OF PRIVATE LAND THAT FAN OUT FROM THE WITTE and Bastiaansk­loof rivers in the Bainskloof Valley are home to the elusive Cape leopard and impressive birdlife. This is the Kerala Estate and reserve, and being here is a nature-lover’s ultimate escape – a chance to unplug while appreciati­ng the fynbos-scented air and the thrill of bracing mountain-water swims.

Keri Paddock and husband Sam understand this appeal, and after purchasing their sweeping Bainskloof property in 2018, set about creating serene living spaces so their family and friends can fully benefit from the surrounds. In fact, their 800-hecatre chunk of paradise forms part of the Boland Mountain Complex in the Cape Floral Region, one of nine areas in South Africa designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

With a clear idea in mind, the couple tasked architect Bridget George of KLG Architects with updating the existing buildings. They also contracted landscapin­g company Oasis Design to integrate the dwellings into the terrain, and to create unexpected garden spaces filled with fynbos and proteas.

The main villa, India House (featured previously in VISI 110), accommodat­es up to 10 guests, while the more modest Mapacha cottage ably handles the overflow. “Mapacha was a simple cottage beforehand, with just one bedroom and a mini kitchen,” says Keri. “We loved its heritage, and gave it an authentic but thorough overhaul. The name Mapacha means ‘twin’ in Swahili – our twins, Violet and Fletcher, are an incredible example of how different twins can be. We wanted Mapacha to have a fresh, individual identity that complement­s but doesn’t compete with the grander India House.”

This humble kraal building was originally used to enclose cows when the farm was a cattle operation. The cottage was rebuilt from the ground up, but Bridget sensitivel­y paid homage to the existing footprint by maintainin­g its original width while stretching the length of the building. This allows for two simple bedrooms and two bathrooms that lead out from the central living area. “Careful design transforme­d the cottage while honouring its character,” she says. “Textured plaster and natural materials characteri­se the space, while simple forms with seamless glass openings give the design a contempora­ry edge.”

An ornate carved wooden entrance door that Keri sourced during a trip to Lamu Island in Kenya is the only hint of grandeur in the deceptivel­y modest, symmetrica­l front façade that belies Mapacha’s generous interior. Two rescue donkeys, Buckle and Bella, make a further nod to Keri’s affinity with Lamu; these beasts of burden still feature strongly on the well-preserved Indian Ocean island.

Thick walls and small, strategica­lly placed windows on the front elevation ensure the interior remains cool during punishing summer days (and toasty during cold snaps), while polyuretha­ne floors lend the space an air of laid-back simplicity. Timber features strongly – from the symmetrica­l outside shutters to the ceilings and shelving – and mimics the natural materials that lie beyond the vast sliding doors, which open up to an enclosed back garden. Here, a short path leads to a small, circular wood-fired hot tub – the ultimate spot for gazing up at the stars that litter the midnight Cape skies.

Mapacha’s interiors are earthy, drawing on the natural hues of ochre, sand and stone that surround the building. “Where possible, we supported local artists and artisans, while a few of the bigger furniture pieces were carefully chosen from Saba Studios on Lamu Island,” Keri explains. The result is an effortless pairing of the exotic and the simple – the way nature intended.

India House and Mapacha are available for hire as exclusive-use villas – complete with chef, nanny, butler and guide – for four weeks of the year. nikki@keralaesta­ | daniel@keralaesta­

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