mag­i­cal re­al­ism

In­side the Over­berg home that’s pi­o­neer­ing a ca­sual ap­proach to Vic­to­rian rus­tic


In stan­ford, an­tiques col­lec­tor Cobus van niek­erk’s Vic­to­rian home re­flects his pas­sion

As an avid col­lec­tor and a pur­veyor of decor and fur­ni­ture, it’s only nat­u­ral that Cobus van niek­erk be­comes at­tached to some of the pieces he finds at auc­tions or by chance in ex­otic lo­cales. But for the most part, once he’s had his fill of en­joy­ment, he’s happy to pass on his finds to those who visit his iconic an­tiques and col­lecta­bles shop, based at his home in stan­ford in the over­berg. ‘I like to “play” with the items I find, mix them up and move them around. I’m not a snob or a purist when it comes to putting a re­gency piece with 1960s chairs. In fact, that’s what I love to do. and once I’m ready to move on, then that’s it – good­bye,’ he laughs. of course he’s at­tached to some key fur­ni­ture items that he’s had for many years and a cur­rent ob­ses­sion with urns of all shapes, sizes and ma­te­ri­als doesn’t look set to abate any­time soon, but pre­cious he is not.

Like Cobus’s many and var­ied aes­thetic in­ter­ests and pas­sions, so his home has had nu­mer­ous in­car­na­tions. While orig­i­nal deeds and plans to this his­tor­i­cal dwelling have proven im­pos­si­ble to un­cover, he es­ti­mates that it was built in the late 1700s, which in south african terms is very old. ‘I have a feel­ing that it was the orig­i­nal manor house for the vil­lage. It’s much older than the other houses here,’ says Cobus, who ex­plains that it has been ev­ery­thing from a post of­fice in the 1920s to the lo­cal tele­phone ex­change and even a small li­brary. a‘ truck would come up from Cape Town ev­ery month with new nov­els for the book­starved res­i­dents,’ he says.

Cobus has lived in stan­ford for 20 years – orig­i­nally he in­tended to use his escape as a week­end home but the al­lure of vil­lage life proved too strong and he moved here per­ma­nently. ‘grow­ing up in the six­ties, we al­ways lived in mod­ern homes, yet as an adult I longed for an old space, I sup­pose be­cause it re­minded me of happy times spent with my grand­par­ents at their Ka­roo home,’ he says. on en­ter­ing the home from the street, an en­trance hall-come-re­cep­tion room awaits, with Cobus’s shop peel­ing off to the right and his liv­ing space to the left. ‘The house is the shape of an up­side down T, with the cross sec­tion on the street side and the long, ver­ti­cal arm run­ning away from the street.’ This means that each of

the liv­ing spa­ces, from re­cep­tion room to kitchen, lead off from one an­other. The un­usual de­sign is typ­i­cal of older houses and works per­fectly for Cobus, who has dec­o­rated his space to re­veal a se­ries of visual de­lights as you delve fur­ther into the house. adding to the sense of visual theatre is his dar­ing use of colour. ‘When I first bought the place, I painted ev­ery­thing white. The builders were hor­ri­fied that

I was wreck­ing valu­able yel­low­wood and ore­gon pine, but more re­cently I de­cided to go with black walls and I love it,’ he says. It’s no surprise he’s so en­am­oured with his paint choice. rather than make his home seem gloomy, it brings a sense of drama to the equa­tion and his an­tiques and cu­rated col­lec­tions pop against the new back­drop.

The en­trance re­cep­tion area is dom­i­nated by a mag­nif­i­cent georgian-era ta­ble and high-gloss fi­bre­glass chairs. It’s here that Cobus spends much of his time scrib­bling down ideas and hatch­ing his plans. From here one is drawn into a sit­ting room with door­ways framed by rather the­atri­cal drapes on ei­ther side of an im­pos­ing fire­place lead­ing into the din­ing room and be­yond that to the kitchen. still fur­ther into the home is Cobus’s rather more as­cetic bed­room, a far less dec­o­rated space com­pared to the rest of the house – in­ten­tion­ally so, he says.

as a di­rect jux­ta­po­si­tion to the black­painted in­te­ri­ors, Cobus’s stu­dio and shop is a white-painted, light-filled space. It’s here that this con­sum­mate col­lec­tor’s eclec­tic and ever-chang­ing cornucopia of quirky finds and dec­o­ra­tive ob­jects are on dis­play and for sale. ‘I stud­ied art and art his­tory so I know my an­tiques but I re­ally am not too pre­cious about what I buy, dec­o­rate with and sell,’ he says, and it seems his unique ap­proach and eye work be­cause he turns stock at a rate of knots.

Cobus’s shop used to be a prom­i­nent fix­ture on stan­ford’s Queen Vic­to­ria street. now that he’s moved it into his home, and know­ing his pen­chant for cre­at­ing visual theatre, there’s no doubt his home will be­come even more of a fas­ci­nat­ing draw­card for lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike.

left, from top the din­ing room is painted the same hue as the rest of the house; Cobus’s stu­dio and shop play host to some of his urns and a paint­ing done by him

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