Whether they’re strolling through sun-dappled orchards in late afternoon light, nestling on sofas before a crackling fire, or diving into the dam a short walk from their farmhouse, for homeowners Margot and James Gilfillan the borders on their farm between indoors and out feel diaphanous. Daily life for the couple and their three daughters weaves through the home’s many French doors, like a tracking shot that captures everyday domestic scenes set against a backdrop of floral patterns and abundant greenery – ever visible through open sash windows – beckoning the family outside. This gossamer-like connectedness hasn’t always characterized life on the farm. On the original homestead, spaces felt disconnected: there were separate entertainment and sitting rooms, narrow passageways, a dark kitchen at the back of the structure, and small windows that restricted views to the outside.
Situated less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town, in the Elgin Valley – South Africa’s apple country – the farm was originally purchased as a place where Margot’s father could retire. But the appeal of country living for the then suburban-dwelling family couldn’t be ignored. In no time at all, the farm’s unoccupied homestead became a weekend and holiday retreat for the Gilfillans and their friends. Soon after, the family agreed to relocate.
As life in their newly renovated home settled into routine – weekly commutes for James to his city workplace, homework for the girls followed by horseback riding lessons (all three are competitive equestriennes), and the daily administrations of a working farm – Margot tasked renowned landscape designer Franchesca Watson with bringing her ideals of a romantic garden to life. Stepped across three levels, Watson’s planting includes a lawn fringed with delicate grasses and flowers that bloom in shades of purple, pink and white. The primary suite leads onto a much wilder, grassy meadow. This wildness intensifies as the garden steps down to a pool level, and once more to dam level where the planting surrounding the jetty is defined by low-maintenance shrubs and dense plantings of agapanthus.
Having grown up accompanying her mother to household auctions, Margot’s tendency to collect is apparent throughout the home, with restored secondhand cabinets, servers, cupboards and tables housing her collections of vintage crockery, silverware, books and collectibles. “My approach to decorating is instinctual and nostalgic, and I have always been sensitive to how a home makes me feel.”
Photography by Karl Rogers.
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