Fresh rustic comes to the Midlands

WORDS Chantel Hans PHOTOS Samantha Maber

Anybody who’s been to the newly reopened Blueberry Café in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands will agree that its uncomplicated style and rustic edge is charming. VISI chatted to Andrea Kleinloog from Anatomy Design (read more here) about their design approach that spanned everything from the revamped interior to the new brand identity.

From some of the before images we have seen, you haven’t simply updated the interior but reinvented it. What was the brief that the client gave you?

The client realised that the restaurant and store needed a breath of fresh air and wanted to incorporate the beautiful and unique setting it was in. We were very privileged to be allowed to assess every element and, together with the incredible force of Wendy Dixon (graphics), Mia Widlake (product development and styling) and Bianca Davies (menu development), got an even better overview of the space and experience.

What inspired your interpretation of the brief?

We didn’t want the fact that Blueberry Cafe and The Winkel were located in the countryside to define it (read more of VISI’s articles about fresh country living). Rather, together with its refreshing approach to humble and truthful detailing in the branding, interior and food, that became a reason to set it apart.

How would you describe the new interior?

It’s an honest space. The detailing remained simple with layered desaturated tones and textures, in contrast to the relatively ornate, botanical elements.

Would you say it is better to revamp or work from scratch?

I think a combination, but every project is different. It is very difficult to reuse existing elements when trying to reinvent a space. In revamping, the key is to allow the preservation of the original details to occur organically and not let them dictate the process.

What is the greatest challenge you experienced in revamping this interior?

Logistics. Being four hours from Johannesburg, it required meticulous planning. And even then, there were numerous trips to the local (unfamiliar) hardware store. We were also “blessed” with the Midlands rain, which made moving the furniture and interior elements around an endless game of Tetris! 

What was the best part of revamping this interior? 

Working with an enormously talented team and seeing an undiluted vision unfold within a week.

If Blueberry Café were a person, how would you describe them?

Shy at first, but once he has a glass of chilled chardonnay, he begins to tell you remarkable tales of adventures and travels.

Do tell us about the product range you specifically developed for this project.

Almost every aspect of the interior and product ranges had some degree of extended detailing – from the custom shopping crates to the careful wine selection, even the plates with prints of 24 varieties of sheep and pigs.

However, we did design a range of furniture specifically for The Winkel – a range of deep and comfortable armchairs and sofas. The focus was to keep the cost down, but not compromise on the minimal detailing.

Mia Widlake also developed a gorgeous range of modern botanical textiles exclusively available at The Winkel.

You have also developed your own range of Anatomy smalls, launched at FoodWineDesign. Tell us about that range.

We launched a range of homeware elements that we hope to grow and extend as we observe gaps. We started with a range of simple but well structured and proportioned crockery. Our copper vessels sold out before we even opened the show, which was both a great feeling, and created a sense of mild panic!

What a great project to launch the year with! What else can we look forward to from you this year?

2013 was spent doing a lot of planning… It feels like 2014 will see a lot of the fruits of its labour. We have a few beautiful homes coming to completion after almost a full year of details, details and more details.

Blueberry Cafe and The Winkel, Notthingham Road, 033 266 7132,