16 November 2018Last updated


Mix & match

Zoë Cairns fills her beautiful three-bed villa in the Springs with an eclectic combination of patterns, textures and home-improved furniture

Tabitha Barda
17 Mar 2015 | 01:00 pm
  • Zoë Cairns in her beautiful three-bed villa in the Springs.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 1 of 10
  • This cowhide rug was bought in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal from a leather worker’s shop.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 2 of 10
  • The garden swing is from the farmers' market in Durban.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 3 of 10
  • Oslo’s bed.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 4 of 10
  • Zoë can't live without her garden table.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 5 of 10
  • I replaced the kitchen cupboard doorknobs with fun, mismatched ones that I’d collected over time – more interesting than the boring standard ones!

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 6 of 10
  • The dining table chairs were from agreat-granny on Cam’s side in South Africa. I bought some fabric online and had them upholstered in Durban.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 7 of 10
  • I knew I wanted to paint the garden wall, and this chalkboard means it’s not the standard Emaar colour.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 8 of 10
  • This rhino wall decor was originally plain white, bought from Zara Home. Oslo drew on it with crayon, so I improvised by covering it in comic paper.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 9 of 10
  • The Rodeo poster is from a Rodeo event that I went to. The Bob Dylan poster was from a gig he did in Telluride - the ticket stub is also there.

    Source:Stefan Lindeque/ANM Image 10 of 10

I’d describe my style as mismatched. I like to think that a combination of things that I love will all look good together in one space. This isn’t always the case...

I love fabrics and probably have way too many different patterns in a too-small space. I get a little over excited with a paint brush and if I have a day or two between work I tend to paint furniture or upholster it in fabrics or old comic books.

I grew up as an expat so it’s really important to me to have a home that feels like home, even if it is temporary, and for my three-year-old son Oslo to feel like it’s home too. I shipped over a lot of bits and pieces from my childhood home in London and mixed them in with a bunch of my husband Cam’s parents’ hand-me-downs. I love that we have Cam’s grandpa’s cutlery with his initials on. It feels old-school and fancy and a bit like trying on your mum’s shoes as a child. That feeling of having ‘grown-up’ things.

I studied art at university so (to my husband’s horror) we have a few of my canvases around the house. I love to collect art when we travel; I picked up a fab vintage tourist poster in Sri Lanka recently – the colours in it are really fun!

For interiors inspiration I love House and Garden magazine. I sometimes miss that English-country-garden feel – fireplaces in the living room, dogs on the hearth, with a great big Aga and huge cosy bedspreads. Sadly none of that’s really applicable here, so it’s also pretty helpful getting interiors and gardening tips from local magazines.

Our house is pretty functional. It wouldn’t work for me to have a home where things couldn’t be a little bit upside down. As much as I love looking at pictures of glamorous homes in magazines, it’s just not us.

I love making furniture and a lot of the furniture we have in the house I have made or upcycled. I trawl Dubizzle for bargains, like Oslo’s bed. It was so comfortable but nasty looking so I painted it, and made a headboard for it. He loves it.

I also made the headboard in our room. I used an old foam mattress bought from Satwa and some end-of-roll fabric and stitched them together. I did a similar thing with our curtains – when we moved in a lot of the curtains from our old house weren’t quite long enough so I bought a bit of fabric that I loved and got it stitched along the bottoms.

I’ve collected comic books ever since I was very young – not to read, but just because I have always liked the look of them. I covered the Ikea chest of drawers in the sitting room with comic paper when I was about 12 – which is why it is a bit tatty now!

We got the floorboards and bathroom tiles through a friend in the tile industry. They were the best housewarming gift ever! The bathroom tiles were actually supposed to be large coloured tiles (like the old London Underground ones) but I think a decimal point got misread along the way and we ended up with tiny swimming-pool-style mosaic tiles. It was a surprise at first, but I quite like them now.

For unusual interiors finds, I love visiting my in-laws in Durban. They live opposite the farmers’ market and every Saturday morning I head down there and always pick up a bit of pottery or something quirky and one-off. Oslo has a brilliant little wigwam bought from there and the garden swing is from there, too.

The one piece of furniture I couldn’t live without is our garden table. In the winter we spend a lot of time in the garden and breakfasts outside are heaven.

There are many things we are still working on for the house. I would love some skirting boards for starters as we still don’t have any, after having lived here for one and a half years. 
It’s rough on stubbed toes but luckily I’m growing to quite like the industrial look (of the house, not of my feet!).

If time and money were no object then we would like to install a whole wall of bookshelves. I also can’t wait to put new countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms; I’m not a huge fan of marble. For now the house is fab as it is and I love it, but just as soon as I hit the jackpot I’ll get around to my long list!

Tabitha Barda

By Tabitha Barda

Deputy Editor