WORDS Annette Klinger PRODUCTION Marc Sera PHOTOS Jan Ras
More is definitely more in the happy Bo-Kaap home of Tracy Rushmere, where riotous colours and patterns abound, and every carefully curated corner tells a story.
In the three decades that Tracy Rushmere has watched over Cape Town from this vantage point on the slopes of the historic Bo-Kaap, her Victorian home has seen almost as many alterations as the bustling city below. Initially, when she moved into the neighbourhood in 1995, she occupied one half of the semi-detached house with her photographer husband and baby son, while their architect friend, who bought the property with them and helped them renovate it, stayed in the other.
Walls were knocked down to open up poky rooms, original sash windows were re-installed, and bathrooms relocated (Victorian homes seldom had inside bathrooms). When Tracy’s daughter was born, the family took occupation of the entire property, getting rid of the dividing wall and turning the two houses into one. And, most recently, with the kids all grown up, the home’s staircase was moved to create another bedroom and bathroom downstairs. “At the age of 19, my daughter finally got her wish of her very own bathroom,” says Tracy with a laugh.
Through the years, one constant has always been the home’s warm and welcoming energy, largely brought about by Tracy’s gregarious, hospitable personality, but also thanks to its singular aesthetic infused with colour, humour and storytelling. At first glance, it might seem a lot – industrial meets vintage meets pop art meets curio – but there’s a clever curatorial eye at play. A vignette of pink flamingos in the front courtyard speaks to her family’s connection to the US (“Some people come back from America with clothes from GAP;I’ve always brought back flamingos…”), while a miscellany of hand-painted barbershop signs dotted throughout the house harks back to a period when she was a partner in a merchant store of African artefacts. Add to that a tableau of religious statuettes and iconography, from a jade Buddha and porcelain Mary Magdalene to vintage prints of Ganesh and Shiva, and you have an unconventional snapshot of some of her travels.
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“I have a strong aesthetic opinion, and I’m very specific about what I like – but I couldn’t tell you what it is,” says Tracy, smiling. “I think colour looks best on colour, and pattern on pattern. Yes, there’s a lot of stuff in my house, but I get what I love, you know what I mean?”
One could argue that the beating heart of this abode isn’t the kitchen, although it does cut an arresting figure with its vermilion lacquered cupboards, stainless-steel countertops, retro appliances and collection of curios. But it’s the space off to its side that has a stronger claim – a work-from-home office from which Tracy runs her African-inspired textile business Shine Shine.
Crowding around an altogether unassuming desk are bolts of fabric, scatter cushions, bucket hats and tea trays in riotous colours, emblazoned with pop-arty illustrations inspired by her travels throughout the continent. “I’ve always loved the textiles, wherever I travelled in Africa – the political cloths, the commemorative cloths, the religious cloths,” she explains. “And the work of Malian portrait photographers Malick Sidibé and Seydou Keïta has also been highly influential.”
Shine Shine’s design DNA is undeniably – you might even say inextricably – spliced with that of the home’s interior. The volume of both aesthetics is turned all the way up to 11, and unapologetically so. But there’s nothing deafening about it. In fact, it’s quite a joyful symphony – and Tracy is one masterful conductor.