Photographs David Ross | Production Retha Erichsen 

WHO LIVES HERE Sue Greeff and Jonny Biderman-Pam

WHERE Simon's Town, Western Cape

SIZE ± 250 m2

ORIENTATION North/north-east

The cottage boasts a delightful stoep from which Sue and Jonny can watch people go by on the street below. In winter, this cosy space enjoys sun almost all day long. “Jonny and I love sitting here, chatting over a cup of tea or reading quietly together,” says Sue.

On a narrow street in the False Bay village of Simon’s Town, Sue Greeff and her partner, Jonny Biderman-Pam, have found the perfect escape. Here, in a 160-year-old house, they find respite, taking the time to appreciate the impressive high ceilings and beautiful sash windows typical of homes from this era, or relaxing on their inviting stoep or in the peaceful courtyard just off the kitchen.

When the house was bought in 2007, it had already been sensitively restored by the previous owner. All Sue had to do were some minor adjustments in the kitchen and bathroom – she moved the geyser outside to create more space and updated the flooring and lighting.

The kitchen and lounge form the centre point of Sue and Jonny’s home, with two of the bedrooms situated on one side and the studio and enclosed courtyard on the other. When they moved in, Sue got rid of pots and other bric-a-brac hanging from the open beams in the kitchen. These beams are now a focal point and a reminder of the rich history of the house.

A nifty shelf displays crockery to best effect.

Back then, Sue was working in interior design but in 2012 she followed her dream and enrolled as a student at UCT’s Michaelis School of Fine Art. She has since completed her degree and these days, Rose Madder, as their cottage is fondly known, is Sue’s creative zone where she can paint in her studio with its lovely high ceilings.

Initially, the house had a cottage feel but Sue decided it was time to de-clutter and get rid of bric-a-brac.

Now this is her happy place. “It’s my haven. I have a habit of talking to my home, stroking her walls and covering her with kisses. There are lipstick marks all over the place if you look hard enough...” she laughs.

The cottage is named after a vibrant pink in Sue’s paintbox. “A few years ago, I painted the front gate in this colour and that’s how the cottage got its name: Rose Madder.”

The main bedroom opens onto the garden with its gorgeous view over False Bay, which is often hazy and mysterious early in the morning.

Sometimes, when entertaining friends and family, I convert the studio into a dining area. The creative energy inspires a lively atmosphere and laughter fills the room. – Sue

In summer, Sue, who is also the curator of Mullers Gallery in Cape Town, loves painting under the flowering Bauhinia tree in the garden, but her studio remains one of her favourite rooms. “It’s massive, with high ceilings and exposed poplar beams. The light is extraordinarily beautiful in here.” The daybed is mostly used when Sue has a model for life drawing but it also serves as a comfy spot for a sleep-over when family and friends visit.

Sue decided on a large soft-pile Gabbeh carpet and two new sofas for the lounge. A crystal chandelier replaced the Victorian pendant lights.

The artwork above the built-in fireplace serves as a striking focal point.

The previous owner was a potter; he left the huge pot behind as it was too difficult to move.

Collecting... and letting go

Sue’s décor style is unmistakeably feminine. “This home could never be confused with a bloke’s house. As an artist, I’m sensitised to the world and my surroundings. Almost every item has been carefully considered and selected for its aesthetic appeal – if it doesn’t bring me joy, it doesn’t come home with me.”

Sue has always found inspiration in her huge collection of French Coté Sud interior magazines. “A contemporary French style resonates with me. I’m really a farm girl at heart, so I tend towards a more natural look; I’m not so keen on the glass-and- chrome style favoured by many Atlantic Seaboard homeowners.”

While some of the furniture was bought for the house, Sue says many pieces moved with her from the other homes she’s lived in. “The author James Hollis says that the first half of one’s life is about acquisition and the second half is about letting stuff go. Paring down has allowed me so much more freedom and I’m grateful that I can hold things lightly now,” she explains.

The bathroom boasts a Victorian bath that Suehad re-enamelled by Renu A Bath; the outside of the bath was painted black by the previous owner. The handmade cotton lace curtain was purchased on the Greek island of Skopelos a few years ago.

The blue on the door to the guest bedroom was also inspired by the visit to Greece.

I look for new treasures in boutique shops and on my travels. I’m not in the acquisition phase of my life, so I don’t need to buy large furnishings anymore. – Sue
I seek out beautiful fabrics and colours. Over the years, I’ve been drawn to organic fabrics that range from heavy to fine gauzy linens and sea grass bouclé-weave carpeting to hand-stitched scatters made by local women in community projects. – Sue

The main bedroom is largeenough for a king-size bed – the headboard was hand-carved byone of Sue’s friends. “We madea swap: I gave her one of my paintings and she gave me the headboard. I think I scored inthe deal!” says Sue. “I had it re-upholstered in a heavy white linen and then painted the wooden sections white.” A wall-to-wall sea grass bouclé carpet was introduced in the bedroom to cover the tiles.

Sue's favourite stores

The Farm Shop at Babylonstoren 021 863 3852

The Meeting Place in Simon's Town 021 786 5678 

Second-hand furniture shops in Riebeek-Kasteel 022 448 1545

Lim 021 423 1200

Arabesque 021 424 1234

Ashanti 021 461 0367 on Kloof Street in Cape Town

Cabinetworks in Kommetjie for bespoke furniture pieces 021 422 3830

Stalk of the Town just off Kloof Street in Cape Town for short runs of fabric for scatter cushions 021 422 3149

OnSite at The Palms in Woodstock 021 462 1357

Gonsenhausers for Gabbeh rugs and kelims 021 462 4819

Renu A Bath 021 762 1710

Sue Greeff