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Equitania: A wine-estate home

Equitania home 1

ABOVE: The lounge is covered by the Aru tree chandelier by Magpie. The glass coffee table stands on a piece of driftwood brought back from Namibia. This modern edge combined with something organic is echoed in the gilded mirror on the wall, still protected by its shipping crate.


The balancing act
A wine-estate home celebrates equilibrium through eccentricity

Tracy Lynn Chemaly photographs Angie Làzaro

The home’s name, Equitania, may lead the first-time visitor to believe that all is conventionally balanced indoors, but – although the expertise of a feng shui master was called upon in designing the garden’s layout – the interiors lean more towards the exquisitely eccentric.

Ornately gilded silver mirrors bring the walls to life, peeking out from behind their shipping crates that were left unremoved, while an old brown family heirloom suitcase creates a talking point in the sitting-room – that’s after discussions have been held around the fresh beetroot, oranges, turnips and pears decorating the entrance hall’s farm-style florist table. Equestrian rosettes add a playful touch to chair backs and tables, while the yellowed pages of age-old books have been stuffed into glass bowls in a quirky ode to the home’s storytelling sensibility.

Equitania home 2
ABOVE LEFT: The second gilded mirror in a shipping crate stands impressively alongside the entrance-hall table. Here, the idea of ‘where farmer and florist meet’ comes to life with fresh fruit and vegetable arrangements.
ABOVE MIDDLE: An organic chandelier by Magpie in Barrydale hovers over the dining-room table. It was created from the branches of Aru trees that Esmé found in the Kalahari. The table is laid with beautiful trays and still lifes.
ABOVE RIGHT: Whimsical elements, such as this old chair, add interest to the lounge area.

A seat-less chair is covered with a wreath, while garden-stool cushions dress up the main bed. Then there’s the antique mirror lying flat on the dining-room table as its main centrepiece and the Moroccan carpet that’s been placed upside down to expose its raw fibres under the crate that serves as a coffee table. These stand in the same room as the drawers housing shell-holding egg containers. Oh, and let’s not forget the passage’s mirror covered in old sepia-tinted family photos – that just happens to be hanging upside down!

Equitania is far from conventional. Thanks to owner Esmé Kruger De Beer and her friend of 25 years, Leoni Smit, this wine-farm homestead has become a farmhouse minus the expected farmhouse look. ‘My husband Johann and I are travelled farmers,’ explains Esmé, describing their seven country lodges in Namibia as well as the family’s holidays in Africa. ‘I wanted a modern farm-style approach while maintaining streamlined Dutch influences.’

Equitania home 3
ABOVE LEFT:  Esmé purchased this old fan for R70 at a junk-yard sale, showing that décor doesn’t have to be expensive.
ABOVE MIDDLE: he sitting-room cabinet stands with some open drawers filled with egg containers and 
shells, prompting guests to open and explore 
the remaining drawers.
ABOVE LEFT:  The sitting-room coffee table is an old crate, while the Moroccan carpet has been laid upside down to reveal rougher texture.

Leoni jokingly adds that they made a point to steer away from any highly defined peasant look. ‘Although the house didn’t have a specific look, it did need some streamlining,’ she says. Leoni was called in for her harsh yes-no approach to decorating. She never left Esmé hanging with a ‘maybe’, and items she felt were of no use to the house were soon discarded. ‘Leoni’s honesty is refreshing,’ Esmé praises her friend who is the co-owner of The Yes No Company, assisting clients in making decisions around creative projects. Leoni describes herself as an ‘aesthetic surgeon’ and says, ‘I’m not an interior decorator, but I understand colours and trends.’ She insists that everybody can have a beautiful interior if they simply purchase a pot of paint and fresh flowers. ‘Sometimes beautiful things are hiding in your cupboards. It’s very easy to utilise what you have,’ she adds, insistent that decorating doesn’t always have to cost thousands. Esmé agrees: ‘You can lock me up in a junk yard, and I’ll be happy.’

