Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Introducing John Jacob

The historical Cape Wine Estate,  Vergelegen (meaning far away),  was settled in 1700 when Willem Adriaan Van der Stel,  took ownership of 
30 000 hectares at the foothills of the Hottentots Holland Mountains in the Cape.  Over the centuries, Vergelegen has belonged to various great explorers, visionaries and private families.   This world class Estate, only 30 minutes drive from Cape Town,  is presently under the ownership of Anglo American, who purchased the property in 1987.  Numerous projects, including, clearing invasive alien vegetation, restoring the homestead, re-establishing the vineyards and the building of a sunken hilltop winery designed by architects Associes of Paris was undertaken by the Group.  Today, Vergelegen confidently competes with  top wineries throughout the world. 

Famous too, at Vergelegen, are the 320-year-old Camphor Trees (now National Monuments) seen below.  The gardens are extensive and beautiful and really worth a visit.  


The project of taking on the renovation of the Guesthouse,  reserved for dignitaries who visit South Africa, was given to South African designer, John Jacob.  Over the years, important visitors including Queen Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela, the Clintons, Baron Eric de Rothschild, Prince Bernard of the Netherlands, Sir Edmund Hillary, Lord Sainsbury and  many others have been entertained there and it was important to find a designer who would sympathise with the historical significance of the house.  "A good design is about letting the architectural language of the building speak" says Jacob.  "I know it sounds like a  cliché, but it's true.  Everything you do in a house - in fact, on an entire property - must be an ordered, rational response to the architectural language of a building".

John Jacob Zwiegelaar launched John Jacob Interiors in 2005, in Cape Town and today, he has clients all over the world.  Yacht interiors and a portfolio of work for Gulfstream in the USA form part of his expansive repertoire.    Projects also include Graham Beck Wine Estate and numerous private homes.  For the Vergelegen homestead, Jacob spent weeks researching this project.

Below are photographs of the completed project.

The beautiful hallway where the original terracotta tiles still remain.

The entry, overlooking the pond.

The marvelous 16thC tapestry which had been in storage for 12 years, now hangs perfectly in this space.

The formal sitting room or 'Portrait Room'.  This room is on the small side but has high ceilings which suit the scale of the portraiture.

An original portrait of Jan van Riebeeck

Visible on the right of the chimney breast is one of a pair of intricately crafted mirrors which hang on both sides of the fireplace.  Their design was inspired by  windows in the homestead.  The mirrors have been aged sympathetically.

The dramatic formal dining room.

The magnificent glass and timber screen serves as a division from the hallway.  The arched component refers to the transom window above the front door.  Antique glass was used.

The hand-painted fabric which is upholstered on the walls was inspired by the natural flora surrounding the estate.  

The galley kitchen.  Food for residents is ordered from one of the restaurants on the estate and served from here.

This serene blue and ivory bedroom was inspired by the original Delft tiles on the fireplace.

Master craftsman, Pierre Cronje, manufactured the two wardrobes in this bedroom from Stinkwood, hand-aging the mirrors exactly as if they had aged naturally over time.

The 'Green'  bedroom where Jacob collectively used furniture manufactured from South Africa's National tree, The Yellow Wood.  

John's idea of pressing natural flora from the surrounding environment for his botanical collage was to allow international visitors to fully experience the environs.  

A bedroom tucked in beneath the thatched roof.


The extensive vegetable gardens which supply the restaurants.

The magnificent estate of Vergelegen has survived it's many owners.  While some of the generational custodians added beauty and value,  there were some unfortunate mistakes made by others which needed to be rectified.  As a result of the considerable investment by Amfarms (Anglo American), Vergelegen now attracts some 50 000 visitors annually to enjoy the beautifully restored house, octagonal winery and gardens.

All photos of the interiors from John Jacob's website.

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