Winelands Getaway: Clouds Estate

PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Lauren Shantall

At the crest of the Helshoogte Pass, Cape Dutch has been given a contemporary reinvention at Clouds Estate, which packs a formidable design punch with distinctive interiors by Moooi.

Clouds Estate. If you’ve never visited, you’d be forgiven for thinking such a lofty-sounding name was setting itself up for a fall. Instead of the kind of disappointment that brings you back down to earth with a bump, however, Clouds – as it’s affectionately known – affords a spectacular view that elevates, uplifts and does all sorts of other dizzyingly pleasurable things to the jaded soul.

Perched atop the Helshoogte Pass, overlooking the beautiful Banhoek Valley and edged by the majestic Drakenstein, with Simonsberg towering in the foreground, its name really is appropriate… Think incredible, dramatic mountains and that kind of splendour. Now consider an interior that carries enough weight not to be out of place.

At barely 4.5 hectares, Clouds is an offshoot of what once must have been a larger expanse. It could be dubbed a mere “token” estate, yet  it is indeed a working farm, with plans to produce a new red in addition to its four-star sauvignon blanc, and to build a cellar, tasting room and winery in 2015. The cabernet sauvignon vines are already in the ground, and there are rumours of something “bubbly” afoot. 

For now, however, it is a small boutique guesthouse with seven rooms and five separate villas. If you’d known Clouds back in 2005 when it first opened, you’d remember a pretty, Mediterranean-styled B&B, replete with curlicue colonnades and floral accents – much loved by brides. That is a thing of the past.

Today it is an über-contemporary, five-star destination that was extensively overhauled by its new Dutch proprietors, Paul Burema  and Jolanda van Haperen, and reopened in December 2012. The owners are “swallows”, who spend the warm South African summer at their own private villa at Clouds, heading back to Holland when the weather turns.

Thanks to architect Christof Albertyn, Clouds’ tagline of “modern architecture, ancient views” has come alive, fitting snugly into the genre of new wine estates that have embraced modernity in the absence of heritage buildings. “Exciting,” says Clouds’ interior designer Suzy Vissers, of Dutch design company Moooi, “if it is done with care and respect for the surroundings”.

Without a pre-existing “Cape Dutchie”  to set an undeniable tone for the interiors (and the subsequent heritage-preservation restrictions that come with such provenance), the owners had absolute freedom to reinvent Clouds. They “were open to lots of ideas but also had a very clear idea as to what they wanted for Clouds,” says Suzy.

Its character has been embedded in the open-to-the-view architecture of front-facing glass inhabited by daring and playful interiors. Once you’re there, surrounded by the unexpectedly welcoming, iconic pieces of high design, it’s all about the panorama. Floor-to-ceiling sliding doors allow it to come inside. 

“When I saw the architect’s drawings,  I knew straight away that the dining area and tables should be situated by the glass terrace with full views,” says Suzy. “The lounge areas with open fireplace are set back, making this area cosy (and the views are still stunning due to the architecture and glass). The bar area also has a lounge verging on the terrace. And all the bedrooms are situated on the front of the building with view-facing beds.”  

Moooi’s co-founder, Casper Vissers (Suzy’s husband), started the company in 2001 with Marcel Wanders, naming their venture after their native Dutch word for beautiful, with the third O “standing for extra value in terms of beauty and uniqueness”. 

The implied irony is that Paul and Jolanda are modern-day Dutch “settlers”, who’ve brought an innovative design language to the Cape winelands. The Dutch connection is prevalent everywhere, not just through Moooi, but also in the orange of the estate’s branding, its soon-to-be-relaunched wine label and in the outlandish orange “deck chairs” by Mal Furniture that look like Eames on acid. Shlumpy sofas and armchairs by Linteloo, another Dutch label (Jan te Lintelo is a friend of the owners), rub shoulders with signature pieces by Wanders and other Moooi regulars.

It’s not all Dutch, though – a noteworthy South African art collection, featuring works by Strijdom van der Merwe, Kurt Pio and Helen Vaughan, completes the picture. Suzy says, “Shopping in Cape Town with Jolanda for the art and accessories was a positive challenge (and amazing fun). Although I didn’t have a network there, everyone was extremely helpful and pointed us in the right direction.” 

Speaking of the right direction, for Clouds, the only way is up.

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