South African Weekend Home

William looks out the front door of the cabin. Much of the structure was redone in Rhino Wood, a sustainable composite material. However, the couple wanted to retain parts of the existing build as a reminder — this darker stain complements the ashier look of the deck.

An animal skull presides over the living area.

The family gazes out at the veld ahead. William and Samantha keep a journal of new plant and animal species they find and teach Francesca about the surrounding wildlife. Samantha is wearing a Riviera-inspired kaftan that she designed, available at Café du Cap.

There are few scenes as idyllic as luxuriating in an outdoor tub in the middle of the South African bush, G&T in hand, quietly listening to the rising cacophony of bird-song and stridulating insects floating through the valley at dusk. For Samantha and William Mellor, this calming ritual is the essence of Cabine du Cap, their weekend bolt hole hidden away in the bush surrounds of the Western Cape’s Klein Karoo. Immersed among rugged tufts of indigenous plants and undulating uninhabited landscape as far as the eye can see, the bath scene resembles something out of a Sydney Pollack movie. “It all started with a dream to have an outdoor tub,” says Samantha, who carefully planned the placement of their open-air custom galvanized steel bath: just close enough to the edge of their deck to feel plunged within the surrounding scrub, and far enough from the roofing to have an eyeful of star-washed sky at night. “We sometimes put on the whole “Out of Africa” soundtrack, sit in the bath and watch the sunset,” she explains with a laugh. “It’s a bit sentimental but we embrace it.”

When the couple first alighted on the property, located some two to three hours’ drive from Cape Town just off the famous R62 highway, the existing ramshackle boma was dwarfed by its majestic environment. “It was really just a piece of land. The boma was falling apart, but it was the first place we looked at and we could see its potential,” Samantha explains. The couple; their three-year-old daughter Francesca; and chocolate brown Labrador, Lacoste, started visiting on weekends, traveling up a precarious road to the boma, where they’d spend days improving the infrastructure and nights listening for the strange sounds of nearby wildlife.

A detail of the living room, where collections of books mingle with collected objects and some unique pieces, such as the old tortoise shells found on the property, bleached by the sun. The vintage medicine bottles were found in Woodstock, Cape Town.

The family is never too far from the pool during the warmer months.

“The first thing we needed to address was the connectivity,” remarks William, who quickly installed single-battery solar panels to ensure they had Wi-Fi. “There’s this fantasy of being totally disconnected – no cellphone signal, nothing – but that’s not realistic when you have a baby and there are scorpions in the area,” William notes. “When we want to switch off, we simply turn off the Wi-Fi, but we’ve kept our footprint light – we use gas, solar power and rainwater. It is totally off-the-grid.”

As founder and CEO at, an award-winning media brand, William is rarely afforded the opportunity to be switched off. A quick success in a city after which it is named, encompasses Cape Town’s laid-back lifestyle with its “Work is a sideline. Live the holiday” tagline, and quickly grew from blog to multimedia news and marketing platform within a few years. Joining forces with Samantha, the couple now heads up the du Cap Collection sub-brand, a group of France-meets-Africa inspired properties that are available for holiday rental, and a café and boutique in Cape Town’s inner city serving country-style fare alongside furniture and fashion finds from France. Cabine du Cap is the latest to join the stable.

The wood-clad bedroom is filled with campaign-style pieces and considered décor touches, such as the ornithological drawings and maps. William, who keeps a valid pilot’s license, pasted aviation charts above the bed, showing routes to fly in the Western Cape. “Part of the dream of this place was finding somewhere we could fly to,” says Samantha.

Francophiles at heart, Samantha and William’s style vision for Cabine was inspired by the Provençal countryside, particularly the lavender-swathed Luberon region where they were married. Melding this with the campaign look typical of contemporary safari getaways and a quintessential bushveld vernacular, the Mellors uncovered their signature aesthetic. “The three themes work really well together,” says William, and Samantha chimes in, “When you go for walks at the cabin it’s a lot like being in the south of France. It’s funny how the two places seem so different but actually are quite alike. They are our two favorite areas.”

To articulate this vision inside of a small run-down cabin was going to take some work, so they asked local builder Stephen Butler to oversee the renovation. “We fell in love with a material called Rhino Wood because of how it blends into the setting,” says Samantha. This was used for the decking, expanding the living space and integrating the cabin with its environment. With the couple’s direction, Butler also created a stone walled fireplace – “an essential addition for winter nights,” William notes. Yet no matter how cool it gets in winter, there’s a warmth that’s imbued by the Rhino Wood, which extends from the deck to indoor floors, walls and ceiling.

Outdoor showers are a wonderfully indulgent way to start the day in nature, and Sam and Will have stocked theirs with amenities from Africology. A low voltage marine pump was used to afford the greater water pressure for the oversized shower head.

south african kitchenThe kitchen has a warm farmhouse feel to it. Samantha is a collector of copper homeware, and the pieces she’s incorporated perfectly complement the bush décor scheme. “Guests often note the attention-to-detail,” says William, pointing out the brass touches in this space.

A true family escape, the fridge is adorned with black-and-white photographs of the family’s memories at the cabin.

The interiors were Samantha’s domain, having worked in the retail industry for over 10 years. Collections of vintage suitcases and bird motifs are found throughout the cabin along with game skulls and a taxidermy springbok head, mounted above the fireplace – reminding visitors to keep an eye out for game on the property with Rhebok and Klipspringer often sighted in the early morning.

The couple are resourceful when it comes to finding special pieces, scouring classifieds and auctions and making use of family hand-me-downs. For Samantha, inspiration came in many forms: movies (“I just love that house in “Out of Africa””), French markets and the towers of interior publications and journals with which she surrounds herself. However, nothing was as influential as the land itself and so a neutral, earthy palette mimics the semi-arid Karoo landscape, and books about the plants and birds found in the area pack the shelves.

“What’s really been amazing is how much we’ve learned about birds and the bush. We can actually name some of the plant species,” adds Samantha, who delights in pointing out a nearby botterboom (a succulent, often called a “butter tree”) to a visiting family from Europe. The couple have a love for the fynbos that covers the Karoo, admiring its changing seasonal hues, from yellow, to red and then a purple haze of Ericas in the cooler months. They’re also taking note of weather patterns and teaching Francesca about it all. “At night the stars take you aback. I know, it sounds like a cliché,” he concedes with a smile, “but you don’t really understand until you’re there: it’s completely silent, the moon is like a spotlight . . . You stand there, and all your troubles go away.”

Photography by Warren Heath/Bureaux.

Styling by Sven Alberding.

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