WORDS Biddi Rorke IMAGES Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes
A young Cape Town family’s private nature reserve in the Bainskloof valley is inspired by Indian and Swahili design and decor.
“We wanted this space to be a special place to connect with nature and make memories with friends and family,” says Keri Paddock, who together with husband Sam (founder of GetSmarter and JEFF Fitness) and toddler twins, Violet and Fletcher, makes every effort to spend as much time as possible at India House on Kerala Estate.
Home to the elusive Cape leopard, caracal, duiker, buck and impressive birdlife, this private reserve boasts access to spectacular mountain hikes and trails, and proximity to the Witte and Bastiaanskloof rivers. “We say the water has magical properties because we always feel so fantastic after a swim,” Keri says of the picnic-perfect river frontage just 150 metres from their door.
After purchasing the Bainskloof valley property two years ago, the couple tasked Bridget George of KLG Architects with updating the main stone building, and creating a sense of symmetry and purpose with a few considered additions. For instance, the new master suite boasts a deck, walk-in closet and outside shower; while a pavilion and pergola addition, framed by a gabion wall that recedes into the mountainous landscape, affords the family a unique outside space to socialise and relax.
The four-bedroom, five-bathroom dwelling is arranged around a central courtyard that, with its low-slung heritage Indian coffee table and quirky cork stools, lends itself to informal gatherings.
Also making their property available for exclusive-use hire for four weeks of the year, the Paddocks explain that the main intent at Kerala is for guests to immerse themselves in nature while enjoying dialled-back luxury in which no area is too precious for the busy feet of young children and active dogs. Hard-wearing polyurethane floors in the entranceways and bedrooms give way to sugar-gum planks in the reconfigured open-plan kitchen and dining area, adding warmth, interest and texture; while exposed trusses overhead imbue the home with a generous, airy feel.
Keri, who assumed the role of interior designer and project manager, chose to keep the Swahili elements of the previous owner’s vision while adding her own unique stamp. The rich colour palette reflects the surrounding landscape – but her affinity for India, Morocco and Zanzibar aesthetics is evident in the striking pieces throughout India House. An ornate, burnished-gold chandelier is offset by retro pendants; cherry-red lacquered pedestals pop next to contemporary fourposter beds; and elegant benches and daybeds evoke feelings of laid-back Lamu Island style.
“After doing a DNA test for fun a few years ago, I realised my family has Indian blood,” Keri says. “That’s why renaming the estate Kerala (a state on the south-western Malabar Coast of India) seemed to make sense.” The couple also made every effort to draw on their wealth of creative friends to pepper the homestead with quirky yet meaningful art.
Cue bespoke wallpaper by Katie Lund, punch-needle artworks by Caro Hickson and photographic art by Filipa Domingues of Check My Plants. Landscaping company Oasis Design skilfully integrated India House into the terrain, softening edges, planting grassy verges and creating unexpected garden spaces filled with fynbos and proteas.
The end result is a harmonious living space that pleases the eye and sits respectfully in the landscape. Keri and Sam still have many plans for the surrounding buildings and cottages, but at present are content to focus on the main reason for owning the reserve – spending quality time together as a family. India House at Kerala Estate is available for hire as an exclusive use villa – complete with chef, nanny, butler and guide – for four weeks of the year.