PHOTOS Dook PRODUCTION Annemarie Meintjes WORDS Ami Kapilevich
The latest addition to Babylonstoren is a natural extension of the estate’s founding principles and a symbol of its enduring hospitality.
“We are all about the garden,” says Babylonstoren proprietor Karen Roos. “It all stems from there. We built the restaurant as an outlet for the fresh produce from the garden. And the Farm Hotel was built to accommodate the patrons. So none of this was really planned. There was no commercial goal or motivation. It came from the garden.”
We are sitting in the Butterfly Room, the lounge area of the Farmhouse, the latest addition to Babylonstoren. This nine-room lodge was converted from the original resident farmer’s house. It will supplement the eleven-room Farm Hotel, just as Babel, Babylonstoren’s internationally vaunted restaurant, was extended with an adjoining property after the waiting list for a table began to stretch from weeks to months.
Unlike the old farmworkers’ dwellings, rooms that now constitute the Farm Hotel, the building converted into the Farmhouse had no heritage restrictions, as it was built in the 1960s. This gave Karen a lot more leeway in terms of what she could do with the structure, but it also meant she needed to add something special.
“The Farm Hotel rooms have an authentic history and look out over the garden,” Karen says, “but with the Farmhouse it was trickier. We had to give it something extra, something a bit more refined and luxurious.”
The Farmhouse decor bears the unmistakable stamp of Karen’s own style. There is a deliberate sense that the Farmhouse is an extension of the main homestead, the manor house. The walls of the Butterfly Room are lined with books, and the furniture is eclectic yet classic.
“We kept it simple, but we used the best quality materials. We want it to be timeless, to last. When we got here, the Cape Dutch house from the 1700s was still here, so we want the same permanence for what we do. A hundred years from now,” she says, laughing, “this bed must still be here.”
Karen used many reclaimed and antique pieces. The beautiful spiral staircase that leads to the Queen Bee Loft suite was imported from a specialist salvage company. The tiles were also salvaged, and cut from larger pieces.
The ceilings in the rooms have been lifted and there are deliberately large walk-in closets. “As someone who is a bit untidy,” says Karen, “I like to just throw everything in the cupboard. Especially when I’m on holiday.”
The Farmhouse opens out to a swimming pool, and beyond that is a sophisticated spa in what was once the farmer’s braai room. The spa alone is so impressive it could attract even more visitors to the Farmhouse.
“It can’t get any bigger than this. That would put us in another category. This is still personal and intimate, a space left by our ancestors,” says Karen.
Make no mistake, Karen Roos means to leave a legacy. But it all started with a garden.