Home on Sa­fari

A young fam­ily’s off-the-grid bush es­cape in South Africa’s un­tamed Lit­tle Ka­roo blends rugged style with Provençal sen­si­bil­ity.

Good - - CONTENTS - Words Jes­sica Ross. Styling Sven Al­berd­ing. Pho­tog­ra­phy War­ren Heath

A stun­ning off-grid es­cape in South Africa

There are few scenes as idyl­lic as lux­u­ri­at­ing in an out­door tub in the mid­dle of the South African bush, G&T in hand, lis­ten­ing to the ca­coph­ony of 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 bush sur­rounds of the Western Cape’s Klein Ka­roo.

Im­mersed among rugged tufts of in­dige­nous plants and un­du­lat­ing un­in­hab­ited land­scape as far as the eye can see, 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 plunged within the sur­round­ing scrub, and far enough from the roof­ing to have an eye­ful of star-washed sky at night.

“We some­times put on the whole 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 alighted on the prop­erty, lo­cated some two to three hours’ drive from Cape Town, the ex­ist­ing ram­shackle struc­ture was dwarfed by its ma­jes­tic en­vi­ron­ment.

“It was re­ally just a piece of land. The boma [cabin] was fall­ing apart, but it was the first place we looked at and we could see its po­ten­tial,” says Saman­tha.

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

“The first thing we needed to ad­dress was the con­nec­tiv­ity,” says Wil­liam, who quickly 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, but we’ve kept our foot­print light – we use gas, so­lar power and rain­wa­ter. It is to­tally off-the-grid.”

As founder and CEO at 2oceansvibe.com, an award-win­ning me­dia brand, Wil­liam is rarely af­forded the op­por­tu­nity to be switched off. A quick suc­cess in a city af­ter which it is named,

“At night the stars take you aback ... it’s com­pletely silent, the moon is like a spot­light… all your trou­bles go away.”

2oceansvibe.com en­com­passes Cape Town’s laid-back lifestyle with its “Work is a side­line. Live the hol­i­day” tag line, and quickly grew from blog to mul­ti­me­dia news and mar­ket­ing plat­form within a few years.

Join­ing forces with Saman­tha, the cou­ple now heads up the “du Cap Col­lec­tion” sub-brand, a group of France-meets-Africain­spired prop­er­ties that are avail­able for hol­i­day rental, and a café and bou­tique in Cape Town’s in­ner city serv­ing coun­try-style fare along­side fur­ni­ture and fash­ion finds from France. Cabine du Cap is the lat­est to join the sta­ble.

Fran­cophiles at heart, the Mel­lors’ style vi­sion for Cabine was in­spired by the Provençal coun­try­side, par­tic­u­larly the laven­der­swathed vil­lage of Luberon where they were mar­ried. Meld­ing this with the cam­paign look (think old-school mil­i­tary luxe), 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. 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,” says Saman­tha. This was used for the deck­ing, ex­pand­ing the liv­ing space and in­te­grat­ing the cabin with its en­vi­ron­ment. With the cou­ple’s di­rec­tion, But­ler also cre­ated a stone-walled fire­place – “an es­sen­tial ad­di­tion for win­ter nights”. Yet no mat­ter how cool it gets in win­ter, there’s a warmth that’s im­bued by the Rhino Wood, which ex­tends from the deck to in­door floors, walls and ceil­ing.

The in­te­ri­ors were Saman­tha’s do­main, hav­ing worked in the re­tail in­dus­try for more than 10 years. Col­lec­tions of vin­tage suit­cases and bird mo­tifs are found through­out the cabin.

The cou­ple are re­source­ful when it comes to find­ing spe­cial pieces, scour­ing clas­si­fieds and auc­tions and mak­ing use of fam­ily hand-me-downs. For Saman­tha, in­spi­ra­tion came in many forms – movies (“I just love that house in Out of Africa”), French mar­kets and the tow­ers of in­te­rior 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. Rhe­bok and klip­springer are of­ten sighted in the early morn­ing. “What’s re­ally been amaz­ing is how much we’ve learned about birds and the bush – we can ac­tu­ally name some of the plant species,” says Saman­tha.

The cou­ple have a love for the fyn­bos (veg­e­ta­tion) that cov­ers the Ka­roo, ad­mir­ing its chang­ing sea­sonal hues, from yel­low, to red and then a pur­ple haze 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,” says Wil­liam. “I know, it sounds like a cliché but you don’t re­ally un­der­stand un­til you’re there: it’s com­pletely silent, the moon is like a spot­light… You stand there and all your trou­bles go away.”

Per­fect blend Above: The kitchen has a warm farm­house feel to it. Saman­tha col­lects cop­per home­ware and the pieces she’s in­cor­po­rated com­ple­ment the bush dé­cor scheme. Be­low and far left: Builder Stephen But­ler ex­tended the cabin’s foot­print by in­stalling a deck us­ing Rhino Wood. Al­though the cabin is small, the ex­ten­sion means plenty of nooks for en­joy­ing the sur­rounds.

All sea­sons Above: The liv­ing room is a much- used zone year-round. In sum­mer the fam­ily can be found get­ting some much-needed shade, while win­ter calls for end­less chats and red wine around a blaz­ing fire. The fire­place was built us­ing stone from the on- site quarry, re­flect­ing the rocky sur­rounds.

High hopes En­closed in a wooden shell, the out­door shower is a re­fresh­ing all- weather treat. Be­low: The wood- clad bed­room is filled with con­sid­ered dé­cor touches, such as the or­nitho­log­i­cal draw­ings and maps. Wil­liam, who keeps a valid pilot li­cense, pasted avi­a­tion charts above the bed, show­ing routes to fly in the Western Cape.

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