The Greyton Lodge

PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Debbie Loots 

A hand-me-down heritage building was given a new lease on life since it found a home in the hearts of the Bloem family. The modern-meets-antique guesthouse makes for a restful abode when escaping to Greyton.

Hendrik and Rensjah Bloem had hardly arrived and wiped the Sannieshof farm dust off their shoes when renovations to their Greyton guest lodge started. Hailing from the North West Province, it was their son Hendré Bloem who convinced them to buy property in the Western Cape, a heritage building they’d never set eyes on, one that needed serious renovations.

Hendré, a newly qualified Cape Town interior designer, was entrusted the entire project, from the plans and renovations to the interior design – a dream opportunity he jumped straight into. He spent the months before his parents’ arrival drawing up and submitting plans to the town council with changes he wanted to make to the building, which dated back to 1882.

It was a prison back in the day, and two of the rooms closest to the main building were the town’s only prison cells. At some point after this, it became a general trading post, with new extensions and rooms added over the years, with the house next door integrated as well. Then, exactly 100 years later, in 1982, it opened its doors for the first time as a 16-bedroom guest lodge. Since then, it has changed ownership at least twice before the Bloems bought it last year.

Because of its heritage status, no changes could be made to the building’s facade. And the only real structural alteration was knocking down a few inside walls to ease the flow between the living and sleeping spaces of the two larger bedrooms.

Instead, it was in the decor where the major changes happened. Hendré’s plan was to integrate some of the antique pieces from the previous lodge with contemporary South African-designed furniture and artwork; things he discovered and learnt to love during his design studies in the Mother City.

Custom-made leather sofas and benches from Klooftique in Cape Town were brought in to keep company with Haldane Martin’s Simplicity side tables, while leather-and-cane light fittings from Weylandts were introduced into the lounge.

A Cube Bench by John Vogel, custom-made to fit neatly behind the rustic chairs in the dining room, snuggles up close to the original fireplace, one of three open hearths in the living and dining rooms. The pots of a Kreep Planter, designed by Joe Paine, are filled with fresh blooms from the garden and perch over a wooden James Mudge table.

Then, in the TV room, more of Haldane Martin’s furniture – his Source Wire chairs and Simplicity side tables – accompany an antique piano and its rickety accomplice, a wooden chair. Also in this room a magnificent paper-cut artwork by Sarah Pratt branches across the wall next to a display cabinet. A variety of bowls are exhibited here, including one with a prickly wire-fence handle, a keepsake Hendré’s mother bought in Sannieshof just before they moved.

The lodge’s quaint whitewashed en-suite bedrooms are all dotted around the large garden and, together with the other house on the property, the Manor House, the buildings are shaded by ancient fruit trees varying from orange and lemon to almond and guava. One tree even bears both lemons and oranges.

A charming elevated pool, seemingly dating back quite a few decades, hides in the far back corner of the garden. Standing here, next to the row of loungers, one gets a clear view across the Riviersonderend Mountains. In the Manor House, all the en-suite bedrooms open on to a passage, unlike the rest of the lodge’s rooms, which have direct garden access. This makes the Manor House suitable for families and larger parties who want to stay together. Hendré had this house’s passage painted a dark shade of grey and, when looking up, one sees open black umbrellas with wooden handles strung all along the bright white ceiling.

In all the bedrooms, antique pieces left by the previous owners are arranged to fit perfectly alongside modern furnishings, like a wooden four-poster next to Hendré’s all-in-one cupboard design. Oregon pine dressing- table tops, looking tired from years of use, were given an update with either a silver or gold spot-paint, where needed.

As the final stages of the project came to a close, and the budget was running low, there were still a few beds without head-boards. Undeterred, Hendré decided to paint large blocks of colour on the walls behind the beds. It is a simple gesture like this, and the umbrellas, that characterise the élan with which he has magically matched polished-up old-fashioned charm with contemporary South African-designed furniture and artworks in the one-of-a-kind Greyton Lodge.

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