South Africa's Finest Decor Magazine

Country Club

A neutral palette and elegantly aged antiques give this city farmhouse a polished pastoral personality

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May 16, 2017

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Country Club
Country Club

After 20 years in the business, Ashley Judge knows a good find when she sees it. As one of the owners of the antique dealership, Take it For Granted, which she runs with her mother Lynne Grant, she’s an authority on decor, particularly when it comes to period pieces. Her home in Joburg – a spacious, casually chic assembly of monochromatic rooms – gives her expertise a platform by showing one-offs and collected treasures in the best possible light, the house’s contents almost a curated working version of the store.

The structure of the house is also Ashley and her husband, Gary’s, own vision. Working literally from the ground up, they kept only the original slab, designing and building everything exactly to their specifications, from the finishes on the walls to the windows. This is surprising to learn, given that the overall impression of the house is one of gently worn country calm rather than a new build. The calmness is, in large part, down to the neutral palette, a very conscious choice by Ashley. ‘I’ve never been a colour person,’ she comments. ‘And, also, there’s so much choice now that choosing a neutral is almost the best way to ensure that you don’t get tired of it,’ she adds. This cool palette extends from floor to ceiling – the ceilings white-painted panelling, the floors an off-white cement tile. ‘At the time we were doing the house, choices within the pale spectrum for floors were limited – veneers weren’t as good as they are now and solid wood for a space this big would have been exorbitant,’ she explains of the choice of finish, whose imperfect creamy tint gives it the impression of age.

Dark wood anchors the all-white shell of Ashley Judge’s living room. Animal hides offer texture and interest

Slipcovers — a classic country motif — are tied onto dining chairs. The solid timber table and aged urns give the space a sense of timeworn charm

The master bedroom is a fine balance of elegant details and simple finishes — plain tab-top curtains and white bed linen are made more luxe by a fur throw and crystal lamp bases

The quiet colour scheme also allows for a certain amount of messiness and the organised chaos that comes with combining provenances and periods, accommodating a broad mix. Adding and subtracting pieces – necessary for someone who deals in antiques – becomes easy because everything and anything goes. The overall effect, which Ashley describes as a ‘modern Transvaal farmhouse,’ is by no means rustic. ‘I think a lot of people equate country with a lack of sophistication, but in Europe this look is incredibly polished,’ she explains. She echoes this refinement in her home through a combination of French, English and local antiques – most of them from the store and some of them highly collectable. ‘We’ve kept some of the pieces in the house purely because they are really special – like a set of four intact matching chandeliers, which you almost never find,’ she comments.

To balance the decorative nature of some of these rarities, there are others that propose a more rugged aesthetic – Ashley is wary of anything too twee. ‘I’m not very feminine so I always lean towards black metal and wrought iron for a light fixture, for example, rather than the prettier alternatives,’ she elaborates. Likewise, wood is weathered and dark throughout, furniture is strong and solid, and occasionally studded. So, the mix, rather than coming off Provençal and pretty, is more robust and real – lovely, but in an austere, no-nonsense kind of way. But, between the simplicity of the extremes of very dark and very light, there is a range of neutrals that create complexity. Ashley has used natural artefacts liberally throughout for their richness of tone and texture. ‘The taxidermy is all antique. I especially love the little owls – they have the most beautiful coloured feathers and they’re said to bring luck,’ she says. Other log-cabin staples such as deer antlers and fur throws play up the house’s European roots, while tortoise shells and African animal hides offer an indigenous flavour.

Another nod to the local landscape is outside in the garden, where a magnificent full-size windmill turns in the breeze. ‘My husband knows I’ve always wanted a country house, so on my 40th birthday he led me out into the garden and presented it to me,’ Ashley recollects. A romantic gesture if ever there was one – but then, only fitting for someone who’s created a bona fide country house in the middle of a city.

In the pitched-roof bathroom, shutters and a slipper tub are a nod to a traditional, often European aesthetic

The verandah looks onto a lawn surrounded by a low fence and windmill

Double doors open onto the cellar

Photography Greg Cox