A South African Dream Home Is A Labor Of Love

Hi Everyone,

The other day, I got the most darling email from a reader who spent a year renovating a charming old home in Johannesburg, SA. It became her South African Dream Home! But, there’s a lot more to the story.


Jacarandas lining street South Africa


Dear gorgeous wonderful Laurel,


[I like her already. haha]


Yes, I’m another ardent fan here.


I adore your blog, just lap it up like cream, and somehow your advice always arrives at the perfect time. So, really, this is just a thank you email and a share of the Johannesburg home that you helped inspire.


Roscommon - Johannesburg, SA


[Please know that not everyone likes me, my blog, or my point of view. But, thank you so much as it’s very gratifying to hear that for some, I’ve made a positive difference in their lives.]


In 2017, we bought our forever South African Dream home for our growing family.


It was in the perfect location in the Johannesburg suburb where I grew up. And, just three blocks from my parents on a road lined with purple bloomed jacaranda trees.




It was a gorgeous grand dame, with great bones but in need of some attention. However, I loved her, no matter what.


Jacaranda tree-lined Street South Africa


South African Dream Home - exterior


I spent the most wonderful year altering her, a truly joyous project that culminated in a wonderful home filled with light and air and interior spacing merging with a lush garden.


South African Dream Home - long porch


Joburg dream home side view


South African Dream Home - pool - yard


Grace and space, and an abundance of happiness.


South African Dream Home View of Yard


The architect is a dear friend, and we had so much fun.


We bounced off each other, ideas tumbling, decisions being made with a snap of fingers. I’d say the windows need to be bigger. She’d say, then we won’t be able to fit shutters. I’d say, “no shutters!” And then we’d laugh and move onto the next thing.


South African Dream Home - light and airy


Everything that we could restore we did. We used heritage wood for the floors and 1930’s door handles from an old estate that was going to be demolished.


In addition, we spent a fortune restoring the pressed tin ceilings. This was going to be our forever home.


covered patio South African dream home


Where we couldn’t use old, we went modern. So we installed stainless steel light switches, but with a toggle switch as a nod to the past. We opened up the kitchen, created an enormous loft, and opened up the main bedroom and bathroom.


Your posts on unbathrooms and unkitchens were read over and over. We paneled the guest toilet. In 2018, we moved in and were boundlessly happy.


And then, as it always seems to happen, life intervened.


My husband got a job in London, and now we’re living in Sevenoaks, Kent. The house is under contract, subject to inspection, but we basically gave it away. South Africa is broken, the economy is a mess, and the pandemic isn’t helping matters. Properties are just not moving quickly. So, we are lucky in that regard.

 While I’m sad about the loss, I love our new life in lovely Sevenoaks. My kids are content, and in the end, nothing else really matters.


However, without further ado – tada — here is the home you helped build.


[Thank you again. I think it’s the photos I post that are the inspiration. I’m not this good!]






I asked Astrid if I could post some of the photos, and she gave the go-ahead. So, let’s look at more of this lovely South African dream home that’s a beautiful mix of old and new.


Joburg dream home - side view porch

South African Dream Home - porch

This porch is amazing!


South African Dream Home - porch opposite side

This looks like encaustic cement tile which we have seen in many posts.


South African home - Oriental rug

This fabulous Oriental rug adds so much warmth!


South African Dream Home - dining room

South African Dream Home - kitchen - lounge

South African Dream Home - kitchen - dining area

I love the mix of colors and furnishings. It’s a wonderful family home!


master bathroom with large windows

These huge windows in the bathroom are fantastic. I don’t know if you can tell, but there’s a wall outside, close to the window, so that light can get it while still allowing complete privacy. I love that!

Astrid’s story touched me for many reasons. In the scheme of things, having to move isn’t the worst thing that can happen. But, this also brought back some memories for me as my wasband was South African. Well, actually from Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe.


However, in 1989 we spent our three-week honeymoon in Capetown, Joburg, Bulawayo, and Victoria Falls.



Fine Art America


It was January into early February, which was the height of summer. I was captivated by the lush greenery and bright flowers – EVERYWHERE. And, of course, the classic, pristinely white Dutch Colonial architecture that Capetown is known for. That is Lion’s Head Mountain in the background.

Capetown is one of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever seen if you’ve never been there. The land is rugged and juxtaposed against pristine beaches and crystalline ocean water. I mean, there are mountains and water– EVERYWHERE, you look.


