Interiorssneak peeks

sneak peek: matt & kathy allison

by Amy Azzarito

Prior to finding this home, Matt & Kathy Allison spent a year looking for a place in Claremont, a leafy suburb of Cape Town, South Africa. The house had been built in the ’60s and was a typical mid-century modern ranch house. As soon as the couple stepped over the threshold, they knew it was the perfect home. For the past two and a half years, they have been doing basic renovations — restoring the wood floors, painting and redoing the bathrooms. When the couple’s now 22-month-old son, Nathan, was born, Matt decided to leave the music industry to become a stay-at-home dad. He taught himself how to cook by making his way through all 60 of Jamie Oliver’s 20-minute meals (and documented the process on his blog, “I’m No Jamie Oliver”). Things are about to get extra busy at the Allison house — Kathy is expecting a little girl this fall! Thank you, Matt and Kathy! — Amy Azzarito

Image above: The fireplace is a central focal point of our home; we don’t have central heating, so it’s a great source of warmth in winter. The armchair was a reupholstered thrift store find, and the atomic drum lamp was designed by The Lampshade Studio using Skinny laMinx’s Orla print in black. The wall scones I’d often seen in magazines like Dwell and on the set of Mad Men and tracked down their maker, Trifon of Palm Springs Vintage in California, who made them for me and shipped them half way around the world. The starburst clock was an eBay purchase from a store in NYC, and the small trinkets on the mantel were collected on various trips to markets and thrift stores. The paint colours are by Plascon paints, a low-VOC satin finish from their Cashmere range. Most of the rooms are painted in the same colour: an off-white called “Ivory Snow” with brilliant white accents, and the green accent walls in the living room are called “City of Green.”

Image above: The focal point is these beautiful masketeers ducks. I’ve always admired them and was able to nab them from an Etsy seller over in Oregon who graciously undertook packing and shipping them to me, despite being wary of international shipping.

See more of Matt & Kathy’s Cape Town house after the jump . . .

Image above: The oil painting was done by a family friend and hung in my grandparents’ home until both of them passed and is a reminder of the wonderful memories we created. The brass pot also belonged to my grandmother, and the croton plant is an ode to my mother who used to collect them growing up.

Image above: The house was extended in the ’70s, and the extension was covered up by floor to wall carpets. On removing them, we realized the carpets covered a raw concrete slab, so we decided to separate the dining room by using cork tiles over it and then ran the tiles up the wall to distinguish it from the adjacent living room. We decorated it with thrift store finds and used Gumtree, a local equivalent to Craigslist, for most of the furniture buys. The ’50s era locally crafted Duros table, chairs and matching sideboard were had for a song, $190USD, and our center piece — the highly collectable Cado wall unit — was purchased from a retired couple who bought it from the Durban Danish Consulate 20+ years ago; we bought it complete, with delivery, for $120USD. Lastly the Louis Poulsen PH 4/3 was purchased on a trip to Copenhagen last year. I was walking down a seemingly dead-end street and uncovered a warehouse FILLED with mid-mod lighting. It was owned by a Canadian expat who specialized in mid-mod lighting. It’s an original, not a reissue, and I bought it for $125USD. The throw cushions are a mix of both local and vintage. The vintage ones come from Louise, who runs a fabulous ETSY shop in the UK, and of course our local fabric princess Heather Moore of Skinny laMinx fame.

Image above: This vignette is an ode to the natural world. I have a penchant for mounted butterflies and collected these at markets/thrift stores. The National Geographics are from the year of my birth, a gift from local interior decorator Neil Stemmet, and the typewriter is still fully working and a vivid memory of my grandfather.

Image above: Last year, I invited four of my creative friends to decorate a Cado shelf, each in a different field: illustration, industrial design, styling and interior design. They each had a budget of $80, and the rest was up to them.

Lauren Fowler, illustrator and all-round crafty thing doer, stitched this hoop, called Alphabet Pony, after The Kills track of the same name as part of her vignette.

Image above: I’m rekindling my long lost love with photography. Here is a collection of my old lomo/toy cameras and lovable Fuji Instax.

The clipboards hold collages of pics of Nathan, our 22-month-old. I started a 365-day project when he was born, shooting a photo every day for the first year of his life, then took 90 of them and complied them into themes of playtime, bath time and sleep time.

Below it are a few of his toys; we are constantly swapping them out to make him feel that the house is as much his as ours.

Image above: To say our kitchen has been a blessing is an understatement. When taking on my aforementioned culinary challenge, a local kitchen company, Rock on Wood, heard me on the radio and offered to build us a new kitchen at cost price. They were amazing! They gutted the original kitchen and took it to the brickwork and designed and built this one in under three weeks to help me complete my challenge; it’s why my 90-day challenge became a 70-day one because it happened WHILE making my way through the recipes.

Image above: The string gardens were actually inspired by the Design*Sponge tutorial. The mirrors were inspired by this house tour; we are constantly inspired by other creative projects by both the D*S team and readers.

Image above: Alongside my culinary challenge, I started growing my own produce and am now a full fledged urban farmer with over an acre of suburban land across various private front and backyards, which you can see at www.facebook.com/plantingthoughts, though it all started with this “humble” raised planter.

