house in your neighborhood, thinking, ‘I wonder who lives there?’ and ‘What would I do if that place were mine?’ That is precisely what happened to interior designer Charlotte Collins, who became fascinated with a beautiful old heritage home in the City Bowl neighborhood of Cape Town. Eventually, she persuaded the home’s elderly owner to part with it several years ago.

Besides the home’s period charm, there was its hard-to-beat location. Situated just across the road from historic Leeuwenhof – the official residence of the premier of the Western Cape province – the property also sports views of Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Signal Hill and the harbor: a full 360-degree panorama of some of Cape Town’s most picturesque landmarks on one of the area’s oldest suburban streets.

The house was one of the first to be built in the neighborhood, shares Collins. “I have a picture of the street showing a horse and cart on it – the premier’s residence hadn’t even been built yet.” This historic aspect of the property was part of the heritage home’s attraction for her and why, when she started renovating, she says, “I tried to make everything look like it was original to the house.”

Sadly, much of the interior was in a terrible state. Collins, with her teenage daughter Willow (who is now 17) and their four large rescue dogs, moved into the quickly renovated pool house – now a charming guest suite – and lived there as the renovation went on in the main building. “I basically gutted the entire house,” she notes. The flow of the spaces needed to be updated and modernized, and some of the original wooden flooring had to be completely replaced. And then there was the bathroom which reminded her of “the one from that scene in the film ‘Trainspotting’!” It, too, had to be completely renovated and updated with all new fittings.

From the start, Collins – who, before going into interior design, worked as a stylist on photographic and film shoots – knew precisely what she was after in terms of the look and feel of every room in her home. Plus, her experience of being “perpetually out there looking for stuff for shoots” meant that she already had a well-populated black book of resources when it came to finding just the right fixtures and furnishings for each space.

The vast majority of these items are pre-loved pieces, including architectural salvage elements. “I naturally gravitate to items with history as they were just better made back in the day, and I love thinking about who used them before,” Collins explains. Most of the vintage light fittings were found in a little antique shop that sadly no longer exists, deep in the suburbs on the other side of the city. Unsurprisingly, she is also a loyal customer of Milnerton Market, one of Cape Town’s most famous weekend flea markets, and from which the vintage telephones lining the stairwell were carefully collected week by week.

“The house suits us perfectly. It now has a great flow and is very manageable for our needs, if perhaps probably a bit too big! And we are right in the city, even though it is very leafy and has great walks.” With its blend of enviable location, heritage atmosphere and airy, contemporary interior cool, this home is a charming reflection of its owners’ multifaceted life and style.

Photography by Warren Heath. Styling by Sven Alberding.

For more like this Cape Town home, be sure to check out this historic home, filled with found treasures.

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