Please enjoy the following images of Capetown, SA I found on Unsplash.


Lina Loose view of Table mountain

Lina Loos view of Table Mountain and the ocean in the distance.


Lina Loos on Unsplash tide pool Capetown,SA

Tidepool at Stellenbosch, SA also by Lina Loos that she took with her I-phone!

Yes, that is ocean water. Sick, huh?


rockefeller-Muizenberg beach - Capetown, SA-unsplash

Rockefeller-Muizenberg beach – Capetown, SA-Unsplash


We went here, as this was my wasband’s favorite beach. I wonder why. haha


Casey Allen via UnsplashCasey Allen via Unsplash

Penguins at Boulder’s Beach


Capetown - john-o-nolan-unsplashCapetown – John O’Nolan-unsplash


Thank you so much, Astrid, for sending in the photos of your gorgeous South African dream home. I hope all continues smoothly with your home sale. My house sale in New York has not closed yet either, but very soon, I think.

And, for everyone else, I hope that you also enjoyed the photos of Capetown.



PS: Please check out the newly updated HOT SALES. There are some exciting new vendors this weekend!

PPS: Did you know? You can now get Farrow and Ball paints and wallpaper ONLINE. You can also get sample pots, cards, wallpaper paste, primer, brushes. Everything!

Plus, there’s a brand new collection by Kelly Wearstler, that’s gorgeous! Please check it out.


36 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel, I know this is many moons too late, but Lina’s “Table Mountain with the ocean in the distance” is in fact a photo of the three rondavels rising over Blyde River Canyon near the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga, S Africa.

    These mountains and river lie about a thousand miles from Table Mountain and the sea.

  2. I am now so homesick! I am a South African and have lived in Canada for the past 20 years. South Africa is truly geographically, one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Thank you for sharing this beautiful post Laurel.

  3. First off- I LOVE the name Astrid. It seems only perfect that such a beautiful name shares such a beautiful home. Thank you for sharing. I hope to see those beautiful trees in bloom one day. Best of luck for her future in Sevenoaks. Hopefully we will all be traveling soon.

  4. Holy cr*p, that’s a beauty!

    I soooooo want to live on the lane with the Jacaranda Trees.

    Thanks for the dreamy experience.

  5. Thank You Astrid. Thank you Laurel. Now I want to go to Capetown. The house is heavenly. But life is change, and London will be lovely also.

  6. Cape Town has a very similar climate as San Diego, so I could see this style of house being so popular here. I loved it!! I pinned so many of the images. It was evident she had been following your blog!! it was lovely!

  7. The house is graceful–the tin ceilings, the wood floors, the tiles, windows, everything!–and the natural setting amplifies its loveliness. Those incredible jacaranda trees! along with your photos of the South African country. Thank you.

  8. What a truly beautiful and unique property! It should be featured in AD or similar magazine. Great bones, big windows and light, like in this amazing house, are key components of any great building, if only today’s builders building the same old, same old, cookie cutter houses with depressed ceilings and small windows would take notice rather than just count square footage. I looked at the pictures over and over again, and I was touched by Astrid’s story who had to uproot herself. But moving to a new country is always refreshing and energizing and one gains so much in new experiences. The two locations of the story peaked my interest and in looking at Sotheby’s real estate, I was surprised to see how much (great) property one can get for the money in Johannesburg, similar homes would sell in the multi-millions here in the US. As a contrast, I found out, that Sevenoaks has one of the highest UK real estate prices outside of London! (Also great schools and low crime). While it must have been difficult to reconcile the two, Sevenoaks does look like the ideal, quiet, small town with all the right components to raise a family, so ultimately, it was a very good move. Good luck to Astrid and thank you for sharing your story and beautiful house with us!

  9. Oh my! I adore Astrid’s South African home! Thank you, Astrid, for sharing it with us. It’s obvious that you poured a lot of love and beauty into that home. But, on to a new adventure! Laurel, thank you for the pics of Cape Town – it’s truly stunning! I can’t tell you how much I love this blog. You are such a blessing to so many people :]

  10. What a waste that a land this magnificent is ruined by such horror as is being perpetrated in South Africa now. So tragic.

  11. Being able to peak into Astrid’s former home was a real treat. Truly a “labor of love” and those jacaranda in full bloom were nothing less than breathtaking! Thank you for the photos of Cape Town the Mother City.It remains one of my favorite destinations… the light, architecture, food scene and markets never disappoint.

