The Perfect Hideaways Story

Finding dream homes year in and year out for almost 20 years has put Perfect Hideaways well and truly ahead of the game. So, what started it?
Perfect Hideaways, Helen Untiedt, Hout Bay, South Africa
Helen Untiedt, Co-founder and Curator, Perfect Hideaways
Helen and David portrait with art

‘The idea was planted when we were looking for a weekend house for our then young family,’ explains Helen Untiedt, co-founder and curator. ‘The more we looked, the more we realised that the idea of a holiday home means different things to different people, and that every space has its own story to tell.’

That was way back in 2005, yet it has remained a passion project for Helen and her husband David. ‘We were obsessed with finding more examples of spaces where the marriage of good design, personal interiors, a curated experience and an incredible location transformed the ordinary into something extraordinary.’ Before they knew it, their curiosity for homes that offer remarkable experiences became a business.

‘We didn’t set out to do this, but our wanderlust and joy in finding places that hold a palpable magic is what drives us,’ says Helen. ‘We love what we do and we do what we love – the Japanese call it ikigai, a passion that brings you purpose. It gets us up in the morning!’

The common thread in every home they felt drawn to was the human experience it offered. ‘The places we love make life feel better because they have been created with love, curated for comfort and designed as a canvas upon which to create rituals, make memories and find much-needed quiet time in the most sublime settings,’ Helen enthuses. Now with more than 400 extraordinary holiday escapes on their books, Perfect Hideaways has honed their recipe for success.

Perfect Hideaways, Stone House view, Hermanus, South Africa
Sophisticated yet utterly comfortable: today’s portfolio includes over 400 properties, from rustic clapboard beach houses to stylish cliffside homes commanding superb views. Stone House in Hermanus is a favourite with regular guests who return time and again

Originally known for bravely pioneering a collection of off-grid houses in Churchhaven on the West Coast (long before ‘loadshedding’ even existed), each one loved for its simplicity and peacefulness on the shores of the lagoon in one of the Cape’s wildest reserves, just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town. There is practically no Wi-Fi reception here, one of the reasons many guests return time and again as they know they can truly escape and relax. In fact, for many years, if a house had no television it piqued the team’s interest immediately.

Perfect Hideaways, Hout Huisie, Schrywershoek, near Churchhaven, West Coast, South Africa
Hout Huisie in Schrywershoek, near Churchhaven, an off-grid paradise on the shores of the lagoon just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town, in the West Coast National Park

Following Churchhaven, Perfect Hideaways was one of the first to market remote escapes in the Karoo and along the now-famous Route 62, many of them historic farmhouses layered with ambience and offering a chance to escape to the country for an authentic farm holiday, especially with children who love collecting eggs from free-roaming chickens, swimming in rivers and riding their bicycles.

Perfect Hideaways, Tankwa River Lodge, Tankwa Karoo, South Africa
An iconic quivertree at sunset at the remote but delightfully comfortable Tankwa River Lodge

So for the first time in South Africa, the idea of a relatively luxurious road trip became a reality, and as the portfolio of personally vetted and handpicked properties grew, so did a loyal following of intrepid travellers. For them, luxury became the privacy of being in a home-away-from-home, somewhere where one could expect quality linen, a stock of dry firewood and inspirational interiors. Things have come a long way since then…

All the while, the demand for dreamy weekend escapes – particularly beach houses – within two hours of Cape Town has never abated, which has meant that the team has explored practically every inch of our beautiful Winelands, Boland, Overberg and West Coast looking for homes in the best locations. Shortly afterwards, the collection expanded to include Plettenberg Bay and the rest of the Garden Route, followed by the KwaZulu-Natal north coast and Midlands.

Beach and bush holidays are a superb combo, so private homes in game reserves soon followed, and before long the Safari division was born. In the meantime, the Locations and Wedding divisions began to gain momentum. There is nothing this team cannot do: you simply need to ask!

Perfect Hideaways, Tswalu, Kalahari, South Africa
The Motse at Tswalu, offering a luxurious escape in the extraordinarily beautiful Kalahari, South Africa

With almost 400 properties in their collection, there is something for everyone: urban retreats and slick city escapes to beach houses, bush lodges, country idylls and mountainside escapes, all waiting to be enjoyed and appreciated. And each of them has the Perfect Hideaways stamp of approval.

Perfect Hideaways is now expanding its horizons. Knowing that the best overseas holidays are those where a knowledgeable team has already completed the groundwork, we launched our long-awaited Mauritian portfolio earlier this year, along with a growing Italian collection – starting with Puglia, Tuscany and Umbria. The sun-drenched islands of Greece and the Maldives were hot on their heels, after a summer spent sleuthing for the most gorgeous properties.

Behind-the-scenes, the reality is that the team never stops searching for the most beautiful houses, farms and bush lodges in the land, no matter how many miles of dusty roads need to be travelled or how many messages it takes to meet an owner and experience their world.

Who are the founders of Perfect Hideaways?

