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Wellington Well

Volume 7 (Relax), Summer 2022/23

This Wellington homestead once again became a sanctuary for its birdlife, plantlike and family, with the restoration of a forgotten well.

A LOOKBOOK Studio production   Words by Edwain Steenkamp   Photography by Hanru Marais   Art direction & Styling by Hannes Maritz 

‘We thought the garden was all but dead. But as soon as we let the water flow through it again, something extraordinary happened: it burst into life. Through the resurrected plants we saw a glimpse into the property’s incredible past.’

– Hannes Maritz

Above  Home owner and founder of Kraak Events, Hannes, gathers a large cluster of amaranthus on the house’s large wraparound
stoep. The unique bathhouse, situated at the bottom of the property, also doubles up as a studio space for Kraak.

When he first put in an offer for this historic property in the heart of Wellington, Hannes Maritz, the founder and owner of Kraak Events, hadn’t even laid eyes on it yet. ‘It was actually my wife, Tina, who saw it first while I was away for work,’ he recalls. ‘I remember her calling me back and telling me that she immediately got the feeling that we just had to have this house.’ Trusting her intuition, Hannes contacted the estate agent immediately. When he finally saw the house in person, he says he immediately felt that very same feeling. ‘It’s an old house built in 1924, and I could feel that immediately,’ he explains. ‘Just this sense of history it has, and an undeniable feeling of peace, surrounded by old trees, and beyond that, the mountains.’

He and Tina knew that they wanted to turn this into a sanctuary. But as life would have it, those plans were put on
hold. ‘The pandemic struck, and everything came to a complete stop,’ says Hannes. ‘We couldn’t move, let alone renovate.’ Instead, they used the following months of lockdown to explore the property in a slow and considered way. Using every opportunity, Hannes, Tina and their two sons would make the short drive from their previous home down the street, to set up picnics on the property, and laze on the large stoep – this was how they discovered a vast cellar, its outer door completely hidden by dried bramble, and very surprisingly the old structures of an all but forgotten old well. ‘It was a very special time for us, and we could really tap into the energy of the house and the surrounding property,’ says Hannes, ‘and in a way, the property became a place for us to escape and relax long before we even moved in.’

Above  After falling in love with this historic property, Hannes and Tina Maritz transformed this Wellington house into a warm family home. ‘It’s an old house, built in 1924, and I could feel that immediately,’ he explains. ‘Just this sense of history it has, and an undeniable feeling of peace, surrounded by old trees, and beyond that, the mountains.’

Above  Walls were broken down and passages opened up to create more light in all rooms, with new doors and windows placed to make the most of the unfiltered Winelands sunshine, while beautifully framing the views of the Boland mountains in the distance.

Walking up the path towards the building, you are struck by the massive plinth established as its base. It appears to grow solidly from the ground with a desire to belong to the land. Its walls are stone, just like its surroundings. The solidity of this architectural element takes on a similar scale to the hill it grows from. It reminds me of a description by Danish architect Jørn Utzon, who once said that a great strength radiates from platforms: ‘The feeling under your feet is the same as the firmness you experience when standing on a large rock’. It’s evident, even to the untrained eye, that much of this modern retreat’s sense of sanctuary and shelter is tied to its composition with the platform.

Owners Sam and William Mellor first came across this beautiful and remote Klein Karoo farm by chance. They revelled in its wild expanse: ‘We would lug along pleasures like bush bar set-ups to enjoy in the open sunset, only to pack it all up at the end of every visit,’ laughs Sam. With each trip, Cabine du Cap grew to reflect their personal style and playfulness. The space slowly and incrementally developed into the established city-break sanctuary it is today, with comfort in details like
soft sheets, warm running water for the chilly winters, and ice-cold pools for the sweltering summer days. ‘We’re still buzzing with the dreams that lie ahead,’ William muses. 

Above  Well-known for his creative table displays at weddings and events, Hannes groups objects, both old and new, into interesting clusters in his home. Large ceramics are moved from one corner to another, or swapped out completely, and in every way, the home is as much a living space as it is an exhibition space. ‘The space changes every now and again – it’s in constant flux and evolution,’ says Hannes.

By the time they were able to renovate, there was considerable work to be done on the property. The house, like many built in the early part of the previous century, featured narrow, dark corridors, impractical lighting fixtures, and rooms that were altogether cramped. ‘There was no question about the fact that we needed a complete design overhaul,’ says Hannes. But just like the beginning of this story, the next chapter was driven first and foremost by feeling. ‘We had an idea where we wanted to end up of, course,’ explains Hannes, ‘but we didn’t have strict plans or guidelines, we just allowed ourselves the freedom to be organic and creative.’ Walls were broken down and rooms were reconfigured, while new doors, windows and passageways were used to make the most of the unfiltered sun of the Winelands. The result? The house is at once bright, open, and as Hannes describes it, almost gallery-esque. This is quite a fitting description, considering the art, ceramics, antiques, and artefacts visible in every corner of the home.

‘The decorating process is actually a very funny story,’ shares Hannes. ‘I went to an antique dealer in the area and picked out many of the pieces you see here. Little did I know, they were all the very same pieces the previous owner had given away.’

Serendipity? Chance? Or merely a coincidence? Hannes and Tina aren’t sure, but what they do know is that it was all quite surreal. ‘And doesn’t that just show how real and tangible the energy of a space can be? It can guide you in the most unexpected ways,’ muses Hannes. ‘And it still guides us, which is why the space changes every now and again – it’s in constant flux and evolution,’ he adds. Large ceramics are moved from one corner to another, or swapped out completely, and in every way, the home is as much a living space as it is an exhibition space.

Above ‘I like to believe that this property will evolve as we do, changing shape, size, and form in the years to come,’ says Hannes of the family home he shares with his wife, Tina, their sons, Kranhold and Jacob, and two pooches JC and Dawid, the Cocker Spaniel.

At the time when the house renovations began, Tina also worked on reviving the garden. The well was restored, and suddenly the property had access to its most precious resource: water. From here, Hannes says the most remarkable thing happened. As if dormant and simply waiting for their new owners to arrive, the seemingly dead trees and shrubs started coming to life. ‘It was a miraculous transformation,’ he says, ‘and we were able to save so many of these old and precious plants.’

Today the garden boasts an ancient splendour that cannot be achieved in one lifetime alone, and it’s a fact that Hannes and his family enjoy every day. Here they spend long, serene afternoons with one another. Dining under the trees, strolls through the garden, and idle hours in the cool waters of the pool inform life on the property.

It’s perfect for all intents and purposes, but Hannes is quick to add that it’s not done yet… ‘I like to believe that this property will evolve as we do, changing shape, size, and form in the years to come,’ he says. Until then though, he and his family are content just living in the moment and enjoying the peace of mind the property affords them. And considering the love that exudes from every corner of the house and from every plant in the garden outside, it’s clear that the feeling is mutual.

Above  After months spent enjoying the home and garden before renovations began, the family discovered a vast cellar and a forgotten old well on the property. Reviving and restoring the well gave the garden access to a much-needed water supply, resulting in a myriad ancient plants and trees springing to life. Many of the furniture pieces that Hannes and Tina have chosen for their home are from a local antique dealer. Ironically, some of these items had belonged to the home’s previous owner.

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