A farm hotel in South Africa
Babylonstoren, a farm hotel set in the Drakenstein Valley near the southern tip of Africa, combines South African and European design and modern and ancient styles.
It is the result of a three-year remodelling project for an old farmhouse conceived by fashion and interior design journalist Karen Roos, editor of the South African edition of Elle Decoration.
The original architecture dates back to 1690 when the region was a Dutch colony. Then as today, the mountains of Simonsberg and Helshoogte enclose an uncontaminated region dotted with old villages and enormous expanses of crops.
Babylonstoren is one of the best preserved examples of Cape Dutch architecture, a style in which the characteristically rounded and decorated eaves of Amsterdam houses are combined with Asian elements.
Access to the farm with its guest rooms and cottages is via a white gabled gateway. The space inside the converted granary is also white, as are the interior furnishings which blend well with natural materials.
Babylonstoren offers twelve guest suites where up to forty people can relax and spend their days strolling around the 200 hectares of farmland, take yoga classes, enjoy pleasant dips in the swimming pool, spend time in the spa and fitness centre or visit the vegetable garden to learn about plants. There is even a pond dedicated to the cultivation of waterblommetjie, an aquatic flower that is widely used in traditional cuisine.
Guests can completely immerse themselves in nature. Babylonstoren is surrounded by some of South Africa’s most renowned vineyards, orchards and vegetable growing land, and also has a botanical garden. Guests can spend time in the garden where all the vegetables served in the restaurant are grown, giving them the opportunity to experience the natural rhythms of a farm lifestyle, far away from the bustle of modern living.
In the interiors, items of contemporary design — from Massaud to Bouroullec — blend harmoniously with the bare wood, the vintage furniture, the Victorian bathtubs and wall-hung prints by South African photographer Clinton Friedman. There are also items by emerging South African designers such as Gregor Jankin, Dokter and Misses, and LIM.
The restaurant, converted from a stable illuminated by old industrial lamps, stands out for an unusual design feature. The My Décor collection, created by designers Ludovica+Roberto Palomba and produced by Ceramica Sant’Agostino, has been used to transform a decoration into a key element of the architecture. The collection is specially designed to enable architects to create their own decorations. In this case it has been used to fashion a customised motif featuring a bull’s head alongside handwritten text.
This feature also combines elements of old and new in keeping with the spirit of Roos’ renovation project.