Nini Bairnsfather Cloete, who spent two years seeking out architecturally interesting, beautifully decorated residences for her book Remarkable Heritage Houses of South Africa, has her own idea of a perfect home. It is, she says, in no way prissy. It’s "a warm and welcoming country farmhouse, big lofty rooms, long windows, old furniture, artworks covering the walls, an overload of books, dogs and children". The 20 residences that made the cut to feature in her 270-page book, lavishly illustrated with photographs by Craig Fraser, all display at least some of these characteristics. There are lurchers snoozing on sofas in Meerlust (Stellenbosch) and piles of books in all. In Whitehall Court (Killarney, Johannesburg), there is a specially designed oblique bookshelf to display coffee table books. There are incredible heirloom pieces of furniture, such as Karen Blixen’s roll-top desk in Waterhof, Cape Town, and layers of history: 22 layers of paint were scraped from the walls of its kitch...

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