In the style of a classic Cary Grant and Grace Kelly movie, Helen and David Untiedt met and fell in love in Monte Carlo… she a travelling English Rose, and he, a young man from Johannesburg, hell bent on leaving the big city behind and sailing off in search of adventure. And what a place to begin a life together amid the glitz and glamour of the yachting fraternity, the gamblers and the glitterati.

Opulent Monte Carlo can overwhelm with its grand architecture, flashy hotels, fast cars, expensive boutiques and Monégasque (a mix of French and Italian) culture, food and language. But luckily having day jobs (as well as down-to-earth personalities) meant that instead of getting lost in the racy materialism of the international jet set, they were able to step in and out of the madness!

They set off on their travels from the South of France, mostly working on chartered yachts between Europe and the USA. Their journey was an adventure and they spent time in the Spanish Balearic Islands, sailed through The Caribbean, took on New England in a sports car, crossed California and Nevada, explored New Orleans and even dropped into Venezuela.

On their travels they witnessed the highs and lows that come with being on the road (and sea). They know that it takes a little time to appreciate that a truly special holiday moment isn’t necessarily defined upon opening the doors to a luxury suite, which brings us to Cape Town, where Helen and David have been living since 1997, raising their four children. Largely chosen for its beauty and because it’s one of those unique places on the planet that encompasses an incredible and interesting diversity in culture, language, food and style: a land that at one time is wholly African but also borrows much from foreign shores, making it a great place to start a business centred around dream locations.

Today, David Untiedt runs Perfect Hideaways Invest, the property sales division, where many beautiful Perfect Hideaways homes, farms and lodges find new owners, many of whom choose to remain within the rental portfolio. They also specialise in shared ownership.

What is the Perfect Hideaways’ idea of luxury?

Privacy. Absolute comfort. Restorative time with family and close friends. Our idea of luxury accommodation is the opposite of bling. Couldn’t be further from it, in fact it’s about achieving the most relaxed interiors with superb quality fabrics and linens, about kitchens that we know you’ll love to cook in together, about being in the most incredible location. It’s about peace and quiet… heavenly views, stargazing from your boma at night, laughter around the braai. Happy times together, making memories. Most importantly the spaces created have a sense of soul – that special something that ensures you’ll want to come back again and again.

As writer Kerryn Fischer summed it up in Perfect Hideaways Book 3: ‘Every one of Perfect Hideaways’ homes is grounded in a sense of place that will touch you physically, emotionally and spiritually, for each home has an indefinable genius loci that sets it apart. Each home is best described as an ever-changing story to which we can add our own particular and personal ending. Lived in, loved, well-adjusted homes – this is what Perfect Hideaways offers and what sets it apart.’

Perfect Hideaways Book 3, the third in the series of beautifully illustrated coffee table books by Perfect Hideaways, features a collection of our most inspirational homes in South Africa.

The 256-page hardcover book is now available on order.

Please email us soonest on  [email protected] if you’d like to be the first to receive a copy or gift it to friends or family!

Tell us more about the international collection?

Perfect Hideaways’s love affair with Mozambique started in 2010 when Helen and David headed off on their first road trip, driving all the way from Cape Town to Vilanculos, arriving five days later at the laid-back, family friendly Villa Ponta near Vilanculos – the first to list. They were smitten. This heavenly beach hideaway was to be the catalyst for many happy holidays on the warm shores of the Indian Ocean where traditional wooden dhows sail by on the gentle breezes and memories of the freshest seafood feasts and hours spent snorkelling its crystal-clear waters are made.

Perfect Hideaways, Sussuro, Mozambique
The newest escape in Mozambique, heavenly Sussuro, a calm and tranquil retreat

Soon, a number of magical beach homes in The Sanctuary followed. This 30 000-ha private reserve is on the San Sebastián Peninsula neighbouring the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park. Little known by the rest of the world, yet a mere 45-minute boat ride across the archipelago from Vilanculos, it became one of their favourites spots to send intrepid guests to. A few years later, and once the airport had a makeover, the advent of the beach-and-bush holiday was born as it was by far the easiest airport to fly into from Joburg or Nelspruit. Combining a bush experience in the Greater Kruger with Mozambique is still one of the most enjoyable ways to discover this part of Africa, whether you’re in the mood for indulgent luxury at Kisawa on Benguerra Island or a romantic, fully inclusive experience at Santorini, just north of Vilanculos. Head further north, and you’ll discover the purity of pared-down interiors at Sussuro, and in the south, a peaceful, self-catering holiday awaits at Colina Verde on the Machangulo Peninsula near Maputo after a safari. Either way, Perfect Hideaways has been the ‘go-to team’ for on-the-ground knowledge of Mozambique since they have self-driven the routes and have chosen houses with local staff or managers – essential in remote regions and a blueprint for remote locations to come.

