Stonecrest – one of the superbly unaltered Edwardian Arts and Crafts houses on the Westcliff Ridge in Johannesburg – is called after the carved stone crest, excessive on its red-brick façade. Set above two tall, gracefully arched home windows, the crest encompasses a noble-looking hound at its centre.
‘One early proprietor, I used to be advised, had 17 canine,’ says Annabelle Desfontaines, who has lived right here for the previous 30-odd years and might nonetheless keep in mind strolling up the driveway for the primary time as a younger lady together with her coronary heart pounding. She has a few hounds who look similar to the one on the crest, which provides a wierd sense of timelessness to the way in which she and her household inhabit Stonecrest – it appears they may all the time have been right here.
The home was inbuilt 1902 and, other than just a few alterations by none apart from the grasp of colonial structure, Herbert Baker, in 1911, and later, in 1935, by Cowin & Ellis, it retains the spirit of its age. It’s a classical colonial Arts and Crafts mansion – half nation pile, half suburban grande dame, half citadel on a hill.
The terraced gardens fall away in order that the bedrooms really feel as if they’re among the many treetops and the views carry the attention over Joburg’s city forest – The Randlords, Johannesburg’s turn-of-the-century mining magnates and captains of business, appreciated to really feel they had been masters of all they surveyed.
The home is a splendidly eccentric maze of rooms organized over a number of ranges. On the bottom flooring, in addition to 4 reception rooms that lead into each other, there’s a devoted breakfast room simply off the kitchen, and a wing with a sequence of rooms which Annabelle thinks will need to have been the butler’s suite.
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There’s additionally a wood-panelled research with a carved stone fireplace, which leads by means of to an enormous eating room. Upstairs there are bedrooms, sunrooms, attics and landings. ‘There are 12 fireplaces,’ says Annabelle, including that they’re all in working order.
These previous mansions have often been renovated past recognition; successive generations attempting to ‘priss them up’ says Annabelle. She has accomplished no such factor. And it was the popularity that Stonecrest’s unique options and character had been intact that had set her coronary heart pounding when she walked up the drive all these years in the past.
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‘I really like the options of previous homes and, due to that, I didn’t wish to come into an previous home and make it new,’ she explains. ‘That’s why I say, for me, it’s not a case of attempting to make it good. It’s [about] preserving it in state of restore, so all the pieces is effectively cared for and effectively taken care of, however not attempting to do cosmetic surgery. One wants the imperfections to indicate the historical past, in any other case it simply turns into one other bland, good home.’
The options are grand: wooden panelling and flooring, bay home windows and mouldings all intact. Standing within the eating room, she factors out, ‘This wallpaper right here is the unique wallpaper from after we moved in 31 years in the past. Most of it’s nonetheless in good situation, and, though there’s a little bit of injury right here and there, I simply find it irresistible. I feel it’s so stunning. I wouldn’t wish to have to vary it.’
Other than including the odd bathtub and bathe, the home has remained unchanged beneath Annabelle’s care. Actually, when Annabelle has ended up sanding skirtings or door frames so as to add a recent layer of paint, she’s stopped earlier than she’s received to the portray section, preferring the way in which the sanding has revealed the layers of historical past and proof of the passage of time.
‘There’s a century of paint and life and power and individuals who have been by means of this home,’ she says. ‘It’s so stunning – why would I paint it a flat color?’
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In addition to being a household dwelling – ‘I’ve received 4 youngsters,’ says Annabelle – Stonecrest has served as a base for Annabelle’s classic style retailer, Wizards Classic, which has operated from a number of the receptions rooms.
Annabelle has additionally held trunk exhibits and hosted the occasional occasion – small weddings and the occasional fiftieth party. One wing has been run as a B&B for some years. The home is sufficiently big for visitors to return and go as they please, undisturbed and undetected.
However quite than make everlasting alterations, Annabelle has merely reinvented the areas from the within. ‘I make them acceptable for what is occurring on the time and in that room,’ she says. Her method to furnishing has been equally free and spontaneous – a type of eclecticism during which the variations in type, period and ‘seriousness’ coalesce.
There are extremely ornate carved designs, and simply as many ‘tough and easy’ serviceable furnishings. Whereas some corners are crowded with element, different areas are open and unadorned. ‘I might simply stay in an enormous, austere citadel,’ Annabelle says. She loves the truth that castles, for all their grandeur, are inherently unfussy.
Annabelle additionally factors to the hints of Dutch affect within the oil work as one in all her inspirations. ‘There’s nearly a monastic sombreness, and but it has a depth,’ she says. It’s the right description of Stonecrest now – it was as if it was made to be inhabited on this manner. No surprise her coronary heart pounded – it was a homecoming even earlier than she moved in.
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