Hemel en Aarde
Hemel en Aarde is a gloriously apt name for the Onrust River valley, a strip of 'heaven on earth' bordered by the Babilonstoring mountains near Hermanus.
It's a wonderful place to unwind away from the city. It's also the ideal location in which to indulge a passion for the earth, and its fruits and fynbos.
'We're not interested in creating vineyards,' says Kathy, owner of Stonehaven, the holiday home she and her husband recently built here.
'We're trying to maintain this land and keep it ecofriendly. We both have an interest in creating a sustainable environment coupled with a holistic way of life, so we’ve created a biodynamic garden. We plant according to the moon phases and seasons. Herbs and every kind of vegetable.'
The house stands on six hectares next to the wide blue dam. Here they swim, cycle, walk, bird-watch and lunch under a big tree on the bank where they've hung one of Porky Hefer's cosy human weaver nests for their two teenagers – and everyone else – to snuggle into. Equally popular is the new naturally filtered eco pool beside the dam. Crystal clear. 'Beautiful clean water to swim in,' says Kathy.
When they bought the property a few years ago, it housed several buildings. They reinvented the main one, which had been a guest house for artists, and upgraded the dilapidated smaller chalets as guest and staff accommodation.
'The main house was of stone and had been well sited, with views of rolling gardens down to the water on one side and mountains on the other,' says Cape Town-based architect Jon Jacobson. 'But it had been enlarged messily and poorly, and in the end we demolished a lot of it. All that remains is the main bedroom section.
Nevertheless, the existing language of massive walls and steeply pitched roof became the catalyst for the new architecture, reusing stone from the demolition.'
Simple unadorned detailing was the chosen design style: plastered raked ceilings without cornices, balanced by rough stonework, warm timber floors and thick natural fibre carpets.
A generously designed living and kitchen section is now the warm, free-flowing heart of the house, all interconnected and cleverly opening up in three directions to the surrounding landscape, capturing beautiful views on all sides. Just as engaging are the outdoor spaces – the kitchen garden, the private courtyards of Kathy’s art studio and the main bedroom, as well as the patios located on either side of the house to ensure at least one wind-protected spot at all times.
It's in the kitchen area, however, that the family is most at home. 'We wish we lived there full time,' says Kathy. 'We especially love the braai section with the pizza oven. Everyone – friends and family – rolls their own pizzas, puts on their own toppings and bakes their pizzas themselves. The architect really got the kitchen area spot on. There's a scullery we can close off when we’re not ready to do the dishes. And when you come in through the garage there’s a wet room which is useful in winter. The magic triangle in the cooking area is a work in progress but everything you need is there or nearby.'
She's particularly fond of the Smeg fridge and the old aquamarine multidoor cabinet from a sweet shop in Argentina that her husband has lovingly restored.
Interior designer Sam Fuchs says Kathy wanted the house to feel free-spirited. 'Comfortable, practical, stylish, versatile. A peaceful haven,' she says. 'The biggest challenge was to combine Kathy's eclectic rustic taste with David's love of clean lines and contemporary design. We drank a lot of tea and met in the middle! Everything was sourced locally. Hemp, wool, felt, bamboo, stone and recycled plastic throughout. We worked closely with the architect, builder and landscaper. It was very special.'
Biodynamic pioneer Avice Hindmarch, from Onrus, created the veggie garden and Mandy Morton of Black Sunbird in Stellenbosch advised on the rest.
It's a busy but charming veggie patch – a large circle divided into sections, with a small work space in the centre under a pagoda. Annuals rotate in the gaps between perennials, and shade-giving shrubs provide sun and wind protection for tender leafy plants. Avice believes gardeners should eat some of the food they produce, so any extra harvest is shared with the working staff.
'What we’re looking forward to right now is getting honey from our beehives, putting down a chicken run, planning the next phase of our gardens.' - Kathy, owner, Stonehaven
A hedge of thorny roses keeps nibbling buck at bay. Small ditches on the slopes catch rainwater and sink it into the subsoil. Two worm farms provide fertiliser, while the straw bedding from the neighbour's horses provides mulch.
Avice is planning a chicken house in the orchard area, dividing the space into four camps for the hens to work one at a time, a 'self-generated organism' that will provide an enriched environment for both themselves and the trees.
'I design gardens as healing spaces that live in seasons of time,' she says. 'The garden feeds the belly and lifts the spirits. For me it's the ultimate art form.'
Originally published in HL April 2015