From the small one-bedroom flat in Paris where she studied fashion in the 80’s, to her current large family home in Umdloti, Georgie Starling O’Connell has always made it her mission to ensure her home is a beautiful, happy place to share with friends and family. Along with a good G&T, of course.
Standing in the entrance hall, the effortlessly chic and ever-charming Georgie, surrounded by numerous excitable small four-legged babies, welcomes us with open arms into her colourful home set in the natural green belt of Umdloti.
I enjoy the sea breeze that gently floats through the house as I sink into one of the many comfy couches, all of which are adorned with lavish, brightly coloured scatter cushions.
“This was my grandparents’ house in 1948. It was sold in the 70s and, by chance, we heard it was going on the market and came to see it. We drove in and knew this was it,” says Georgie. She and her husband, Podge, got married in the house, which still features a beautiful wooden bench made by Georgie’s grandfather from a massive Milkwood tree branch which broke off one day.
“I don’t have a ‘decorated’ house. I respect decorators, but I do not want my home to look like someone else’s style and to be too ‘matching’. I like unmatching things,” she says, smiling.
It was this unique style of hers that inspired Georgie to start of her online home interior and fashion shop called Coast Style – a celebration of coastal living, the Umdloti way.
While she is not one to copy other looks nor blindly follow trends, Georgie says she does enjoy gathering inspiration, especially from India Hicks (a British aristocrat who is known for her island style creations).
“I have been to her home in the Bahamas and it was an absolute delight! It represents who she is and her family and it reminded me of my childhood. We lived in a chaotic house with loads of children . . . and it was just happy. That is what I wanted to create – a space where adults have dinner parties, children sleep on couches after a day on the beach and pets roam free,” says Georgie. She shares the home with her husband, six children and four dogs.
Walking through Georgie’s home you can tell that most of the items have a story and were not bought simply to ‘keep up with the Joneses’.
The large, antique, display cupboard in the dining room, for example, is quite the talking piece. Painted light blue on the outside and sporting a striking, golden wallpaper on the inside, it is just so typically ‘Georgie’! “We call it the Borat cupboard. It’s just fun and all of my daughters want it for their own homes one day.”
Then there is the old-world chair in the living room, which looks a little knackered, but for good reason. “My great, great uncle Allan Ely embroidered this fabric by hand in 1933 and it came over from England by ship. It is a completely original piece of family history, and I have decided that no one may work on it!
“For me, what makes a home are the memories and the items with meaning. Good taste and designs are definitely not dependent on money. It is about how you group beautiful things together, and make delightful spaces around your home.”
Georgie’s tips for freshening up your home this spring:
- Mix and blend different cultures and tastes together. There are no rules, so any influences from around the world can live side-by-side.
- Use what you have and add bright colours to bring new life into areas that need a lift through accessories such as cushions and interesting lamp bases.
- Layer your home with things you have accumulated instead of getting caught up with a specific look. We are collectors and should live with the things we love around us to make our hearts sing. Antiques from granny add a uniqueness to your home, so mix up old and new.
- Reupholster a few chairs to add a fresh look. Don’t ever be frightened, because ultimately, we can always fix it if it doesn’t work.
- Bring the feeling of holidays into your home with crisp, white linen and gentle room sprays, diffusers and candles in orange blossom, lemon and frangipani scents.
WIN a set of four Coast Style scatter cushion covers to the value of up to R2 200 to spruce up your home this spring. Enter here.
Text: Elana Wagner | Photographs: Chris Allan Photo