Equitania home 4
ABOVE: Esmé finds pleasure in decorating her home with sentimental pieces. The blue dress hanging from the drawer was made for her by her grandmothe

After purchasing the wine estate two years ago, Esmé began by giving the home a complete overhaul – removing an unnecessary stage window in the roof’s trusses (the remnant of a previous staircase) and in-the-way walls to create open spaces, while saying goodbye to the original yellow-pine and high-gloss finishes. The new contemporary-looking house needed to be decorated and Esmé had the luxury of being able to consolidate furnishings from three of her and Johann’s other properties into this one. Leoni casts away any idea that this was an easy task: ‘It’s easier to decorate a house if you’re shopping for everything from scratch; it’s harder to select items from the things you already have.’ Reshuffling, rearranging and restyling, the two ladies succeeded in breathing new life into old pieces while, at the same time, conducting a refreshing process of decluttering, resulting in what Esmé describes as the home’s ‘understated style’.

Equitania home 5
ABOVE LEFT: The silver headboard in the main bedroom 
was cleverly erected to hide an ugly wall. The 
round garden-stool cushions on the bed maintain 
the neutral tone. Esmé’s daughter’s shoes on the pedestal have not been sent for bronzing – she prefers the natural state of things
ABOVE MIDDLE: Even the bathroom maintains the 
home’s honest beauty.
ABOVE RIGHT: Contrary to popular belief, shoes can stand on a table! These old shoes add a touch of antiquated 
elegance to one of the bedrooms.

Esmé, who has learned to source interesting interiors from nature, is adamant that her home should remain true to its organic nature. ‘Why should we show off the gilded mirrors?’ she asks, by way of example. ‘They would break the element of honesty – because this is not a pretentious house.’ Esmé insists on a home having soul, and its interiors being the experience of the owner and not that of someone else. The organic chandelier creating a canopy over the dining-room table and lounge tells of Esmé and Johann’s travels through the Kalahari. Aru tree branches have been transformed into a natural artpiece filled with fairy lights and shells, created by Magpie in Barrydale. Esmé values pieces that have sentimental value with stories to tell – such as the centuries-old black-and-white photographs standing to attention in glass vases.
‘Still lifes are very prevalent in the home,’ she says, pointing to a pile of books balancing on an old wooden chair and two pairs of elegant old shoes standing on a side table under a mirror. ‘They tell people where we’ve been.’

The stories shared by Equitania tell of a family that has gone back to trace its roots in order to live in harmony with nature while maintaining an honesty with the modern life it finds itself in. And that’s when the name starts making sense. <

Equitania home 6

The Equitania Garden
The home is blessed to be surrounded by a marvellously large space of great green lawns rolling onto the vineyards beyond. It wasn’t always so free flowing. According to Scott Hart from Magpie, the garden was previously quite stifled. While helping Esmé achieve her dream of attaining a garden that could complement the honest home, Scott and business partner Sean Daniel created a beautiful folly at one point of the garden.

‘Because of the trapezoide shape of the garden, this point was rather hostile,’ says Scott. ‘We negated this by building a folly in the distance. While rounding off the sharp point, it also allows the garden to be celebrated from a different perspective.’

He also talks about the chi (energy) that was encouraged to flow into the garden.
‘A street is like a river with movement that 
comes via air, water or vehicles. By capitalising on the street running alongside the home, movement was encouraged inward.’
Scott admires Esmé’s passion and vision.

‘She’s quite an off-the-wall lady, and she’s not afraid to express this.’
Helping her express her outdoor vision was landscaper Trudie Louw of Vroetelvingers. Once the energy fields of the house had been revealed by the feng shui master, Esmé was able to crystallise the garden’s outlines for Trudie to work with.
‘The garden was very disordered and closed up,’ says Trudie, ‘so we worked at opening up the views and bringing the mountain in.’

She explains Esmé’s insistence on keeping any plant that was removed and planting it somewhere more suitable. ‘The agapanthus and gazanias were dug out and replanted 
in rows in front of the vines. Because they’re not high plants, they’re able to frame the view.’ When asked about working around feng shui principles, Trudie admits that 
it does make it easier to design a garden when starting from such a definite point. ‘It’s also fun to work with all this positive energy,’ she laughs.

Equitania home 7

Top Fact
Balance and harmony is key in 
a feng shui garden. Water features encourage positive chi (energy), while symbolising prosperity and creating yin (feminine) energy. Create yang (masculine) energy by adding lights 
in the garden’s 
dark areas.

Leoni Smit 074-692-1211
Magpie 028-572-1997,
Trudie Louw 082-955-2108

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