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Susan Says No Way to Throw-Away Society

When Susan van Nieuwkerk and her family moved into their central Southsea home, they reckoned they would be there for five years at the most.

Twenty-three years later, she still loves the four walls that have witnessed her young family grow up and fly the nest.

And it is the walls that have provided the inspiration for Susan to express her natural ability with colour, texture, and creating a distinct look.

“We never dreamed we would be here this long but the house has evolved with us.

“We were looking for a house with a decent size garden — for the same price we could have bought a bigger house but it was the outside space that was important to us,” she said.

The kitchen has been the one room that has received the most attention, with an extension to the back and side to substantially enlarge the space.

“We’ve got a south-east facing garden and the kitchen opens onto it — in the summer my children were out there all the time.

“Having lived here this long, the house has had several incarnations. My friends joke that if you stand still long enough you will be painted.

“I find it really satisfying to decorate and several pieces of furniture have been painted over again as taste and colour schemes changed.

“I’m passionately against our throw-away society and hate to think of things going to landfill. I enjoy repurposing things and love things that have patina and character.

“As far as I’m concerned, the more battered and rusty something is the better,” she said.

When asked to list some of her favourite things, Susan doesn’t hesitate.

“The metal cabinet in the lounge which was an old tool cabinet, my metal cabinet in the kitchen which is from an Indian hospital and my chair and artwork in our bedroom.  

“The artwork was a cheap garish canvas from TK Maxx which I painted over and  I fell in love with a chair in Cox and Cox  a few years back until I saw the price.

“So I did my own version, reupholstering with rugs and cushion covers,” she said. The 70 ft garden has a tropical feel with banana plants, bamboo and tree ferns aplenty.

“I’ve always been into gardening, and when my husband hit 40, he suddenly had an epiphany. 

“A lot of people like their garden to have crisp, neat edges but we have a more organic approach.

“Often we’ve said there’s no room for any more plants but somehow we always manage to squeeze in another one.

“When our children were little, it was their space filled with sand pits and slides. But it has had another reincarnation to become our tropical space — and I really wouldn’t be without it.”

Words: Kate Thompson. Photos: Anya van Nieuwkerk

Posted in: Home & Garden