House Tour

IN PICTURES | This holiday home in the Klein Karoo is romantically rustic

This young family’s off-the-grid bush escape in the Klein Karoo blends a modern campaign style with Provençal sensibility

22 July 2018 - 00:00 By Jessica Ross/Bureaux
Set in the semi-arid Klein Karoo landscape, this small cabin feels miles away from anything.
Set in the semi-arid Klein Karoo landscape, this small cabin feels miles away from anything.

There are few things as idyllic as luxuriating in an outdoor tub in the middle of the bush, G&T in hand, quietly listening to birdsong and stridulating insects floating through the valley at dusk. For Samantha and William Mellor, this calming ritual is the essence of Cabine du Cap, their weekend bolthole hidden away in the Western Cape's Klein Karoo.

Surrounded by rugged indigenous plants and an undulating, uninhabited landscape, the bath scene resembles something out of a Sydney Pollack movie.

"It all started with a dream to have an outdoor tub," says Samantha, who carefully planned the placement of their open-air custom galvanised steel bath: just close enough to the edge of their deck to feel part of the surrounding scrub, and far enough from the roofing to have an eyeful of star-washed sky at night.

"We sometimes put on the Out of Africa soundtrack, sit in the bath and watch the sun set," she says. "It's a bit sentimental, but we embrace it."

When the couple first saw the property, located two to three hours' drive from Cape Town, just off the famous Route 62, the existing ramshackle boma was dwarfed by its majestic environment. "It was really just a piece of land. The boma was falling apart, but it was the first place we looked at and we could see its potential," Samantha says.

Homeowner William Mellor looks out the front door of the original cabin, which was extended with the addition of a large deck.
Homeowner William Mellor looks out the front door of the original cabin, which was extended with the addition of a large deck.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
Lacoste the dog, Samantha, Francesca and William Mellor on a morning walk.
Lacoste the dog, Samantha, Francesca and William Mellor on a morning walk.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
The outdoor bath was custom made for the Mellors, and has become their favourite feature of the house.
The outdoor bath was custom made for the Mellors, and has become their favourite feature of the house.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
Enclosed in a wooden shell, the outdoor shower is a refreshing all-weather treat.
Enclosed in a wooden shell, the outdoor shower is a refreshing all-weather treat.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux

The couple, their three-year-old daughter, Francesca, and chocolate brown Labrador, Lacoste, started visiting on weekends, travelling up a precarious road to the boma, where they'd spend days improving the infrastructure and nights listening to the sounds of nearby wildlife.

"The first thing we needed to address was the connectivity," says William, who installed single-battery solar panels to ensure they had Wi-Fi. "There's this fantasy of being totally disconnected - no cellphone signal, nothing - but that's not realistic when you have a baby and there are scorpions in the area. When we want to switch off, we simply turn off the Wi-Fi. We've kept our footprint light - we use gas, solar power and rainwater. It is totally off the grid."

William is the founder and CEO of 2oceansvibe.com, so he doesn't often get the chance to switch off. The website reflects Cape Town's laid-back lifestyle with its "Work is a sideline. Live the holiday" tagline, and grew from blog to multimedia news and marketing platform within a few years.

He has also joined forces with Samantha, and the couple now heads up the du Cap Collection sub-brand, a group of France-meets-Africa-inspired properties that are available for holiday rental, and a cafe and boutique in Cape Town's city bowl serving country-style fare alongside furniture and fashion finds from France. Cabine du Cap is the latest to join the stable.

Indoors blends seamlessly with out when you lift the canvas walling separating the living room from the deck.
Indoors blends seamlessly with out when you lift the canvas walling separating the living room from the deck.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
The fireplace in the living room was built using stone from the on-site quarry and reflects the rocky surroundings.
The fireplace in the living room was built using stone from the on-site quarry and reflects the rocky surroundings.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
The family won’t be found too far from the pool during the warmer months.
The family won’t be found too far from the pool during the warmer months.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
The couple have created a number of seating areas around the cabin, including this boma.
The couple have created a number of seating areas around the cabin, including this boma.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux

Samantha and William are Francophones at heart, and their vision for Cabine was inspired by the Provencal countryside, particularly the lavender-swathed village of Luberon where they were married. When they melded this look with the campaign look typical of contemporary safari getaways and a quintessential bushveld vernacular, the Mellors uncovered their signature aesthetic.

"The three themes work really well together," says William. Samantha agrees: "When you go for walks at the cabin it's a lot like being in the south of France. They are our two favourite areas."

To articulate this vision in a small, run-down cabin was going to take some work, so they asked local builder Stephen Butler to oversee the renovation. "We fell in love with a material called Rhino wood because of how it blends into the setting," Samantha says. This was used for the decking, expanding the living space, and integrating the cabin with its environment. Butler also created a stone-walled fireplace - "an essential addition for winter nights", William says. Yet no matter how cold it gets, the warmth imbued by the Rhino wood, which extends from the deck to indoor floors, walls and ceiling, takes the edge off.

The kitchen has a warm farmhouse feel to it.
The kitchen has a warm farmhouse feel to it.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
After long walks in the bush, the couple retreats to the bar for the requisite G&T.
After long walks in the bush, the couple retreats to the bar for the requisite G&T.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
In the kitchen, copper mugs hang off wooden shelves below an antique scale.
In the kitchen, copper mugs hang off wooden shelves below an antique scale.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux

The interiors were Samantha's domain as she worked in the retail industry for years. Collections of vintage suitcases and bird motifs are found throughout the cabin, together with game skulls and a taxidermy springbok head mounted above the fireplace - reminding visitors to keep an eye out for game on the property with Rhebok and Klipspringer often sighted in the early morning.

The couple is resourceful when it comes to finding special pieces, scouring classified ads and auctions, and making use of family hand-me-downs. For Samantha, inspiration came in many forms: movies ("I love that house in Out of Africa"), French markets, and the towers of decor publications and journals she surrounds herself with. However, nothing was as influential as the land itself and so a neutral, earthy palette mimics the semi-arid Karoo landscape, and books about the plants and birds found in the area pack the shelves.

Homeowner William Mellor pasted aviation charts above the bed showing routes to fly in the Western Cape. 'Part of the dream was finding somewhere we could fly to,' says his wife, Samantha.
Homeowner William Mellor pasted aviation charts above the bed showing routes to fly in the Western Cape. 'Part of the dream was finding somewhere we could fly to,' says his wife, Samantha.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux
The bedroom is filled with campaign-style pieces and decor touches, such as ornithological drawings and maps.
The bedroom is filled with campaign-style pieces and decor touches, such as ornithological drawings and maps.
Image: Warren Heath/Bureaux

"What's really been amazing is how much we've learnt about birds and the bush - we can actually name some of the plant species," says Samantha, who delights in pointing out a nearby botterboom to family visiting from Europe. The pair love the fynbos that covers the Karoo, admiring its changing seasonal hues, from yellow to red and then a purple haze of Ericas in the cooler months. They're also taking note of weather patterns and teaching Francesca about it all.

"At night, the stars take you aback. I know it sounds like a cliche," William concedes, "but you don't really get it until you're there: it's completely silent; the moon is like a spotlight. You stand there and all your troubles go away."

Styling Sven Alberding/Bureaux.


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