Cape Town - When you visit the five-star boutique hotel Majeka House in Stellenbosch, and its restaurant Makaron – winner of style and design awards, as well as being an Eat Out top 10 finalist – you can’t help but notice the abundance of pigs.
Not live ones, but part of Karine Dequeker-Van der Merwe’s extensive collection.
“I have been collecting pigs since the age of eight,” she says. “My parents had a lot of friends and they always asked what they could give me, so my mother asked me to start a collection of some sort and this is how it started. It is the best thing ever for an only child as they have been following me through my life everywhere I have lived, and my friends always think of me in their travels when they see a pig, which makes my collection so much richer! They are all over the house, at Majeka, and even still in France. I have now more than 300 of them.”
Karine and her husband Lloyd van der Merwe own and run Majeka House, which is a lifetime family investment.
“Lloyd is South African, I am French and we met through a common friend who is now our son Luka’s godmother. We opened Majeka House in November 2008 after two years of renovations, as it used to be our family house. We still lived in the house for another two years, where Makaron now is. When we realised we needed more space for the restaurant, we decided we had to move out of Majeka altogether. Our current house came up for sale and it was just the perfect move. After six months of renovations, we moved in in December 2010.”
The previous family had seven children so fairly extensive renovations and changes were carried out. “Everything was redone, except the layout of the house as it already took most of the land. We also lifted the garden which was on different levels and redid the pool. We had to redo all the foundations as when we started the renovation the builder found some black bin bags under the floors and no foundation... it was devastating,” says Karine.
“We also opened up as much as possible as we love to have spacious living areas, but that meant bringing in serious beams in the middle of the main room. At this stage we have a flat on the first floor which is used by my parents when they visit us, and we live on the ground floor. We are extremely happy right now. There were a few architectural mess ups, like our guest bathroom size which should be taking 10cm more at least in our humongous bathroom. Also our walk-in cupboard was made with ‘hand me downs’ from when we lived in Majeka and it is really time for it to be redone.
“We did work with an architect who is now retired. Later we involved Etienne Hanekom who did most of Majeka House’s renovations and he is the one who redesigned Luka’s bedroom, and who will redesign our room when the right times come – or rather, when we can afford it!”
Karine doesn’t hesitate when asked about her favourite part of the home: “The kitchen. This is the centre of the house, as from there I can cook (a very important part of our lives) while being with my family. It’s a bit of a French home where you eat as a family in the kitchen, except ours is open so we can all be together even if we are doing other things. We want our friends who visit to kick their shoes off and park on one of the couches we have had recovered plenty of times, and chat while we cook.”
At home or at work, entertaining is a big part of the Van der Merwes’ lives, and they love it. “It involves preparing food, cooking, braaiing and of course a lot of wine drinking as we are lucky to be surrounded by the best wine estates. Also, having a sommelier at Makaron helps, as we get to taste the best wines in the country on a regular basis – for quality checks of course,” smiles Karine.
Besides the pigs, Karine and Lloyd collect paintings, which they keep on buying even though they don’t have enough wall space for all of them. “So we change them all the time. Same goes for carpets – we just have too many and not enough floor space, but that won’t stop us bidding on a Persian next time we go to an auction!”
* For more about Majeka House and Makaron see www.majekahouse.co.za
Words: Bianca Coleman
Pictures: Ian Lansberg