Tuesday, 25 September 2012


What a treat I had while in Cape Town.  My visit to a very beautiful home, filled with carefully curated antiques,  exquisite artworks, and the finest tapestries was an unexpected pleasure.  

 The elegant home, built in the Georgian style, was completely renovated by the current owners. The generous moldings and tall well proportioned windows and doors add to the generous proportions of the house.     As one enters the front door,  the garden is visible across the hall and through the double glass doors of the drawing room.   As I walked in,  I glimpsed  three oval pools, and the statue beyond, bathed in late afternoon light.

When entering the living room,  I marvelled at the antiques, paintings and carefully placed object de'art.  The attention to detail in putting this lovely room together was impressive.   The warm glow and patina of the antiques, all added integrity to the beautiful soft furnishings.

The owner is an accomplished needlewoman and  numerous chairs and stools in her home have been upholstered in her own finest needlepoint.  The chair in her study, (below)  took four years to complete! 

She has stitched a series of panels, each inserted into antique frames which have in turn become very beautiful wall brackets.  The two wall lights in the study depict fruits and insects, copied from original paintings by Jan Van Kessel.  They were framed and electrified by Michael Schryver in London.  

Her study
The four wall lights in the dining room in walnut frames, depict a lady and gentleman in a rural setting and were copied from  "Irwin Untermeyer Collection of English Tapestries"

The bedrooms are sumptuous and luxurious.  The joinery with glass framed doors are lined with fabric.   The curtains are double lined and inter-lined  using lashings of  Nina Campbell fabrics.  

The glass doors, lined with fabric and the lower panels are hand-painted.

The bathrooms are large, mirrored and elegant.  

Original Cape Yellowood floorboards line the ceilings in the double-volume hallway and these boards were also  turned to form the hand-rails for the stairways. 

Below are more photos of the drawing room and garden. What planning has gone into the placement of the paintings each with it's own picture light.

The owner has a plan of these beautifully dressed bookshelves.. very helpful during cleaning!

Another chair upholstered in a magnificent tapestry also stitched by the owner.

The Powder Room

The garden is small but exquisite.  Hedges, pools, statuary and detailed planting all against a magnificent backdrop of Table Mountain.

The rear of the house.  Note the folded cream canvas blinds that extend across the veranda to provide shade.

I am now very inspired to return to my own love of needlepoint.  I think I might have one or two unfinished canvasses somewhere!

Friday, 14 September 2012


Recently, I wrote about an unusual and beautiful  garden in the Loire Valley quite near to Boussac - Prieure d' Orsan. If you haven't read it , have a look here.

Patrice Taravella, one of the architects responsible for restoring the Priory Gardens in France, was also commissioned  to assist with the design of a relatively new garden on the Babylonstoren Wine Estate near Franshoek,  South Africa.    Having visited both gardens recently, it was interesting to note the similarities and contrasts between them. 

The climate in Franshoek is very different to that of the Loire Valley.  The soil conditions, the light, as well as the plant choices are also very different in both gardens.  The plants and trees at Babylonstoren needed to be much more robust to cope with the heat and sometimes very dry conditions of the Western Cape summer.  Some of the wooden structures are  similar to those  in France,  and I would love to fast forward to a visit to Babylonstoren in five years time!

This newer garden of Babylonstoren  is at the heart of the Estate, and covers eight acres.  It is laid out in a grid and there are three axis points.  The timber structures and tree plantings are formal and over 300 varieties of plants using bio-dynamic systems, are edible.  There are 15 divisions including vegetables, berries, indigenous plants as well as a 'Prickly Pear Maze'.  The watering of the garden is achieved using age old gravity methods.  The various walks through the garden total over 3 kilometres. 

The vegetable and fruit gardens supply the Babel Restaurant as well as the Farm Hotel on Babylonstoren.  These formal beds, some bordered by espaliered fruit trees,  are divided by walk-ways, some of which are covered with peach pips instead of gravel.

We had lunch at Babel before our stroll around the gardens and the food was superb.  Below an assortment of photographs of the abundant experience that is Babylonstoren.

Fruit trees trained onto a timber trellis
Fig trees are trained over slanting timber structures, facing the sun.  This, together with the wall behind, providing protection and increasing the heat,  will ensure abundant fruit.
Timber structures against the backdrop of the mountains

The owners are currently expanding the Clivia garden.  There are over 7000 Clivias (indigenous to South Africa)  growing alongside the stream, beneath wild Olives and Oak trees.  A new timber structure, known as The Puff Adder has been built to display the new Clivia collection.  'The structure of balau slats on steel frames, designed by Patrice Taravella and engineered by Terry de Waal, eliminates about 40% of sunlight but allows a free flow of air, creating ideal conditions in which Clivias can thrive'.   Unfortunately,  we were just a little too early to see the Clivias in full bloom, although those  in the timber tunnel were abundant.  

Clivias beneath the wild olives alongside the old stone wall

The more unusual yellow Clivia
This lovely stream which runs beside the Clivia walk.

The Clivia walk - the stream on the right and the fruit orchards on the left.

Babylonstoren is a 240 hectare working wine and fruit farm that dates back over 300 years.
The buildings are all very well preserved and some of the original structures, date back to 1690.   There is a main residence which dates back to 1770, an old cellar, a "Koornhuis" where wheat and hay was stored, a row of service buildings or barns,  a bell tower, an ornate chicken run and dovecote.  All of these buildings are surrounded by old traditional low farm walls.  Some of the  buildings have been converted into guest suites with Cape Dutch gables and thatched roofs. The Hotel offers a Spa and delightful accommodation with magnificent views of the farm and the majestic mountains that surround the farm on three sides.  


Babel - the restaurant

The unusual olive oil and vinegar containers

I hope you have enjoyed the assortment of photographs of the abundant experience that is Babylonstoren.