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  • Writer's pictureLianne van der Walt

A Touch of Gold

My mum has always loved beautiful things. She is never without her pearls and a silk rose elegantly pinned to her shoulder. She does not own a pair of tracksuit pants and would not even think of wearing slippers outside of the bedroom. I grew up in a splendid home, surrounded by beautiful things which as I grew older, I realised had more to do with Mum’s creative and artistic spirit than their actual value. Contrary to what I believed – we were a pretty ordinary family; we just had an extraordinary mother.

‘Every human is an artist. The dream of your life is to make beautiful art.’ ~ Don Miguel Ruiz


This story begins with the birth of my younger sister Gina. With very little money to spare, two toddlers and a new baby, Mum wanted to replace the hard wooden parquet flooring with carpets. She had to choose between keeping her little car or selling it to generate the necessary funds. Without a second thought, she asked Dad to sell the car so that we could all crawl around in comfort. Grocery shopping would be done on foot pushing a large pram with 2 small kids in tow.

I first really noticed Mum’s love for style and her flair for turning the ordinary into the extraordinary the day our ‘dining room table’ arrived. It was just an ordinary metal trestle table – the type catering companies use at weddings. Mum spent months embroidering a 5m piece of ivory embossed cloth. Once completed, it was draped over the 10 seater dining room table and laid with silverware. A treasured collection of porcelain birds, Beatrix Potter figurines and a bowl of ornamental glass grapes completed the beautiful centrepiece. No one could ever have imagined that underneath this finery was just an ordinary trestle table with a chipboard top.


A set of dainty antique chairs were added, and the ensemble could have come straight from the pages of ‘House & Garden.’ We learned to shuffle the chairs so that larger guests were seated on chairs that had not yet had a repair. They were not very strong and I recall how on a few occasions, a guest would sit back after having had a lovely lunch of roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and a delicious dessert, when with a loud crack, they would find themselves in a heap under the table along with the top half of their chair.


‘Decorate your home. It gives the illusion that your life is more interesting than it really is.’ ~ Charles M. Schulz

A beautiful hand carved mirror was Mum’s next project. She studied Interior decorating magazines and bought a set of wooden hand-carving tools. True to her pioneering nature, she did not start with a sampler or even a simple trinket box, she went straight into carving an elaborate frame for a large mirror. It was a major undertaking of cherubs, garlands, ribbons and other Italian inspired carvings. Once completed, this masterpiece was covered in gold leaf and hung over the fireplace.

‘Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places.’ – Camille Pissarro, Danish-French Impressionist


With that under her belt she made lamp shades, hooked carpets, made her own silk flowers and painted most of the house a beautiful deep green. Custom made kitchen cupboards appeared in the last year of my high school. Up until that time our kitchen was arranged around another favourably installed trestle table. Mirrors were put on the backs of doors and well placed mouldings on wooden cupboards turned a low key affair into a beautiful room. Dad was always painting pieces of furniture. For my thirteenth birthday, the painted cats on my bedhead were replaced with tumbling garlands of yellow roses. Mum loved Rococo and Dad obliged by turning ordinary pieces of furniture into stylish ‘French provincial features.’ She liked the idea of a ‘trompe l’oeil’ and it took just a few days for Dad to paint the most beautiful rural mural on the wall behind their bed. Mum had great vision and imagination – Dad was her Michelangelo.

Mum has taught me the importance of believing both in oneself and in the fact that anything is possible. She taught me to dream big – if you believe you can do something then you have. There is always a work around, another way to make things happen. Things do not have to be perfect to be beautiful. Our happiness is not necessarily dependant on the actual value of something, but rather on the value that we attribute to it. When you do something with love – you create beauty, turning an ordinary little house into an extraordinary home. I grew up surrounded by love, beauty and the belief that our home was perfect in every way.


‘Let the beauty of what you love – be what you do.’ ~ Rumi

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