The previously derelict 100-year-old manor house situated on Seaton Estate was recently unveiled as the clubhouse for this luxury equestrian residential development in Sheffield. In just three months, a team of dedicated artisans, architects, and décor specialists have performed nothing short of a miracle in refurbishing this historic landmark.
As you enter the newly refurbished manor house on Seaton Estate, it’s hard to imagine that just a few months ago it was uninhabitable. The century-old original homestead had been largely reclaimed by nature. The wooden trusses were infested with borer beetle, the floor was punctuated by dangerous drop-offs supported by piles of bricks, and there was hardly a roof to speak of.
Today, thanks to the commitment by Catherine Oliver of Wylder Jane Designs, Brent Buchanan of Nsika Architects, and the tireless efforts of contractors Slingshot Investments in the restoration process, the manor house has been transformed into the first tangible emblem of what the Seaton Estate will become.
Catherine Oliver, who has a longstanding relationship with developers the Collins Group, was entrusted with the interiors.
“I’m very lucky,” she explains, “as we have a wonderful, trusting relationship. They let me run with it, as they now know I spend money wisely.” Part of Catherine’s vision, which echoed that of Brent Buchanan and Slingshot Investment’s, was to salvage and restore as much as they could from the existing site.
“This was a labour of love,” adds Catherine, who credits Slingshot with much of the restoration, notably the stained glass which had to be painstakingly removed, re-leaded, and put back into the building, as was the mahogany flooring.
The project began, unbelievably, in May, with the teams working seven days a week, sometimes until late in the evening. “All the staff were incredible,” adds Catherine, suggesting that the synergy between everyone involved helped to ease them through the tight deadline.
Architecturally, the property is an ode to old-world charm. The brief was to keep things traditional, to respect what was already there, and to introduce timeless sophistication into an equestrian setting, since Seaton’s unique selling point is its world-class equine facilities.
“Nature doesn’t date,” says Catherine, who integrated classic, old-world patterns and textures in the wallpaper, and utilised natural materials like the ubiquitous mahogany, leather (notably the Chesterfield couches) and echoes of the natural world in green velvets.
The brief was to keep things traditional, to respect what was already there, and to introduce timeless sophistication into an equestrian setting
She scoured Durban’s antique stores for classic second-hand pieces that would add warmth, like a solid oak housekeeper’s cabinet. She made regular purchases from the Hillcrest SPCA’s equine unit, who had a collection of equestrian paraphernalia, including outdated riding crops, centuries old brass bits and unused handmade leather bridles.
“They would see me coming every Saturday!” she laughs, but her persistence paid off. In just three months, she had amassed unique accent pieces that now give Seaton an unmistakable air.
For the art, Catherine leaned toward mid-18th Century prints, which she chose from an online resource that create quality replicas. The lighting was key to setting the tone for the property, since the Manor House will also soon unveil a restaurant, billiard room and whiskey lounge. Catherine selected chandeliers from Weylandts, one of which utilises spectacle lenses, yet another motif from a bygone era.
The décor, paired with the efforts of everyone else involved, has allowed the old Manor House to tell its own story, comments Catherine.
Seaton Estate consists of 411 hectares of KwaZulu-Natal’s prime North Coast land, and is part of a multi-billion rand property development, incorporating surrounding Zululami Coastal Estate. For enquiries, call 087 094 1087 or visit seatonestate.co.za