INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr IMAGES Marijke Willems PRODUCTION Klara van Wyngaarden
The Karoo Padstal is the perfect spot to stop at while on your next road trip. We chat to co-owner Nicol Grobler, who owns the nearby Richmond Café & Rooms with his wife Klaradyn, featured on page 68 in the latest issue of VISI, about the space.
What was the design brief?
Karoo farming friends (Vic & Magda Kock) asked for my help to convert a small farmhouse on their farm next to the N1 highway into a guest house/farmstay. This proved to be a challenge, as it had no redeeming features, no Karoo charm. It was a square box with large steel windows and a shallow, single pitch corrugated iron roof. After much consideration, I contacted a colleague from a neighbouring town for help (Susan van der Berg is an architect living in Philipstown). She agreed with me in that if we can’t hide it, we have to celebrate it: “Dip it in red roof paint!” And so we did.
On our (my wife, Klaradyn, and I work as a team) first site visit, Klaradyn asked the farmer about the abandoned sheep-shearing shed next to the house. It turned out that he had no plans for it and would gladly let us use it as a padstal. It was abandoned, but beautiful! It had all the Karoo charm we had been looking for – high ceilings, thick walls, steep roof, etc.
What inspired the interiors?
Klaradyn and I collect furniture and “stuff” wherever we go. But everything had a special place in our guest house in the village, The Richmond Café and Rooms. Lebrun Rossouw, a friend who is also a collector with a guest house in Richmond and owner of the Jolly Roger in Parktown, Joburg, realised the possibility of the building and became a business partner. He has a collection of old doors, windows and furniture that he had acquired over many years of visiting auctions, which he brought from Johannesburg in bakkie-loads full.
This bakkie-offloading every fortnight largely determined the outcome of the design. We were like children around a Christmas tree every time he arrived. We would then decide what to add where over a glass of wine. Beautiful old shopfronts found a perfect home behind the sliding Waenhuis doors, old aluminium sliding doors were repurposed to frame a beautiful Karoo landscape from the restaurant area, old prison doors keeps the wine store secure at night. Kevin McKey, a friend who retired here from Durban, also joined the party. He provides a lifetime of business management skills, and together with Victor Chirwa, did a lot of the woodwork on the site.
Does the work of any local artists and designers feature within the space?
Yes. Mud Studio Ceramics, as well as leather, wool and sheepskin products from local suppliers. We also have beautiful preserves, fig cakes and salad dressings by Liedjiesbos. We keep our carbon footprint low.
What can you expect to find at the Karoo Padstal?
Apart from the typical padstal preserves, frozen lamb and biscuits, our chef Yurietta Stevens prepares a daily Harvest Table lunch with local lamb dishes, wholesome food and fresh salads – mostly grown in our own garden. Our homemade lamb pies and sosaties are fast becoming legendary. The barista serves the best coffee in this part of the Karoo (Deluxe Coffeeworks). We boast many locally sourced products and are fortunate to be stocked with export quality pecans by Bob and Sarah (Roux Pecans, Hopetown), Lowerland Wines (produced by Bertie Coetsee from Prieska) and Langbaken cheese from Williston.
Why is it a must-stop for people en-route to their next destination?
We stick to selling quality, local free-range lamb (no imports) and great coffee with clean restrooms, fresh air and tranquil views. There is also space for your pets to run around and for kids to stretch their legs.