Emma-Jane Harbour

With a little elbow grease and lots of imagination, Emma-Jane Harbour and her husband, Dylan have turned their home into a beautiful, warm space waiting to be filled with happy memories.

The leafy suburb of Parkhurst has long been a jewel in a suburban Joburg’s crown – with the quiet streets all leading down to vibey 4th Avenue, filled with some of the city’s top restaurants (and the notorious Jolly Roger!), it’s no surprise it’s filled with artists and creatives. Wedding photographer and blogger Emma-Jane Harbour and her husband, Dylan, bought their Parkhurst home a year and a half ago, and adore the suburb’s small-village feel. ‘It has a different vibe to the rest of Joburg,’ she says.‘We love the tree-lined streets and that it’s so central to everything. We hardly ever sit in traffic! It’s also a very well-looked after neighbourhood – all the residents are involved in keeping it great.’


They were looking for a ‘fixer-upper’ in the area, and Emma immediately liked the big garden space, with lots of grass. The wooden floors, pressed ceilings and spaciousness sealed the deal. Then they got to work – almost every surface got a fresh coat of paint (‘Even a few things that weren’t paintable!’), the floors were whitewashed (after four tries on the spare-room floor finally yielded the desired result), the fireplace was fixed and a vegetable garden was planted.


With Emma an ex-art director and Dylan being handy with a toolbox, there are lots of unique DIY finishes throughout the house, like the bistro lights in the garden and painted lockers in the dressing room. Their next big renovations project is the bathroom.

Most of the interesting items in their house are the results of weekend antique-shopping and attending auctions, and fixing up their finds. Emma found their old-school drinks trolley for a mere R300 and after a slick of polish, it now takes pride of place in the lounge. ‘If it could talk, I think it would tell a lot of cool stories of all the conversations had over a good bottle of single malt!’ Emma laughs. Dylan also built a striking wooden TV mount that hides wires and adds some texture to the room.


The feel of the house is very Scandinavian, with clean, minimal lines and a soft palette of pale greys and white, with splashes of pastel and bright yellow. Industrial accents like copper curtain railings and bedside lamps further bring the space to life, and sweet photos of the couple are scattered throughout the house. Quirky travel finds, like the ship mirror above the fireplace (a Milnerton market find – ‘what a mission to get it home!’) give a sense of humour and personal style.


Emma’s favourite room in the house is the bedroom

Emma’s favourite room in the house is the bedroom, because

waking up to pressed ceilings makes me feel like I’m in a palace!

She and Dylan regularly have friends over, sitting outside under the bistro lights in summer. ‘Dylan loves experimenting with different flavours and recipes so we always try to make something different and tasty from scratch, with lots of fresh ingredients. Our bar cart is also fully stocked with interesting gins for me and whisky for Dylan,’ Emma says.

A visit to the beautiful Babylonstoren farm in Franschhoek inspired them to start their own veggie patch, and now they grow as much food as possible.

We love cooking with fresh herbs; it’s so rewarding to harvest and enjoy food you’ve grown yourself

They started with pots of herbs, tomatoes and lettuces, and when those all thrived, a full veggie patch was promptly dug in. They try to grow a variety of things and have been successful with cabbage, spinach, strawberries, beans, carrots, mielies, cucumber, green peppers, eggplant, chillies and ‘every herb you can think of’. ‘Our gardener also brought us some interesting seeds from Malawi and we’ve grown some lovely Malawian potatoes,’ Emma says. ‘We’ve been cooking a lot more fresh, healthy food, and experimenting with homemade teas and pesto. Dylan’s next dream is chickens – eek!’ 

Emma’s little black book

Anatomy Design, 44 Stanley Ave, Milpark anatomydesign.co.za

Ceramic Factory, 59 4th Ave, Linden ceramicfactory.co.za

In Good Company, 52 6th Street, Parkhurst and Shop 4B, Cavendish Street, Claremont, Cape Town ingoodcompany.co.za

Toc H charity shop, 4th Ave, Parktown North, 011 788 6876

Hospice Shop, cnr 11th Street and Elizabeth Ave, Benmore, 011 83 7242

Linden Auctioneers lindenautioneers.com

Hoy P’loy, Hyde Park Corner, 011 325 5836

The Modernist, 34 4th Ave, Parkhurst modernist.biz

HH Office Logistics, 386 Jan Smuts Ave, Craighall hhofficelogistics.co.za


Text Christine Van Deemter Photographs Steve Karallis 

This article was first published in Elle Magazine 2014.