The art of living

A mom-of-two has created a cosy nest that reflects her passion and provides her family with all the space they need.

Six years ago, high school art teacher Elize Vossgatter decided the time had come for her to start painting full-time. With two small children and being recently divorced, she felt in need of a contained space in which to “nest”. “I wanted my kids – who were seven and four at the time – to feel safe,” she explains.

With her life in flux, a smaller house that was easy to manage made sense to Elize but at first sight, the tiny cottage that was to become their home was a far cry from the art-filled and light space that now welcomes visitors. Previously, three families had shared the house and it was in dire need of TLC. The wooden floorboards in two The simple, compact kitchen layout leaves most of the floor space free. Round oil paintings (this page and opposite), The Patriarch and The Matriarch, by Elize Vossgatter of the rooms had to be replaced and the kitchen and bathroom were stripped.

“Between the kitchen and living room there was a boarded-up archway – once it was open, I realised it would be more sensible to create an open-plan area,” says Elize. Today, the kitchen and living room form a large open-plan space that opens onto a newly-built deck. “When you’re a single parent, you often have to do three things at once: play a game, send an email and cook dinner. A space like this enables us to do all that and be together.”

A downside to small-space living is that as the kids get older, they need their secrets and a small space allows for few of those.
– Elize

Second time round

With her studio in nearby Woodstock, Elize says most of the items in her home come from auctions, flea markets or small businesses with local designers. That is apart from the many artworks she has collected – some bought, some traded – over the years.

The allure of auctions, Elize says, is that one can buy old, unique items and make them new again – so much more satisfying than settling for massproduced furniture of questionable quality.

“I do have a collector’s instinct,” she says with reference to the queen of declutter, Marie Kondo. “I haven’t read her book, but apparently you should keep only what you use and what you love. Over the past year, I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff I don’t love!”

Wall to Wall

The cottage walls are filled with artworks and Elize keeps them white, allowing the art to inject colour into a room. While some might feel that things are a bit crowded, Elize is of the opinion that a well-composed gallery of pictures will always feel harmonious, never cluttered.

“When it starts to interfere with your thinking, then it gets too much!” she says with a laugh. Although Elize “struggles with the colour red”, she decided to hang her more intense paintings, most of which contain strong elements of red, in her bedroom. Mounted against a black wall, the art comes to life. “Maybe the black wall brought the splotches of red in line…” she muses.


Collecting art can be a daunting experience; as an artist, teacher and avid art lover, Elize offers the following tips:

• Price If it hurts a bit, buy it.

• Make the right choice Art is a long-term relationship; follow your gut, not the trends.

• When to buy When you can’t imagine life without it.

• When not to buy Generally, if it’s too cheap or too trendy; your interest will quickly fade.

• How to exhibit your art Keep it out of direct sunlight. And nothing beats a beautiful frame; I get all my framing done by a master of his trade, Wessel Snyman at the Biscuit Mill.


When Elize made the move from a big family home to this cottage in Mowbray, she had to declutter. Here’s her advice on scaling down:

• Only buy something new if you can imagine exactly where it will ‘live’ in your home. There must be a specific space for it.

• When throwing out, only keep what you need and what you love.

• Once a year, the kids and I declutter by having a car-boot sale. It’s a great way to make extra pocket money and learn about trade and value.

• Balance clutter with other simple elements; for example, install a minimalist kitchen or furniture with clean, classic lines

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April 2023

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