Let­ter to the past

The old-world charm of this 18th-cen­tury post of­fice is com­ple­mented by its cur­rent owner’s col­lec­tion of rare an­tiques, unique fur­ni­ture and quirky cu­rios

ELLE Decoration (UK) - - Front Page - Words ALI MOR­RIS Pho­tog­ra­phy WAR­REN HEATH/LIV­ING IN­SIDE Styling SVEN ALBERDING/BU­REAUX.CO. ZA

An­tiques and hand­made fur­nish­ings com­ple­ment the charm­ing 18th-cen­tury fea­tures of this for­mer vil­lage post of­fice

Cra­dled by the ma­jes­tic Klein­riv­ier moun­tains, Stan­ford is a quiet South African out­post an hourand-a-half’s drive from Cape Town. Tempted by its stun­ning scenery and laid-back life­style, artist and in­te­rior de­signer Cobus van Niek­erk moved here 16 years ago. He opened his an­tiques shop, The Stan­ford Trad­ing Store, and made this for­mer post of­fice, sit­u­ated op­po­site the vil­lage church, his home. As soon as he moved in, he set about rip­ping out the new kitchen, false ply­wood ceil­ings and car­pets that the pre­vi­ous owner had in­stalled. ‘The builders thought I was mad,’ he re­calls, ‘ but when the ren­o­va­tions re­vealed the beau­ti­ful orig­i­nal ceil­ings and ar­chi­tec­tural fea­tures that had long been hid­den, they changed their minds. The build­ing dates back to 1760, which is very old for South Africa.’

From the street, vis­i­tors ar­rive at a long colon­naded porch that Cobus calls his ‘stoop’, be­cause it re­minds him of the en­trance to an old-fash­ioned guest­house. This wel­com­ing out­door room has a clas­sic che­quer­board tiled floor and is fur­nished with flea-mar­ket trea­sures and Cobus’s own cre­ations, in­clud­ing metal fur­ni­ture and a lan­tern that hangs low over a small din­ing ta­ble.

In­side, the prop­erty’s T-shaped lay­out al­lows for clear views from one end of the house to the other, and Cobus’ col­lec­tions of an­tique fur­ni­ture and ephemera are beau­ti­fully com­posed against a neu­tral back­drop of wooden floor­boards, nat­u­ral ce­ment walls and re­claimed Car­rara mar­ble sur­faces. Sev­eral of the rooms are painted in a dark char­coal shade that en­hances the sense of warmth and in­ti­macy. ‘The walls were white for many years – I can’t quite be­lieve I waited so long to paint them black,’ he says. ‘It brings an in­cred­i­ble rich­ness to the space.’

Many years have passed since Cobus moved to Stan­ford, but he re­mains hap­pily en­trenched in the post of­fice with Se­un­tjie, his Ir­ish ter­rier, whose name means ‘ boy’ in Afrikaans. He ad­mits, how­ever, to re­lent­lessly re­ar­rang­ing his home: he plans to build an­other floor (a stair­case has al­ready been in­stalled in readi­ness for the project), and is in the process of mov­ing his shop into his home stu­dio. ‘I love to play around with beau­ti­ful things,’ says Cobus of the world that he has cre­ated around him. ‘I guess I’m still a lit­tle boy play­ing with his match­box cards – that’s where this pas­sion for col­lect­ing all be­gan.’

‘I like an old-world feel as it puts me at ease. It’s the mem­o­ries of peo­ple who lived, used and worked with a piece that make it spe­cial. Still, I’m not pre­cious about any of it – if some­thing breaks, I won’t cry about it’

‘I can’t be­lieve I waited so long to paint the walls black. It brings an in­cred­i­ble rich­ness to the space’

A back­drop of nat­u­ral ce­ment walls and Car­rara mar­ble sur­faces al­lows Cobus’s col­lec­tions to shine

Porch This out­door room is fur­nished with vin­tage finds and metal fur­ni­ture de­signed by home­owner Cobus (pic­tured) – he cre­ated the ‘Mod­ernistic Lad­der’ chair and the lan­tern hang­ing over the ta­ble. For sim­i­lar gar­den fur­ni­ture in the UK, try Vi­o­let Grey.

This page The cir­cu­lar Ge­or­gian rose­wood ta­ble, a fam­ily heir­loom, takes pride of place in the open-plan liv­ing space. The two modern chairs are sec­ond-hand – the ‘Fil’ chairs by Ligne Roset at Heal’s are sim­i­lar. A se­lec­tion of Cobus’s own al­abaster urn

Din­ing room A World War II steel hel­met used as a cloche sits on the side­board. The ma­hogany ta­ble is orig­i­nally from Eng­land (try Elis­a­beth James An­tiques for pieces). Above the door­way to the kitchen is a sal­vaged Vic­to­rian ceil­ing plate: painted white,

Kitchen A shelf made from rus­tic tim­ber dis­plays the home­owner’s col­lec­tion of cop­per pans (John Lewis has a good se­lec­tion of new cop­per cook­ware). The is­land is topped with Car­rara mar­ble and the pen­dant light is made from two basins and a cock­tail shak

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