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The quiet life

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While some would presume the quiet life on a farm on the edge of nowhere would be lonely, Tinie Bekker does not agree. When the two guest rooms on his farm outside Calitzdorp are not occupied, a string of interesting friends are bound to turn up, seeking his restful company in the country kitchen or in front of a cosy fire.

 WORDS Athane Scholtz PHOTOGRAPHS Desmond Scholtz

Boesmanskop is a perfect reflection of this man, who has spent most of his 55 years on this farm at the foothills of the Swartberg Mountains. Quiet, with a discreet sense of hospitality and a talented eye for beauty and design, Tinie goes about life in his own gentle way.

While his house – at the furthest point of a circular road – is out of the way, his life seems full, with a vineyard on the doorstep, an antique shop in town to keep him busy and many friends who visit often. Strangers come too; much of the beautifully restored farmhouse is now elegant farm stay accommodation, and South was lucky to spend a weekend with Tinie.

I sit at his kitchen table as he prepares venison pie for supper. He pours coffee and talks while he cooks.

“The farm has belonged to the family since 1759 and this house was my grandparents’ when I was a child. I grew up here, and know the mountains and streams intimately. I guess the tranquillity of the Swartberg is in my soul.”

Growing up on an age-old family farm had other advantages too, like exposure to antique furniture that has been the backdrop to his childhood. “The beauty of wood, true craftsmanship and elegant functionality depict the furniture of the old Cape era, for which I have great appreciation. Having seen some of this in my grandparents’ house must have borne that love, because I’ve been collecting beautiful things for most of my adult life.”

As the oldest son among six children, Tinie automatically took the reins on the farm when he returned from his agricultural studies at Stellenbosch University. He continued farming tobacco, dairy, ostriches and wine until last year.

Some years back, when he moved from one of the other houses on the farm to the main house, plans to renovate the house and decorate it with his own stunning collection of antiques and collectables were realised. Working with Cape Town-based architect and friend Bertie Schreuder, the original house was consolidated with all its additions and outbuildings, and turned into the spacious home it is today.

From one-man-home to hosting guests
A billiard table is to blame for the shift to hospitality. “I bought the full size table because I always wanted to have one, and it went for a steal. Only after I bought it did I realise I didn’t have a room big enough to hold it. So, I built a building for it,” Tinie grins.

The project became extensive. Since it was separate from the house, it required its own toilet and a bit of a lounge with a big fire place… and a wine cellar… maybe a small kitchen? To tie in with the design of the main house, the billiard room building had to showcase antique elements such as reclaimed door frames and an antique kitchen basin – not to mention reclaimed yellowwood flooring from an abandoned fort in the Eastern Cape and solid wood poplar beams. “My friend Wessel Strydom and I would drive all over in search of interesting building materials, decorations and finishes. It became quite an adventure.

“By no means was this perfectly planned. The length of the beams of the first floor ceiling, for instance, turned out to be a tiny bit shorter than what the width of a full-size billiard room was supposed to be. So the whole building is slightly narrower than it should be, but so what?” he shrugs.

“When we found something we liked, for instance a reclaimed doorframe, we would build around it to make it fit. We discovered a beautiful wall cupboard and then just built the wall out a bit so it could fit in.”

At some point, Tinie realised his increasingly expensive undertaking was going to have to start paying for itself, and the idea of the guest room came up. The billiard room walls were built to become a double storey with an open plan guestroom offering extraordinary views of the mountain and vineyards.

The four-sleeper, open space is roomy, with beautiful items everywhere. The display wall cupboard in the bathroom has coloured glass goblets from around the world. In a corner is an old umbrella stand. Afternoon sun lights up a cement vase on a rugged table.

The décor decisions display Tinie’s own impeccable taste as well as that of friends and family, who all seemed to have contributed in some way or another. One particular friend, artist Hanneke Benade, played a major part in decorating walls, crafting unique door handles and providing paintings. At one time the billiard room doubled as an art gallery, remnants of which still hang on the walls.

“The décor changes from time to time. The house and guestrooms are spacious, and it’s easy to swop a few things around to create a whole new atmosphere. My friends are enthusiastic participants… I think they secretly enjoy a house in which can be played around without it affecting a whole array of inhabitants,” he smiles.

Tinie says his first guests stayed in the new upstairs room in 2006, and since then he has never looked back. In fact, it became so popular that he eventually gave up his office in the converted original outbuildings of the main house to open another guestroom. This unit has the added bonus of a wide stoep that overlooks the pool, gardens, vineyard and mountains. It also has the most magnificent shabby chic bathroom, complete with brass taps, chandeliers and luxuriously deep bath.

But visiting here is not just about stunning views and tranquillity. It is also about visiting with Tinie. While you are more than welcome to bring a few things for a braai, you should really let Tinie cook for you. Undoubtedly an essential part of the Boesmanskop experience is breakfast and supper in the dining room with its long table, stinkwood chairs and crisp linen. You will feel right at home with cutlery and crockery that could have been from your grandmother’s kitchen. The wine will most probably be local, possibly even produced from the grapes that grow on the farm.

After supper, Tinie may join you in the lounge in front of the fire. Most of the conversation will be him answering questions: how old is the house? (He doesn’t know), has his family always owned this land? (Yes), and doesn’t he get lonely in this big old house on the furthest point of a circular road that goes nowhere? (No, not really.) He adds: “I’ve lived like this all my life and am used to it. What’s more, you are here now…” Indeed.

Stay here
R360 per person sharing, room only, R460 single (2014)
Additional guests sharing unit: R180 per person
Supper R200 per person excluding wine Breakfast R80 per person (2014)
Booking is best by emailing tiniebekker@mweb.co.za
044 213 3365
www.boesmanskop.co.za