A sense of place

A decade after opening its doors, Delaire Graff Estate atop Helshoogte Pass has unveiled its landmark new Owner’s Villa. Richard Holmes discovers a distinctive take on luxury.

Although the Owner’s Villa at Delaire Graff is a luxurious sanctuary, the personal touches give it an intimate feel.

Stepping through the dramatic timber doorway of the Owner’s Villa at Delaire Graff Estate, it’s hard not to stop dead in your tracks.

Large windows in the entrance hall frame dramatic views of the Stellenbosch Winelands and distant Table Mountain. The striking sculpture of a kneeling African woman – the only sculptural work by acclaimed artist Helen Sebidi – catches the eye, providing the first hint of the remarkable artworks that adorn the villa. And to the left, double-volume picture windows look out onto the imposing Botmaskop towering above the only terraced vineyard of Chardonnay in South Africa.

This may be the entrance hall to the new villa but immediately there’s a sense of a profound shift in the realm of Winelands hospitality.

“Since opening in 2009, Delaire Graff Estate has really pioneered a new model for luxury in the Winelands,” says Johann Laubser, the estate’s general manager. “We have been successful in positioning ourselves at the pinnacle of luxury hospitality, but we’ve also learnt an enormous amount over the past 10 years. And we felt that we could go further.”

A bronze-clad fireplace makes for a striking and stylish divide between the living and dining space.

That desire to push the boundaries of luxury is deftly expressed in the Owner’s Villa, which since opening in April 2019 has raised the bar for exclusive-use villa properties in southern Africa.

Spread over nearly 1 000m2, the villa was designed and built as a self-contained sanctuary for the estate’s owner, internationally acclaimed jeweller Laurence Graff. With no shortage of bespoke design elements inspired by Laurence’s international travels, it delivers a complete package of luxury, privacy and exclusivity, with sufficient room for a sizeable entourage. Although created primarily for the use of the Graff family, the Owner’s Villa is equally a space that will strike a chord with the discerning global traveller.

Taking Laurence’s keen eye and specific requirements into account, the interior design of the new four-bedroom villa fell to David Collins Studio, which has provided the aesthetic vision for Delaire Graff Estate since 2009.

Based in London, David Collins Studio is one of the world’s most respected creative decor agencies, with recent clients ranging from Harrods to chef Thomas Keller and Glen­eagles Golf Resort in Scotland.

“In designing the Owner’s Villa, we played a lot with colour – and with texture and pattern,” explains Simon Rawlings, the creative director for the studio. “We wanted everything to feel handcrafted because, for me, that’s the real essence of Delaire. These touches of craftsmanship give you a real sense of place.”

That element of craft is embodied in the villa’s spacious master suite, where dark oak flooring is echoed in the remarkable ceilings fashioned from beams and slatted boards of 200-year-old French oak. The expansive bed is upholstered in a hand-woven dusky pink ombre fabric, while at its foot rests an ox-blood leather bench by Christian Liaigre.

The walls are adorned with artworks hand-picked from Graff’s private collection. Against one of them, a striking writing table of lacquered rope, handcrafted in France, is topped by a lamp of solid onyx. In the en suite bathrooms, the Crema Marfil marble, too, was hand-selected in Spain by David Collins designers. Of course, both the master suite and the villa’s three guest bedrooms
offer private balconies with panoramic Winelands views.

The handcrafted aesthetic continues in the villa’s spacious living and dining area, the spaces subtly separated by a double-sided open fireplace, clad in bronze by local arti­sans at Bronze Age. Vintage African fabrics provide bursts of colour and texture, while a chiselled sideboard of stained oak lends a timeless feel to the space.

“I’m a very practical designer and for me the most important thing is how the room is going to work. If a room doesn’t function, then I haven’t done my job properly,” smiles Simon. “With the living area, we had a large blank space, so we had to be quite bold with our statements. We juxtaposed the rigidity of the roof with the curves of a serpentine Vladimir Kagan sofa. Then we started to layer in. It’s a process that evolves and grows so that it becomes a collection of elements.”

The entire villa is equally a collection of carefully imagined elements. A dedicated multimedia room is discreetly accessed off the main living area; a compact wine room comes well stocked with leading vintages from the estate. And the fully equipped kitchen, with appliances by Gaggenau, provides all the tools the villa’s dedicated private chef could possibly need to whip up a holiday feast.

The outside areas make the most of the magnificent views.

Where better to enjoy that feast than out on the expansive terrace that leads off the living space? It features a 19m2 pool and a jacuzzi, both lined with a pale glass mosaic. Too chilly for laps? The downstairs gym has state-of-the-art Technogym equipment.

While luxury isn’t hard to come by in the Cape, it’s the remarkable attention to detail that has long set Delaire Graff apart from other Winelands properties.

That focused aesthetic and commitment to intuitive contemporary luxury continues in the spacious superior lodges that opened in late 2018. The six lodges are spread across three buildings, each offering a pair of interleading one-bedroom suites that can be combined into a larger space ideal for fami­lies in search of privacy.

While the new lodges will feel familiar to previous guests at Delaire Graff, there is a distinct departure in the decor and design of each suite. One subtle shift in approach has been the segue from a hospitality approach to a residential aesthetic, making the lodges feel less like a hotel property and more like a luxurious home from home.

“I want each room to feel like a natural collection of pieces and by bringing these pieces together, it feels more residential. You want to walk into the room and feel immediately relaxed and at home,” explains Simon. “One of the things we hoped to achieve was a space that was a little more contemporary but still conformed to the big picture of the estate. We wanted these lodges to really feel at ease in the landscape and with the view.”

That luxurious homely approach is evi­dent in the hand-selected decor pieces that subtly define the lodges, whether they are woven baskets or artworks from Laurence Graff’s private collection.

Hand-woven rugs lend a subtle African aesthetic to the rooms, while glass-fronted Poliform wardrobes imported from Italy blend both style and convenience. Existing butler-kitchens have been transformed into bespoke bar areas, stocked with spirits, mixers and wines from the estate.

“Returning to Delaire has been such a joy,” enthuses Simon. “Building on our studio’s original design vocabulary and the success of the estate has been very exciting. I love the colours and patterns we are bringing into these lodges. They add a new dimension to the estate aesthetic, alongside our really special finds from across Africa, which give each lodge a real sense of place.”

• Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch, +27 21 885 8160