  12. Thank you for this post. We lived in South Africa from 1998-2002. It is such a beautiful country with such wonderful memories. I am always sad when I read about the economic and social problems. I wish for the country only the best.

  13. The street of Jacaranda trees just took my breath away…so gorgeous. My son traveled to Cape Town several years ago to visit a friend for several weeks. They traveled though out South Africa. I was amazed at his pictures and videos of the lush mountains, the plains, water falls and the beautiful beaches. He said it was a trip of a lifetime. I am so glad he got to go before the pandemic.

  14. What a splendid home! We can most of us only dream…
    SA is naturally gorgeous, and should be a treasured paradise. Alas. 21st century geopolitics does not favor paradise.

  15. That row of Jacaranda trees just stopped me in my tracks! How difficult that Astrid had to go through this, especially after finding her forever home, but she has her family, they are safe, and she is moving to another amazing part of the world. When God closes a door, he always opens another one somewhere.

  16. Absolutely beautiful home which I am sure is hard to leave. The tree lined street was breathtaking. Thanks for sharing and thanks Laurel for the beauty you send to us and thanks for your funny self.

  17. There is a street in San Diego, California, which goes slightly uphill from the ocean,
    that has a similar allée of Jacaranda trees that is underplanted with Agapanthus, also called Lily of the Nile or African Lily, which is the same gorgeous color. When in bloom it makes a most remarkable and beautiful sight.

  18. While visiting my adopted son in SA, we toured homes that were on the market. He was planning to build and wanted to get ideas. What a treat to visit gorgeous homes and gardens in a beautiful country.

  19. I enjoy seeing how things are done in other places. I’m impressed how shiny and clean looking the windows look without screens. Is the USA the only place where screens are used? This home is beautiful. Thank you Laurel and Astrid.

    Incidentally, I had a safari booked which included time in Cape Town. It was canceled last week due to Covid. I do ache to travel.

  20. I have been to SA and can attest to the beauty. Astrid’s house is lovely, and I would imagine, terribly hard to part with – and the Dutch Colonial architecture in SA so charming.

  21. what a touching post, a love letter to a house.

    what beauty Cape Town holds, a new addition to my bucket list.


  22. I love Astrid’s house, it brings back a lot of memories as do the other pictures. I’ve been to SA a couple of times to visit my sister who was a teacher in an American school in Constantia. I wish Astrid and her family all the best.

  23. What a bittersweet story. And what a lovely, lovely home. Thank you to Astrid for sharing with you and then you with your readers. I have always wished to that beautiful place. Eagerly look for your blog each week Laurel..you’ve helped me make so many decisions☺️

  24. I love that this house is named Roscommon. Is that a nod to the county in Ireland? Anyway, I love the home you helped create and I hope you enjoy your new life in England.

  25. Hi Laurel,
    Isn’t it amazing to know how many lives you’ve impacted? Even around the world!
    Thank you for sharing the pictures of this beautiful home. And thank you to Astrid for sharing your home with us.
    I hope everyone has a wonderful Sunday.

  26. I will always have a soft spot for my beautiful South Africa, having grown up there from the time I was a year old until 15. I think it’s the most beautiful country in the world. What an absolute mess though. I’m so sorry for this reader but the move was wise- there is no future for your children in SA right now. Johannesburg is especially dangerous- everyone I know who lives there has an electrified fence 🙁

  27. Pictures are stunning and what is happening in South Africa is very sad. My husband follows current events around the world. As the author stated, South Africa is mess and from what my husband has told be is an understatement. There are many beautiful places in the world. I wish you and your family all the best in London!

  28. Gorgeous. It makes me long for Cape Town. I lived there for a year as a student in 1989. In Gardens, by the cable car to Table Mountain. The area is unspeakably beautiful, and I haven’t been back since the country’s become a democracy. It’s on the bucket list.

    It must’ve been so hard to leave this house and Cape Town.

  29. What a beautiful and unique home! I love the colorful and eclectic furnishings against the white backdrop. I hope this family is as happy in their new space as they were in this place they left behind.

  30. Love her South African home and the jacaranda trees. Maybe she will send in some photos of her new place in Sevenoaks? just down the road from me:)in Staplehurst, Kent. There are some beautiful old homes there as well. Thanks for sharing photos of Capetown, I have always wanted to go but it has now moved up the long list of places to visit.

  31. These pictures are wonderful! Astrid’s home is fresh and uncluttered, but with tons of character. And the pictures of Capetown are stunning. Thank you!!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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