A version of this article appeared in the Sunday Times Home Weekly
Handsome, artist Frances Goodman’s new ginger-vanilla cat, is on the table in the kitchen again. She shoos him off with a benevolent grin.
“I like waking up and saying, ‘Hello, Handsome,’ in the morning.” Frances cocks an eyebrow.
Her home, a sprawling 1929 one-storey on a tree-lined street in Parkwood, is also her studio. The old master bedroom has become the workspace - trestles as tables, enormous built-in cupboards stacked with glue, eyelashes and nail polish stacked in neat plastic boxes.
“I wasn’t even planning to buy a house,” she laughs. “I was lost, and I saw it. And it was my dream home. I did a u-turn, and then called my mother outside. Serendipity.”
Frances is the third generation owner, having bought it two years ago from the previous owners, who lived there for more than fifty years.
When it was hers, she embarked on a sensitive, minimal renovation, but most of the original ethos has remained: wood-veneer kitchen cupboards, a dining set and sideboard, the battered Oregon floorboards, sliding leaded glass doors, the matte checkerboard floor of her bathroom and pressed ceilings.
“I loved the old, quite classic details,” she says, choosing to add pieces that accentuated and spoke to the existing charm, “where there’s a kind of dialogue,” Frances explains. “It was kind of a rework of their aesthetic.”
There are some self-made additions: a sequin-encrusted “Goodman Garage” sign in the kitchen, made for an artwork sale in her Westdene garage, a dying silk carnation encased in glass in her living room, “insincerity” embroidered on its cushion.
Amid the hanging ferns of the stoep, a pile of snakes made of acrylic nails, scaly in enamel, pearl and glitter; a piece from “Nail Her”, her most recent exhibition, bound for the US.
Her home is nonchalant, uncluttered, but with creeping tendrils of her art, her loves, her work: pragmatic, organic, casually strewn with pops of statement-making surprise.
“I don’t curate my home. I just have strong taste,” Frances says.
The walls bear testament to her influences and her teachers, who have left their mark: Colin Richards’ photographic print, “The Library of Lies”, graces the dining room wall, above a wedding snow globe from Venice, and a Penny Siopis work in watercolour, oil and wood glue, a pig swimming through a blood-red pool.
In the corner, a wood carving from former lecturer, sculptor Pieter Schutz, and on an adjacent wall, a delicate Emily Steiner watercolour, the details of a china plate picked out under a pair of pale chicken’s feet.
Above the mantelpiece, the artist’s love for magical realism takes form in German artist Olaf Hajek’s Black Antoinette: a young girl, a snake on her breast, climbing vines across her dark cocoa décolletage from a tiny avian corpse.
And everywhere, surfaces are dotted with orchids from a burgeoning collection.
“Have you read The Orchid Thief?” she asks, “Now, I can understand how it happens, how orchids can take over lives. I could imagine that I could get that way.”
“I want a jungle garden,” Frances says.
In her bedroom, stitched trees, vines and butterflies climb over her cream bedroom blinds, under a drooping Willowlamp fitting, a wedding gift from her sisters. Ink blue birds sing on a cotton Mavromac rug.
A quieter room of respite, it is home to various treasures. A painted egg from India, her childhood plastic bedside lamp.
But pride of place is reserved for a phrenology head, bought years ago in a Battersea secondhand shop, “before it was cool,” Frances adds. And to complement it, next to the bed: a collage by her student Tanya Lubinski, declaring a man’s big chin to be “well meaning, but weak”.
Even her bookshelf wall has become an exhibition space: A gift from performance artist Boney Searle, a transferred polaroid skin of her Snow White, kneading dough; a Jeremy Wafer glass-fronted perspective of stairs; a Joni Brenner skull, oil on wax; a gift from university friend Robin Penn, clouds floating over an exercise book grid, a meditative oil on acrylic.
It is the side of the house for slanted afternoon sun and drinks in the kitchen.
The mid-century modern table is where she eats most often, the chairs covered in vibrant, graphic fabric, picked up in a Spanish Ikea.
Frances cooks every night and often throws dinner parties: elaborate vegetarian dinner parties: dim sum, Indian, exploding bottles of champagne.
But there’ll be little time for entertaining later this year.
A residency in upstate New York, the installation of an enormous sculpture in Savannah, Georgia, and a stay at Nirox beckons.
It is a home pervaded with an air of thoughtful extravagance, where everything holds a story below the surface.
Another framed Lubinski in the dining room reads, “I have secrets. I keep them in my hair.”
“It’s one of my favourites. I have a lot of hair,” Frances laughs.