country, houses, Interviews, Lifestyle

watch: a video tour of chef jacques erasmus' Karoo home

You can’t help but be drawn to the ochre-coloured gabled house on the edge of the road in a pretty Klein Karoo town under the mountains. It’s the area’s oldest inhabited home, predated only by the museum. Heart-liftingly rural in its simplicity, it has baroque-style holbol gables – that clean-cut Cape Dutch design whose wavy contours alternate between hollowed and rounded – and has been painted the same warm hue as when it was first built in 1854 by a young man for his parents.

It’s the area’s oldest inhabited home, predated only by the museum, and its exterior has been painted the same warm hue as when it was first built in 1854.

‘When we stripped the structure to its bones, under all the limewash and paint, that first layer was a shade of ochre,’ says Jacques Erasmus, the traditionalist-minded designer who spent two years restoring the building with his partner Hein Liebenberg. This savvy and imaginative pair acquired the abode four years ago for weekends away. They named it Jonkmanshof.

A lovingly restored 60-year-old Mercedes-Benz 220 is parked in front of the historic farmhouse in the Klein Karoo that designer Jacques Erasmus and his partner Hein Leibenberg call home. The architecture is typically Cape Dutch and includes traditional baroque-style holbol gables, which are a defining feature of South African houses of this kind built in the 1800s.

Jacques is the chef and owner of popular Cape Town restaurant Hemelhuijs, which is why for him a key part of Jonkmanshof is the kitchen. With decor inspired by the farm-style cooking area of his childhood, this one has the original rietdak ceiling and a new herringbone brick floor. In the centre is a long, rustic dining table made of reclaimed yellowwood planks. Copper pots and pans hang on the walls, salt-glaze pottery jars line the shelves, and there’s even a solid old Belgian butcher’s block – its broad surface deeply worn above the drawers where the butchers once stored their knives.

‘For us, the kitchen is where everything happens,’ says Jacques. ‘Dogs lie under the table and curious chickens walk in from the coop to see if there’s anything on the floor they can peck at. It’s a place where family and friends are always welcome and where we spend time cooking, sharing impromptu meals, having serious conversations and truly experiencing the pulse of life.’

Crockery from all over Europe is displayed in a vintage glass-fronted cupboard; in the library – which has been dubbed ‘The Room of Curiosities’ – midnight-blue walls are offset by a range of antique wooden pieces, such as an ebony and beefwood East Indian cabinet the couple bought on auction, and a large desk that belonged to Hein’s father, who was a German diplomat. A wrought-iron chandelier by metal artist Simon Beebe illuminates the room, while an Anglo-Indian wickerwork chaise longue from Piér Rabe Antiquesis a comfortable place from which to admire the room’s array of objets d’art.

Inspired by the cooking area of Jacques’ childhood, the kitchen is an airy space, with gleaming copper accents in the form of pans from de Buyer and a row of vintage jelly moulds.

New herringbone brick floors contrast with the original rietdak ceiling in the kitchen, and chairs from Hein’s family home are just some of the many inherited pieces that the couple have incorporated into their abode.