Perfect Hideaways, Jack’s Camp pool pavilion, Makgadikgadi, Botswana
The iconic pool pavilion at the romantic Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi, Botswana

By 2017, the new Safari division was curated by Michelle Snaddon, who had not only also visited Mozambique five times by then, but was brought up in Malawi. With the bush in her genes, she set about expanding the portfolio, beginning with private houses on game farms in South Africa. Today the collection almost 90 lodges and private bush camps or houses. Botswana, of course, has been a long-time favourite, with the iconic Jack’s Camp in the Makgadikgadi starting the collection many years ago. Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia followed, with Victoria Falls often being the most popular multigenerational holiday for older families and with teens – especially for their adrenaline-inducing river activities on offer near vibrant little town on the edge of the rainforest where this Seventh Wonder of the World never ceases to take your breath away. And what of East Africa? Kenya was added much later by Mandi Aliverti when she joined Perfect Hideaways in 2021 and her collection now pairs iconic safari experiences here with coastal favourites, starting with Lamu and Kilifi.

Perfect Hideaways, Belle Vallée stone walls, Montpellier, France
Lovingly restored French farmhouse close to Montpellier, Belle Vallée, with original stone walls dating back to the 16th century

Meanwhile, Helen’s hankering for holidays in Europe began with a reccie to France in 2019, when she and David set off to explore the vast countryside of France with family in tow. They drove miles, visiting restored chateaux, charming farmhouses and little stone villages, bringing home the news that the first of the international collection would launch soon. Soon after, South Africans who had homes abroad started sharing their gems and in no time at all, the division was launched and the first bookings for a European summer rolled in. South Africans who had children working overseas were finally able to book with Perfect Hideaways for a family gathering half-way… in beautiful pre-vetted homes, of course.

That same year, enquiries for striking locations were increasing and although the Locations division had humble beginnings in 2019, it became a division in its own right in 2021. Today many of the Perfect Hideaways homes are available for photography and film shoots.

All the while a Wedding division was on the move in the wings and by 2020 word-of-mouth recommendations led to a constant flow of enquiries for dream weddings in dream locations. So much so that wedding ‘diva’ Mandy Watson did a reccie of 65 properties around the country in September 2021, and the rest is history… Now with over 100 wedding locations on the books, one of the earliest of which was Le Creuzette (owned by South Africans), in France, there’s no stopping the demand.

Perfect Hideaways, wedding by Wedding Concepts, Hout Bay, South Africa
Destination weddings in South Africa are an increasing trend

Much of the support is due to our long-time Perfect Hideaways homeowners such as Sue Lederle, who constantly spread the word and bring us new homes. Before long, Sue shared her gorgeous Italian escape built in stone and with magnificent views. Casa di Led is just three hours from Rome and not far from Spoleto and Assisi in Umbria. It is the first Italian property to launch. At that time, Sue’s bush house in the Greater Kruger was already part of the Safari portfolio, so the team was thrilled to market her Italian home as they loved her style. Visited recently by Mandi Aliverti while on her third reccie trip to Puglia, Tuscany and Umbria, in July 2023, Casa di Led was in many ways the catalyst for what is now known as the ‘Italian Collection’. Now, over 21 private villas, masseria’s, trullo, palazzo’s, restored monasteries and castles to discover, it already captured the imagination of our loyal travellers, and there’s more to come very soon …

Perfect Hideaways, Masseria Le Torri, Puglia, Italy
Puglia’s Masseria Le Torri, from the new Italian collection, now expanding in Umbria and Tuscany

But back to the Indian Ocean love affair… What happened after Mozambique? With a die-hard island-lover on the team who has been to Mauritius 12 times, Maldives three times, and Madagascar, Zanzibar and Seychelles, it was time to start another new division. Or three. With an ever-increasing demand for Mauritius, Belita White launched the Indian Ocean Island Collection in mid-2023 with no less than 13 private beach houses, apartments and villas in Mauritius. Having lived near Rivière Noire for a while, she focused on three favourite regions: the authentic south-west with scenic Le Morne and the marina at Black River cradled by mountainous inland peaks; the popular northern beaches of around Pereybere and Cap Malheureux, just beyond Grand Baie; and the quieter north-east where Roches Noires, Trou d’Eau Douce, Poste Lafayette and Belle Mare have many family friendly homes.

Perfect Hideaways, hammock at Enchanted Island villa, Le Morne, Mauritius
https://www.perfecthideaways.co.za/self-catering/three-stone-villas/

Madagascar followed with the iconic Miavana by Time + Tide on Nosy Ankao Island and shortly afterwards, three idyllic island hideaways in the Maldives joined with the private island of Ithaafushi alongside the Waldorf Astoria Ithaafushi, and Conrad Maldives on Rangali Island in South Ari Atoll. And, heading across the pond, Martangie Villa in Barbados awaits in The Caribbean and those with a penchant for an historic manor house in Cotswolds should stay at the gracious but relaxed Ebrington Hall.

A first foray into Greece in the early days of June in this summer of 2023, by Helen Untiedt, has seen the launch of Three Stone Villas set on the island of Evia, the second largest in Greece after Crete. Just over two hours’ drive from Athens, it’s within easy reach of South Africans who love the island lifestyle and don’t want to hassle with ferries. As yet untouristed, Evia was a great start. The Peloponnese is next, with an utterly captivating little boutique hotel on the Mani Peninsula stealing our hearts. Expect more to come…

Perfect Hideaways, view of Three Stone Villas, Greece
Three Stone Villas, just launched on the as yet unspoiled island of Evia in Greece

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