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Let me confess: this house with its four attendant cottages, is my dream home. It was once the rectory of St.Barnabas Anglican Church in Kloof Nek, designed by Sir Herbert Baker who also designed the house with its low profile and signature windows and doors. Canadian writer Robinson Davies in his book The Deptford Trilogy, writes about ‘The plain style’. This style is not verbose or needlessly complicated. Nor is it dull or bland. It is characterised by clear syntax, precise choices with an emphasis on quality.
This attitude is part of owner of The Rectory’s, Doreen de Waal’s, DNA who, with her acute eye has left untouched interior glass paned doors and shuttered windows and eschewed open plan. The whole place reverberates with a lack of excessive decoration.
However, Doreen’s real cleverness is her invisible hand with luxury; beds like soft bellies, piles of white towels, a rash of lush sofas and chairs. Every guest is welcomed with a platter of food — freshly cut grapefruit, wine, macaroons. “Food always ups the game,” she says. The versatility of her look allows for stylistic flourishes, without indulgence. Doreen commissioned a group of young people to paint a frieze in one of the kitchens, using fugitive colours and buzzed-up Omega Workshop designs.
She runs the whole operation (the main house plus cottages it can accommodate up to 20 guests) herself and is acutely aware of guests’ needs. “People must feel at home but they also like a support system. And it must always look effortless.’ When I asked for an orange juice, I noticed it was freshly squeezed in the kitchen. No short cuts here; staff is plentiful.
And it is not only oranges, “You need to keep things fresh all the time,” she says. An old look is aging, I want this house to retain the historical atmosphere but I want it lit.”
Thus it is no surprise that it reminded me most of a New York apartment with its slick, ice coloured stainless steel mini kitchens, porcelain bathrooms and large stacked up blocks that open to reveal storage space. “I am a monochrome person,” she says. Backgrounds are all swirls of poultry feed browns and grays with touches of red. As decorator Nicky Haslam famously said; “Every room needs Une Touche de Rouge”. But it is the spicy colours, citrine, tequila, quince in the bathrooms that hit you like a soft blow.
For me this is the ultimate away stay. It is near everything, offers a choice of different activities and is set in a canopy of trees. With its clutch of small balconies and courtyards it has the feel of a 14th century Spanish court and brings a quiet intimacy to the city swirl with which it is surrounded.
What we love!
The choice of five spaces, each differently decorated, a house, part of a house, a loft and two cottages. Spaces that are filled with light and glass, rooms that show splinters of glorious views, spaces that are like aeries or spaces that offer silent retreats.
Being in the center of town but with the feeling you are remote.
Having all the best restaurants within walking distance.
Having the genius of the shop ‘Less is More’, just a step away with unique merchandise culled from all over the world.
Being able to walk to De Waal Park and lie on the grass and watch the dogs playing in the fountain.
Visiting the Victorian Long Street Baths with its cooled tiled interior, part of the old city.
Walking up Table Mountain early in the morning.
What you need to know…
Here we show just the house, contact us for brochure showing all the spaces
There are three pets – a dog and two cats on the property – all rather lazy and harmless but can be moved away if guests prefer.
The pool has no net but is gated.
The owner, a fantastic cook, sometimes offers dinner if she feels the mix of guests in the different spaces will enjoy coming together.
Robert, the manager, cooks a mean pizza – you can arrange this with him directly. You can also arrange a picnic basket for the beach.
Ellen, the housekeeper, is great with kids and happy to babysit.
Reviewed by Lin Sampson