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WATCH: Inside actress Rolanda Marais mid-century Cape Town family home

Following her passion for plants, antiques and local design

By Piet Smedy  | September 29, 2021 | Living Room

Following her passion for plants, antiques and local design.

’This is one of my favourite corners in the house. All The plants make me feel as if I am in a jungle,’ says Rolanda. The artwork is by Rolanda’s father and the dining room chair and table are by Houtlander.

Rolanda Marais and her husband, director Jozua Malherbe, were first introduced to their now art- and plant-filled, mid-century family home by a friend, shortly after leaving Joburg for the leafy Northern Suburbs of Cape Town. The couple was renting just around the corner and, as luck would have it, it was not long before the house was listed. ‘We went to have a look at it and fell in love,’ says Rolanda – and that was that. ‘I love the clean lines, the abundance of timber and glass to let in natural light and the overall aesthetic,’ says Rolanda of her home’s retro appeal. ‘Perhaps it is because I grew up in that era and recognise a lot of the pieces or maybe it is something from a previous life, I do not know, I am just instinctively drawn to it.

Photographer: Greg Cox

’But, as anyone who has ever taken ownership of an older house can attest, it is hardly ever a case of unpack and go. ‘The house needed a lot of work; it had been a rental for eight years, so it was in desperate need of maintenance but the structure and the personality were there. It had solid bones with some amazing architectural moments, it just needed the right owners,’ she says.

Rather than gut the house, the couple decided to work with the existing architectural features, maintaining its mid-century integrity, and focused instead on restoration rather than renovation to achieve the home’s full potential. ‘It has a beautiful flow to it, so we didn’t have to break through any walls,’ explains Rolanda, ‘We simply gave it a lick of paint, screed the tiled floors and replaced some of the more obstructive or outdated elements.’ These would come to include swapping wooden panelling for glass in the entrance hall to allow in more light, as well as installing a pink front door and decking outside, which extended the living and entertaining areas. The kitchen, however, would prove to be Rolanda and Jozua’s biggest endeavour. The cupboards were completely replaced with upcycled, colourfully painted boards while new oak knobs and countertops were added. ‘I would pin our success to working with the aesthetic and personality of a house,’ she says.

With the macro issues resolved, it was time to hone in on the interiors, which Rolanda did in her characteristic brand of casual cool. ‘My favourite space in the house is the central, double-volume area, which comprises the kitchen, dining and living areas, ’she says. As you enter the house you see this big, open space, which is just so inviting and, as the sun moves through it, the light falls on different areas – it is pure magic.’ Central to Rolanda’s style is an appreciation for local designers – from the craftsmanship of Houtlander’s wooden pieces to Renée Rossouw’s bold cushions (As much as I love and appreciate monochrome, minimalist spaces, I just cannot help myself. Colour makes me happy.’) – and artists – you will spot names such as Michael Taylor, Laurinda Belcher, Lucie de Moyencourt and Francis Goodman on her walls. ‘I buy pieces instinctively, but always have an idea where it will work,’ she says, ‘Sometimes I just buy a piece because it speaks or makes me smile.’

Photographer: Greg Cox

Of course, when you share your home with a four-year-old (in this case, Charlotte, the couple’s daughter) practicality can never be too far out of mind, ergo the darker palette (messy hands) and soft furniture pieces that favour rounded corners (to curtail any serious head-bump injuries). ‘I feel a house should be a place where my child can jump on the couch and play and have fun, it is her house too, and I want her to enjoy it as much as we do,’ says Rolanda. ‘I will replace the couches once she is big, but for now, it must be comfortable for everyone and, yes, she jumps on sofas and builds forts and we make Christmas beds for movie night. I think people feel that relaxed, happy energy when they enter the house.’

Photographer: Greg Cox

In the kitchen, the blue artwork is by Laurinda Belcher, the pink and black work was a gift from family friend Francesco Nassimbeni.

Photographer: Greg Cox