The Paarman paradise

PHOTOS: Adriaan Oosthuizen | PRODUCTION: Sumien Brink | WORDS: Johan van Zyl

High in Constantia, under an age-old leafy blanket where three years ago there stood a dilapidated shed, the Paarman family now lives and works with abandon.

Ina Paarman is surprisingly small in stature for someone so worthy of the title ‘matriarch’ – even more so when she stands under the imposing Turkish oak tree and, looking at the mountain, says, ‘Look, it sometimes feels as if we are already in heaven.’

Every square metre of the woodland estate purchased by the Paarmans in 2004 is just reward for the endless sweat, dedication and daring shown over the many years since they started the Ina Paarman brand in their garage.

‘We wanted the building to reflect the idea of a modern business with old-fashioned values,’ she says. ‘My son, Graham, the managing director, and I were looking for a young, energetic design team who would be prepared to work with us – and work hard.’

This honour fell to Tiaan Meyer and Jan-Heyn Vorster of Meyer + Vorster, a design duo Ina describes as ‘perfectionists with flair and an eye for detail, who regard integrity and quality as non-negotiables – something with which we could easily identify.’

The project was no small challenge. The main building not only had to house the kitchen where products would be developed, recipes tested and demonstration videos for the website shot, but it also had to incorporate a laboratory, office, library, corporate entertainment area and guest accommodation. Even the existing outhouse, originally earmarked for storage space and staff housing, was turned into a fully-fledged flat with a roof garden.

Large-scale earth removal and filling was needed to create new spaces, terraces and retaining walls and, to crown it all, not a single tree was to be harmed or removed. The Paarmans felt so strongly about the preservation of the trees on the grounds that each one had a ‘fine notice’ of between R100 000 and R500 000 fastened to its trunk throughout the building process.

In the middle of paradise

From the outside, the main building appears to be a fairly traditional shed-type structure, but the steel-framed glass boxes reveal the contemporary, double-volume interior. These were extended internally to form a steel framework upon which rests the upper floor of the loft-style corporate guest accommodation (currently Graham’s home while his own house is being built).

‘And look,’ says Ina while sliding open the laboratory’s red-elm cupboard doors. ‘Tiaan and Jan-Heyn created a marvellous array of storage space for us. They designed this cupboard, and cabinetmaker Tinie Versfeld built it and the other cupboards with clever washing and shoe boxes on top, as well as large, deep drawers for storing pots, and open shelves. They even remembered that some of them had to be low enough for me to be able to reach!’

After a stroll around the grounds, we visit the vegetable and herb garden where Ina quickly fills a basket with shiny red peppers, eggplants and sprigs of sage.

‘There you go,’ she says, as she slowly lets her eyes roam over her domain. There’s the main home, built in 1937 and in the process of being sensitively restored by the same team for Ina and her husband, Ted. There’s the duck pond. The orchard, the fynbos garden, the borehole. The rolling lawns and lavender fields, the indigenous bush, the abundance of clivias and agapanthus. The waterfall, the fountains. The roof garden and little footpaths. The neighbour’s vineyards and the mountain on the western side.

‘It’s Monday morning,’ I say, ‘and here we are – right in the middle of paradise.’

‘Mmm, yes,’ says Ina, ‘all that’s missing are a few chickens.’

• Ina Paarman: 021 794 1103,

• Meyer + Vorster Architects, Urban Designers & Interior Designers:  021 425 7257,

• René van der Westhuizen:  083 409 9252,