Image above: No urban homestead is complete without a few backyard hens, and we are no exception. Nathan feeds our girls every morning and night and loves discovering his eggy treasures.

Suggested For You


  • I love the way they have mixed in those design elements that would normally give me hives! Flying geese, those brass cone lamps, the burned bricks in the mantel…I’m having flashbacks to my best friend’s parent’s decorating! Where are the glass grapes? I don’t know how, but these photos make it seem modern – love the orange backsplash in the kitchen.

  • I first looked at this and thought what the heck??? Took another look a it really is cool leave it to your keen eye to get the wink and nod to 70s decor cleverly done

  • Wonderful space. I have those ducks too! Snagged them on eBay. They were also featured on Mad Men in Duck Phillips’ office!

  • Where are you going to little brown mouse? :) Sitting here in my retro orange vinyl dining chairs thinking of painting the room that gorgeous green!! Love it!

  • Simply gorgeous. Love everything, and especially the lounge. What a happy, stylish feel.

  • We had those geese in my parents house in the ’60s/70s. Too bad they didn’t keep them.

  • Love your home. What is the name of the plant hanging upside down in the kitchen? Simply lovely.

  • your connection to your family through your vignettes I admire. inspires me to do the same.

  • Thank you all for your lovely comments and praise and especially to Amy for choosing to share our home.

    aesteve212 & Annette: Your reactions are not atypical :) We chose our home and bought into a period and have tried to find a balance between paying tasteful tribute to the mid-mod era without being kitsch, while also allowing it to take on our own personalities.

    Thuy: Yes, they were indeed in Ducks office! I been hankering for a set and that further spurred me on. They are in immaculate condition, which is fairly rare as many are missing wings (as was the case on Mad Men) or the wood is damaged, brass neck collars missing etc.

    Shannon: Glad you got the reference, it’s Nathan’s favourite book.

    Audrey: It’s called a peperomia obtusifolia, commonly known as the baby rubber plant. It’s growing upwards because it’s in a Boskke Skyplanter upsidedown.

  • By far one of my fav sneak peeks – beautiful placement, beautiful colors, beautifully done. I will return to this one often for inspiration. (Love the story behind all the great finds!)

  • Thank you all once again for the lovely comments.

    Liana, in the first pic the tree to the left is a ficus lyrata, commonly called the fiddle leaf fig, it will grow 3 times that size over the coming years. The pots on the mantle contain philodendron scandens, commonly known as the heart-leaf philodendron.

    In the second pic is the ubiquitous mid-mod plant of choice monstera deliciosa, commonly known as the delicious monster.

    In the third pic to the right is a croton, not sure of the sub species as well as another MCM classic crassula ovata, commonly called the jade plant, which is actually indigenous to South Africa where I live. Next to it is another crassula sp.

    In the fourth pic on the table are some cutting of aloe ciliaris, the climbing aloe. I cut it back from time and place them around the house. I haven’t sent a pic of my garden, but it’s very MCM and I have over 20 species of indigenous aloe in it. On the shelf are small sansevieria trifasciata. Stateside it’s called the snake plant, here we call it mother in laws tongue, because it’s sharp and twisted… I don’t name them :)

    In the eight pic are the same sansevieria trifasciata. I have since moved them as they out grew the shelf height on the cado and have been replaced with a trailing ivy. Adjacent to them is a philodendron selloum, or split leaf philodendron in a lovely Orla Kiely herb planter Kathy gave me for Christmas.

    As shared above the ninth picture is of peperomia obtusifolia, commonly known as the baby rubber plant hanging in a boskke ckyplanter.

    Lastly in the bathroom are orchids, the flower one is a phalaenopsis, or moth orchid and the other a cymbidium variety.

    As you may have gather I love plants and bringing the outdoors indoors.

    I encourage you all to grow something, just choose plants that are suited for your lifestyle as well as lighting/watering requirements.

  • Flying geese. I’m fairly certain that a neighbor, who was a graphic artist specializing in duck art, had these ‘flying high’ on the basement walls when I was a kid. I wish I would have a taken a closer back then. Too busy playing with Barbie.

  • I love the look. The colors blend very nicely. I’ve been planning to redo the den but didn’t know quite what I wanted. This has given me a good idea of where I will be going. Thanks!

  • hey, i have those ducks too! although they are tucked away since I wasn’t sure how to display them. thank you for inspiring me to get them up on the wall.

  • Beautiful home! So good to see a South African injection into Design Songe. The brass planter also made me feel nostalgic, I remember my moms, love your colour choices and the creativity that flows seamlessly throughout your home. It’s a place that is busily creating memories for you all, good luck with the new addition and thank you for the ‘Lekker’ inspiration!

  • I love the orange color. There isn’t a lot of it but it stands out so beautifully. The pillows on the couch are nice too. None of them match but they go together so well.

  • How lovely to see colour on the walls that is not white! Beautiful shot of your living room with the fireplace and pops of colour.

  • Stunning! I have been looking for a fiddle leaf everywhere in Cape Town. Any chance you know where I could purchase one?