Matt textures, layered tablescapes and whispers of earthy colour provided by nature and set against bone white make for a serene Christmas setting.
Create your most serene Christmas setting yet
Ableached-out palette, raw finishes and an aesthetic that borders on the monastic are the hallmarks of this captivating Cape Town home. What makes this sanctuary-like habitat even more remarkable – given the complete absence of bright colours or lustrous textures – is that its owner, Algria Ferreira-Watling, is one of South Africa’s most in-demand make-up artists whose portfolio of clients includes Solange Knowles and Charlize Theron. It would be fair to assume that someone in the business of ‘painting faces’, as she refers to her artistry, would have a predilection for colour as well as materials and objects underpinned by a glamorous artifice. But she has always had a rebel spirit, typified not only by a look that is pared-down, fresh and innately edgy, but also her instinctive rejection of trends, mass consumerism and aspirational yearnings.
Bare walls in bone and grey hues, original wooden features that have been sanded down and left unvarnished, a limited but meaningful selection of personal effects and decorative objects displayed in thoughtful vignettes as well as low-key luxuries in the form of candles that perfume the air and gently worn pure linen throws culminate in a whole that is effortlessly layered and emotionally affecting. The source of Ferreira-Watling’s inspiration can be traced to her childhood: “I come from a poor background. We didn’t have material possessions, but there was always so much love,” she explains. “I work in an industry founded largely on traditional notions of beauty and consumption, but I’ve never desired ‘things’. My dream was only ever to live with my family in a modest house that had a feeling of tranquility. Why would I desire a palace when what I have is perfect?”
While Ferreira-Watling purposely keeps the house in a state of visual consistency throughout the year, Christmas brings the chance to create a seasonal atmosphere for her husband Derek, son Dax and close friends and family – a mood that is festive while staying true to her serene aesthetic. No flashy store-bought trinkets or tinsel here, no pine or fir in the corner of the living room, and no table centrepieces composed of roses, poinsettias or hydrangeas. Instead, the customary tones and accoutrement are substituted by the muted greens and otherworldly forms of native plant sprigs and woody herbs displayed as free-form wreaths, floating in repurposed glass bottles holding elegant taper candles. Gifts are wrapped simply in white or brown paper and finished with twine. Traces of shimmer – this is Christmas after all – serve to highlight rather than overwhelm: a fine dusting of edible copper glitter on a ‘naked’ cake; gold craft wire binding foliage garlands left hanging from doorknobs; dried protea flowers and blue gum seed pods spray-painted in antique gold; and vintage King’s Pattern cutlery, polished only slightly to retain its mottled patina. “Things found in nature, objects that have had many lives already, the soft wrinkle in a piece of linen… this is a constant source of inspiration for me,” says FerreiraWatling. “Christmas calls for luxury, but there’s no right or wrong interpretation of what that means. Faded and evocative or full-on and festive, as long as what you see
makes you happy.”
“Christmas calls for luxury, but there’s no right or wrong interpretation of what that means.”
Above: This Christmas tree is an agave flower, given a coat of gold paint and ‘planted’ in a glass vase filled with beach sand. Gifts are wrapped in brown paper and plain newsprint that has been scrunched into balls then flattened to mimic crushed linen. They are finished with loosely wrapped twine, woody herb sprigs and gold-painted seed pods. Opposite: Wine and cordial bottles are filled with water and foliage sprigs, then used as candleholders. Seed pods are painted antique gold to add a bit of understated bling. The tablescape is anchored by an oversized linen tablecloth. Rough- edged linen napkins are tied with twine and pillar candles are wrapped in gold craft wire. Monastic benches and vintage wire garden furniture, gently rusted by the elements, provide seating. The whimsical wall garland is found flora, lashed together with twine and gold craft wire.