Prince Albert Weekend Cottage

PHOTOS Jan Ras WORDS Biddi Rorke

A busy Cape Town-based couple has found fairy dust in the raw, healing energy of the Karoo town of Prince Albert.

Surrounded by windmills and the rugged, arid beauty of the Great Karoo, Hennie se Huisie on Van Dyk Street in Prince Albert is more than a sensitively renovated vernacular homestead. Owners Jonno Sherwin, partner in and founder of the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary, and medical doctor Johan Hugo named this special home-from-home after Johan’s late nephew, Hennie.

An outbuilding on the property has been converted into a simple chapel to pay tribute to the young man. And Hennie’s innocence and purity are echoed in the whitewashed, light-flooded interior of the house. “If I had to describe our Prince Albert home, I’d say it reflects pure love and light,” says Johan, who was actively involved in the renovation. “We saw the neglected building’s potential and knew that removing some of the interior walls and adding sleeper-wood lintels and clerestory windows would positively change the natural flow of the interior.”

The once-poky space has been opened up and transformed into an airy home featuring rustic simplicity, with chocolate-hued screed floors, built-in concrete furniture and shelves, wooden sash windows and latte ceilings. A vintage cast-iron wood-burning stove enjoys pride of place in the lounge.

Works of art collected by Jonno and Johan add interest and texture, and Scandi-retro sofas and armchairs from create inviting seating areas.

In the kitchen, open shelves allow for a display of turtle-green ’60s and ’70s ceramic crockery, which has been in Johan’s family since he was a child. A retro gas stove and oversized laboratory sink are both utilitarian and stylish.

The couple, who live in a stately Victorian home in Tamboerskloof, admit to cocooning when they visit their modest Prince Albert haven. “We found God-energy here,” says Jonno simply.

As an integral part of their love affair with the Karoo, they bought a 20-hectare farm in the area in 2012, which has since become the home of the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary. “The Karoo vegetation, endemic wildlife and scent of raw earth worked its magic on us.”

Prince Albert

Johan and Jonno, surrounded by some of their rescued donkey mares and foals in the nursery camp at the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary in Prince Albert.

When the couple entertain, the festivities spill out onto the patio at the back, where a no-fuss concrete fireplace doubles as a braai. Latte screens and ceilings, together with a locally sourced eight-seater wooden table and teak chairs, continue the theme of basic rural style.

The exterior of Hennie se Huisie has remained largely untouched. The naivety of the covered stoep with its corrugated roof sits comfortably with the basic beauty of the surroundings. “We love the fact that the facade of the house is so simple,” says Jonno. “It looks like something a child would draw.”

If you’d like to contribute to the Karoo Donkey Sanctuary, the banking details are as follows: Karoo Donkey Sanctuary, Standard Bank, Tyger Manor 05 04 10, account no. 300 874 049. For more information about the sanctuary, visit