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A Theatre Director's Higgovale Home is an Eclectic Menagerie of Colour

This eclectic Cape Town home is a paradise for lovers of colour and classic furnishings

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By Piet Smedy | January 13, 2024 | Interiors

Set against the slopes of Table Mountain, a film and theatre director's eclectic home acts as an extension of his personality, filled with vibrant colour and design pieces collected over a lifetime of travel.

The conservatory style living room with an eclectic mix of art, including a work by Kilmany-Jo Liversage. Photography by Greg Cox.

It's hard to believe, but there was a time that the now sought-after enclave of Higgovale, with its palatial homes dotting the mountainside, was a no-go for property buyers. Today it's a different story entirely, with the area's real estate - if you can find any on the market - going for eye-watering sums. Nobody wanted to live in this 'hood and all the houses that were here hadn't been touched in decades,' says Welsh actor, director, and writer Sean Mathias, who bought his home over two decades ago. That's what was so attractive about it - I could break new ground. But that's ancient history now!'

The dining room, which leads off of the main living area, includes a large Weylandts hanging light, lilac slipcover chairs and, on the table, a 'Sines' paper mache vase in white from La Grange Interiors. Photography by Greg Cox

And break ground he did, transforming the former dairy farm homestead and adjacent storeroom by consolidating the two with the introduction of a conservatory-style entrance into the interstice of the two structures, followed by a sensitive update of the interiors and the unification of architectural and natural spaces. 'It has always been important that the house should have a modern feeling whilst retaining its character, and that the garden be sympathetic to and a big part of the house as it adjoins the building to Table Mountain National Park, he says.

A work by Jordan Sweke connects the master bedroom with a light filled study area, which features a Weylandts hanging light. Photography by Greg Cox.

Inside, however, Sean's style takes a decidedly autobiographical bent, with each room presenting a snapshot of an avid collector's well travelled life. The mix and the variety is a reflection of me; he says. 'I started collecting in the junk shops of Brighton when I was 17 and have been collecting ever since. I often think I only have homes so that I am able to curate all the gorgeous things that I have found. I have certainly been peripatetic for five decades now and rarely settled anywhere for long.

A guest bathroom evokes a distinctly cottagecore feeling, with floral wall fabric and a vintage pendant light. Photography by Greg Cox

Having lived in London, New York and Cape Town over the years (among others, the list goes on), afforded Sean the opportunity to amass an impressive collection of art and design pieces of varied provenance, from neighbourhood markets to art galleries. Despite their mostly unplanned accrual, the eclectic ensemble works in unexpected harmony, something Sean attributes to part instinct, part technique, part experience - and a dollop of mystery.

“The house definitely appeals to the non-beige; anyone with a TWINKLE in their eye would appreciate the PLAYFULNESS of the spaces”

“I am a theatre and film director so I spend my life making compositions,” he explains. “And it's not just the art, but also the assortment of furniture pieces - from European mid-century to contemporary African - that deliver one wow-factor moment after another. 'The most important thing to me in a home are the beds and sofas and chaise-longues. I am a very fidgety person but if I do relax I want to be as comfy as possible' he says. 'It is good to recline from time to time.”

As the sun sets, the home transforms into a glimmering jewel box of gem tones. Photography by Greg Cox.

As with any collection built on a love for the process, the viewer one is wont to analyse, to find clues as to the psychological makeup of the collector - and Sean is quick to proffer his own insights. I honestly think it's to do with vivacity. Certain pieces spring to life in front of my eyes and those are the pieces I choose to live with, he says. I go for subject and colour primarily and tend to lean more toward the abstract, but certainly painting is my favourite art form. I have rarely bought sculptures and don't see the point of installations as I would not know how to live with them, unfortunately. I have never had favourites as that would involve a pecking order and I simply cannot sell things. So I just settled for loving them all.

A 'Wassily' chair with a 'Gia' ceramic vase from La Grange Interiors on a ceramic coffee table from Block & Chisel. Photography by Greg Cox.

Of course, good design is always best when shared and Sean has recently made his home available (exclusively through luxury rental platform Art House Collection) to guests looking for an out-of-the-ordinary stay when visiting Cape Town. The house definitely appeals to the non-beige; anyone with a twinkle in their eye would appreciate the playfulness of the spaces, he says. "The lovely thing about modern travel is you can stay in others' homes for a brief sojourn. You may not love everything somebody has done with their place but for a short while you can see the world through their eyes - that's very liberating. •

Karabo House is available to rent through Art House Collection.