Peek Inside This Magical South African Home

It has the perfect spot for bubble bath stargazing.

July 28, 2021
Whether in South Africa, the coast of Australia or in the heart of London, British designer Serena Crawford is skilled at whipping up ravishing homes that exude feelings of joy and ease. Here, she walks us through one of her all-time favorite projects in her portfolio—the Georgian-style Cape Town dwelling she and her family previously called home. Brimming with handwoven rugs, antique porcelain, and luxe fabrics, this dreamy South African haven has us mesmerized, from the rooftop tub designed for star-gazing bubble baths to a romantic safari-inspired veranda.
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The facade of Crawford’s Cape Georgian house, where rustic meets traditional—an alluring contrast.

A Perfectly Imperfect Exterior

“The plaster work deliberately shows the human hand, so as you can see everything is sort of curved. There is an intentional stark contrast between the formal shape of the rounded Spekboom plants and the more rustic finishes.”

In this double height library, a pair of chairs upholstered in a lively ikat and colorful vintage carpet contrast a handsome wooden desk.

A Library For Two

“Libraries are one of our favorite rooms. My husband and I had to negotiate on what to keep in order to fit all of our books. My collection is mostly biographies, self help, spiritual, decorating and architecture books. They were all on show in this house together. It was a true marriage of our books.”

The light-filled kitchen was infused with centuries of beautiful objects. From porcelain unearthed in the vineyards of Constantia, a region outside of Cape Town, to the antique Argentinian table and ceiling constructed from old planks, the space exudes a collected and timeless spirit.

An Old World Kitchen

“The mosaic backsplash is something I’ve done twice now. I used antique shards of blue and white porcelain from the 17th and 18th centuries that had been left in the vineyards of the Cape wine lands, plus contemporary porcelain made by a potter in Zimbabwe that I broke. I just keep collecting my broken blue and white. I’m almost ready for my third backsplash! I also love using an antique table as an island, as I’m not crazy about islands. Why not use a lovely old table? This is a laundry table from Argentina. I never have over-head cupboards—only open shelves. They are quite a lot of work but I find it’s worth it.”

Dubbed “The Africa Room” by Serena’s children, this safari-inspired veranda opens onto the garden overlooking an original bronze Porcellino statue. In the evening, the room would be illuminated by candles and a roaring fire.

An Indoor-Outdoor Oasis

“I grew up in Johannesburg where everyone lives outside on their verandas, so I always create outdoor rooms that open out onto a garden. In this room, we had to put in a door as the wind in Cape Town comes up in the summer and makes it too breezy at night. You’ll notice the reeded ceiling along with the hand-done plastering, two things that are very South African. The rug was actually hand plaited on a friend’s farm in Zimbabwe and is a wonderful piece.”

A Rustic Chic Bedroom

“I painted the reeded ceiling white so it didn’t feel too rustic with the French antique chandelier. The walls were done by hand so there were curved corners and no straight lines. I love featuring the artisans and craftsmen of this world. The white rugs are made by women in marginalized communities in the Karoo, while my bedside lamp is made by a metal artist who lives nearby.”

It’s all about the sky for this outdoor oasis.

En Plein Air Bathroom

“I always build outdoor bathrooms and this one was my fourth! I love to see the sun and stars and watch the birds and the clouds drift by in the sky. The most wonderful birds would put on quite the show.”