Ashley Hayden, media personality and part of the Jacaranda FM breakfast team, welcomes us into the gorgeous Johannesburg home she shares with partner Charles Wilson and their two children.
A career in the public eye is bound to engender a need for quiet days in with friends. When at home, Ashley prefers a relaxed atmosphere where she doesn’t feel as though she is being scrutinised. She has created an environment that is a far cry from crowds, microphones and couture. “Charlie and I have two children, nine year- old Cara and eight-year-old Guy. We live in an old house in Parkview that we recently renovated – actually more like rebuilt! It’s a beautiful treed suburb, with the feel of a village, not like a big city,” says the well-known TV personality.
Born in Zimbabwe, Ashley came to South Africa to attend university and has been here ever since. These days her easily recognisable voice and charming smile are as familiar to South Africans as bobotie and Marmite! Ashley and Charlie relish their newly restored home and have a few tricks up their sleeves for enticing friends over.
The couple have a housekeeper who cooks during the week but readily don their aprons on the weekend and take turns whipping up culinary treats inspired by television and magazines – anything new and different. Ashley also attributes her stint on a travel show years ago to her predisposition for adventurous cooking. With working hours that mean she’s up very early, the couple prefer to entertain with a brunch or late lunch.
The house and furnishings are simple, with clean lines. Ashley values comfort and as they spend a lot of time around the dining table, she wanted the most comfortable chairs she could find; they certainly are! “The decor in our home is soothing but with slightly quirky elements that reflect the places we’ve been to. We always end up coming home with treasures when we go travelling.” A case in point is a huge wooden carving of a woman holding a bowl, which Ashley found under a tree in Victoria Falls. “I fell in love with her and had to have a crate made specially so that she could come back to Johannesburg – that was 17 years ago, and I still love her.”
The same goes for the table that Ashley has set for us – the candleholders are from Bali, as are the table mats, which they found at a market in the mountains. The chopsticks were a gift from a friend who went to Vietnam. The setting is simple and clean. “I dislike fussiness and an over-cluttered table. I can’t bear it when you constantly feel like you’re about to knock something over.
I also don’t like height across the middle of the table, or even candles, as I want to be able to see the friends I’m dining with,” says Ashley. It’s functional yet stylish and easy to put together. The feature wall of daisies, gold and textured fabric of the chairs, and the warm tones of the table decor create a cosy and welcoming environment in which to while away beautiful winter days on the Highveld.
Ashley Hayden’s top five entertaining tips:
- Prepare, prepare, prepare! Make dishes that are doable in advance and that don’t need too much attention.
- Don’t fuss over your guests – I want my friends to feel as if they are at home.
- The people who are visiting came to visit you, not your decor, curtains or even your meal – chill!
- It’s always a good idea to have snacks or canapés that are quick and easy to bring out, especially if you are not certain how long the mains will take. There is nothing worse than food taking too long (although there is a school of thought that says ‘keep ’em hungry’ as then anything you serve tastes good!).
- Keep visible areas clear – if the scullery looks like a dog’s breakfast from dumped dirty dishes, just shut the door and deal with it later.
By Dominique Brown