A cottage in South Africa filled with found and collected antiques
When interior designer Charlotte Collins found a charming cottage to renovate and ‘flip’, she couldn’t have predicted she’d fall in love and make it her own. Production Sven Alberding, Photographs Greg Cox/Bureaux
Charlotte Collins’ charming cottage in Greyton, South Africa, epitomises the look for which the interior designer is known: gently worn sophistication, a perfect blend of found and collected antique and vintage furniture set against a backdrop of original decorative details, and clever additions designed to look as though they’ve been there forever.
When Charlotte first visited the tiny town of Greyton, some two-and-a-half hours from Cape Town, buying a cottage was not part of the plan, she says. ‘I was there to help a friend of mine with the interior of her home,’ she explains, adding that, having spotted the cottage for sale, her original intention was to ‘flip’ the property.
‘But as I got further into the project and spent more time in the village I decided I’d keep it as a weekend spot. Greyton is that quintessential country village,’ she adds. ‘When I go into the hardware store they all ask how I am. Everyone is very friendly and knows your name.’
The property was a very simple affair when Charlotte first saw it: ‘literally a box with one room off to the side for the bedroom, one bathroom and a living area’. Above this there was an empty roofspace, which has been cleverly used to create extra rooms.
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‘It took me just under a year to bring it to where it is now.’ Today, the cottage has everything a weekend bolthole needs – enough bedrooms and bathrooms for guests, a generous fireplace around which to gather, a simply furnished open-plan kitchen and dining area and a pretty garden outside.
Charlotte’s clients range from private individuals to big commercial projects, and this experience has made her both fearless and resourceful when it comes to design. And in this project, the newly installed staircase is a perfect example of her ingenuity.
‘I wanted it to look like it’s been there for a hundred years, so I bought new scaffolding planks off Gumtree and traded them with builders across Cape Town for their old, worn planks.’ Her carpenter then used them to build the staircase leading up to the newly created rooms in the roof.
‘I wanted to create what you would imagine the perfect little country cottage to look like, and I love how it really reflects my love of all things salvaged. I really feel that items with history can conjure up such a wonderful mood,’ she says.
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When it came to decoration, finding the right colour palette that felt true to Charlotte’s ideal of rural bliss was not without its trials. The wood-panelled back wall in the living room – another clever old-yet-new addition – is painted in the perfect shade of green for a home with historic appeal.
‘I took 10 tester pots to find it and it was the last one I tried. In the pot it looked totally wrong, but I was so sick of the process I thought “let’s give it a go anyway” and, lo and behold, it was the colour I had been searching for. Everyone who visits is now obsessed with it.’
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While Charlotte’s colour choices – along with finding the cottage in the first place – sound like strokes of luck, there’s no doubt that the end results are a consequence of her extraordinary vision and determination to bring her ideas to fruition.
It’s the same pioneering spirit that led farmers to these rural parts hundreds of years ago, and Charlotte to a house ‘that may only have been a year or so in the making, but feels like it already holds generations of happy memories’.
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