WORDS Julia Freemantle PHOTOS Karl Rogers
When Suidster’s owners Cobus Van Wyk and Ruan Van De Venter moved back to South Africa after a 16-year stint in the UK, they chose a farm between Montagu and Barrydale for its likeness to the western Scottish isles. “It reminds us of Scotland – the mountains and plants,” says Cobus. “And it has the same rugged beauty,” Ruan adds.
Here they have built their own home, and recently added two remotely situated, solar-powered mountain escapes to which guests can come in search of fresh air and fynbos. When initially imagining the cabins, they knew they wanted something that referenced the cottages they had seen in the Scottish countryside. With this in mind, they asked interior designer Hendre Bloem to bring their vision to life.
Apart from a rectangular, corrugated-iron-clad starting point and a loose framework, Hendre had relatively free rein. “We wanted to keep the footprint small, and to make the cabins simple and sustainable but also luxurious inside,” says Cobus. The rest was up to Hendre. What he’s come up with in response is both simple and incredibly smart: simple in that these are rectangular, barn-style structures with no interior walls; and smart because, despite being one sizeable space (of approximately 80m2), each cabin is also resolved and sophisticated. This is down to just how good Hendre is at organising space.
By cleverly placing and positioning the furniture and fittings, he has achieved a sense of flow as well as pockets of privacy – via the use of details such as curtains around the freestanding bath that also screens the shower from view, a headboard that acts as a room divider, and klompie tiles in different tones that signal the different zones in the space.
“I’m a fan of creating a continuous flow from one area to the next,” says Hendre – but he’s also very much aware that when everything is open, attention to detail is crucial. “Everything here is integrated and unobtrusive. So, when you’re lying in bed, you can’t see the bath – and when the kitchen is not in use, the island looks like a nice table.” It’s a marriage of ease of use with aesthetic appeal.
“I really wanted to create a space that was unique in its experience – to strip it back to the essentials, but
to still include everything you’d need to be comfortable,” he adds. And he’s really delivered on this score – everything you need is here, yet the space feels calm, uncluttered and luxurious.
The environment was a key source of design stimulus: the cottages unobtrusively blend into the landscape, and their positioning ensures that their occupants appreciate the beautiful surroundings. Privacy and seclusion were factors when the sites were chosen, as were the views.
Hendre also drew on the name of the property, Suidster – southern star – as a source of inspiration. “I was inspired by the idea of coordinates and orientation… When we were deciding where to place doors and windows, we made sure that every area, whether you’re sitting by the fire or lying in bed, has a beautiful vantage point,” he says.
Likewise, he looked to the landscape for the palette. “The colours – ambers, plums, rusts – were inspired by the rock formations in the area. I wanted the interiors to complement and balance the fresh greens that come in from the outside.”
As with all design, some details evolved. Here it was the outdoor areas that developed from the original plans, with Kolkol wood-fired tubs added as a savvy way to adapt to the seasons (plunge pools in summer; hot tubs in winter). And, of course, there’s an outdoor shower.
“We want the cottages to age well and become part of the environment,” says Cobus. This sense of ease and flow is something Hendre excels at, and his designs create balance, too. Here he’s combined matt and smooth textures, sheer linen curtains and solid black eaves, lines and curves – all blended into an interior design that’s earthy yet elevated. In short, it’s a comfortable, contemporary and charming take on the country cabin.