Kerala Estate Cottage

WORDS Biddi Rorke PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes PHOTOS Paris Brummer

A modest farm dwelling on a private reserve in the Boland is gently coaxed into the 21st century and given a new lease on life.

The vast tracts of private land that fan out from the Witte and Bastiaanskloof rivers in the Bainskloof Valley are home to the elusive Cape leopard and impressive birdlife. This is the Kerala Estate and reserve, and being here is a nature lover’s ultimate escape – a chance to unplug while appreciating the fynbos-scented air and the thrill of bracing mountain-water swims.

Keri Paddock and husband Sam understand this appeal, and after purchasing their sweeping Bainskloof property in 2018, set about creating serene living spaces so their family and friends can fully benefit from the surroundings. In fact, their 800-hectare chunk of paradise forms part of the Boland Mountain Complex in the Cape Floral Region, one of nine areas in South Africa designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

With a clear idea in mind, the couple tasked architect Bridget George of KLG Architects with updating the existing buildings. They also contracted landscaping company Oasis Design to integrate the dwellings into the terrain, and to create unexpected garden spaces filled with fynbos and proteas.

The stone-walled indigenous garden, created by landscape designer Nick Hampton of Oasis Design, focuses on fragrant and medicinal plants.

The main villa, India House (featured previously in VISI 110), accommodates up to 10 guests, while the more modest Mapacha cottage ably handles the overflow. “Mapacha was a simple cottage beforehand, with just one bedroom and a mini kitchen,” says Keri. “We loved its heritage and gave it an authentic but thorough overhaul. The name Mapacha means ‘twin’ in Swahili – our twins, Violet and Fletcher, are an incredible example of how different twins can be. We wanted Mapacha to have a fresh, individual identity that complements but doesn’t compete with the grander India House.”

READ MORE: Bainskloof Family Home

This humble kraal building was originally used to enclose cows when the farm was a cattle operation. The cottage was rebuilt from the ground up, but Bridget sensitively paid homage to the existing footprint by maintaining its original width while stretching the length of the building. This allows for two simple bedrooms and two bathrooms that lead out from the central living area. “Careful design transformed the cottage while honouring its character,” she says. “Textured plaster and natural materials characterise the space, while simple forms with seamless glass openings give the design a contemporary edge.”

An ornate carved wooden entrance door that Keri sourced during a trip to Lamu Island in Kenya is the only hint of grandeur in the deceptively modest, symmetrical front façade that belies Mapacha’s generous interior. Two rescue donkeys, Buckle and Bella, make a further nod to Keri’s affinity with Lamu; these beasts of burden still feature strongly on the well-preserved Indian Ocean island. Thick walls and small, strategically placed windows on the front elevation ensure the interior remains cool during punishing summer days (and toasty during cold snaps), while polyurethane floors lend the space an air of laid-back simplicity. Timber features strongly – from the symmetrical outside shutters to the ceilings and shelving – and mimics the natural materials that lie beyond the vast sliding doors, which open up to an enclosed back garden. Here, a short path leads to a small, circular wood-fired hot tub – the ultimate spot for gazing up at the stars that litter the midnight Cape skies.

Mapacha’s interiors are earthy, drawing on the natural hues of ochre, sand and stone that surround the building. “Where possible, we supported local artists and artisans, while a few of the bigger furniture pieces were carefully chosen from Saba Studios on Lamu Island,” Keri explains. The result is an effortless pairing of the exotic and the simple – the way nature intended. India House and Mapacha are available for hire as exclusive-use villas – complete with chef, nanny, butler and guide – for four weeks of the year.

Looking for more farm-style homes? Take a look at this Klein Karoo farmhouse and this Bainskloof family home.