Rethinking good design
Pulling the reigns at Cavalli Estate is Lauren Smith, an architect and horse lover whose belief in the interconnectedness of good design underpins every aspect of this trailblazing new Winelands destination.
As the mascopts of the Cape Winelands’ newest wine and culinary establishment, the horses at Cavalli Estate aren’t just prettyponies – they’re the supermodels of the animal kingdom who’ve been reared and trained by experts as show horses and who have subsequently inspired many facets of the estate, from its name (‘i Cavalli’ means ‘the horses’ in Italian) to the equestrian-style sculptures that adorn its grounds and the labels that grace its wine bottles.
And like any creatures of unequivocal beauty, here at Cavalli the humble horse has been mythologised to a certain degree; they’re treated with such reverence that even their saddles and other leather accessories boast detailing and finishes worthy of a luxury-goods campaign. But that’s just on the surface; delve a little deeper and you’ll find a place where notions of luxury and good taste go hand-in-hand with integrity and eco-consciousness.
Owner and operations manager, horse lover and design devotee, Lauren Smith was primed for her role at Cavalli, not just because it is a family project, but also because of her experience as an architect. After graduating from the University of Houston’s architecture programme, she returned to South Africa and soon took up a position at Stefan Antoni Olmesdahl Truen Architects, where she would remain for two years. In addition, her love of nature, ecosensibility, passion for riding and expert eye for impeccable design have positioned her as the perfect custodian of the estate. ‘I’ve always felt that architecture has the ability to elevate the human condition. A love for design afflicts a person with the insatiable need to constantly seek opportunities to inspire others through the integration of disciplines, be they architecture, landscaping, art or industrial design,’ she says.
Overseeing the implementation of all these aspects at Cavalli herself, Lauren’s approach was all encompassing: ‘Being involved from the inception of the brand itself, the business model and the development gave me a great yet daunting opportunity to root the entire project – from landscaping to architecture, interiors to wine – in a “design identity” that underpinned every aspect of the project,’ she explains. Sustainability is woven into the fabric of everything at the estate and, for Lauren, formed the basis of this ‘design identity’.
Preservation a Priority
Months before the first brick was laid she and her team strategised how they would do things differently to preserve the unique flora and fauna of the site, which would also give them an opportunity to change the discourse of traditional wine farming in the area. ‘Being at the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, we questioned the culture of wine farming that encroached on the biodiversity of the region,’ she says. ‘We decided to rehabilitate the land as far as possible, and replanted tracts of fynbos throughout the estate, bringing more awareness to the undertaking of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI). As a pilot project with the Green Building Council, Equus – the estate’s restaurant and gallery housed in the same building – will be the first Green Star-rated restaurant and exhibition space in the country,’ she adds.
Working with Bouwer Architects, Lauren found that her background in architecture – specifi cally her belief in the notion of passive design, where the built environment exists in harmony with its surrounds – informed the construction. When it came to the furnishings and fittings, many of which were sourced from local and international design superstars, Lauren adopted an intuitive approach, allowing the language of the architecture to inform her choices. ‘Utilising the space as a platform for showcasing the works of talented emerging artists and designers was a natural extension of the project,’ she explains. The structure housing the restaurant, its adjoining deck and, below, the tasting room and art gallery is set on a rise overlooking the idyllic Helderberg region.
Carefully Curated Finishes
The restaurant, helmed by Chef Henrico Grobbelaar, features flashes of copper (the copper-clad bar is a stand-out case in point) and the furnishings have a distinct mid-century modern aesthetic against a palette of grey. The look is carried through to the tasting room, where one of the biggest privately owned glassed-off whiskey collections in the southern hemisphere can be found. James Mudge timber cabinetry warms the space while soft lighting lends the requisite mood. Down the corridor to the side is the Equus boutique, which features an assortment of treasures from around the country, all curated by Lauren herself. And further along is the vast gallery space, its translucent stretched ceiling lit from behind to best show off the estate’s private art collection as well as the work of various emerging local artists.
Intrinsic Interrelation of Design
Everything about Cavalli is fresh and contemporary, but nothing more so than the estate’s overriding belief in the interconnectedness of good design. As Lauren puts it: ‘All of these factors come together to show what is possible when design is rooted in serving a greater cause.’
Best of Both
While she loves the outdoors, Lauren Smith is a city girl at heart. With most of her days spent at Cavalli Estate, Lauren’s home at the V&A Waterfront Marina is a light and luxurious sanctuary overlooking the cosmopolitan moorings and yachts.
On Marina Living:
‘After returning from Houston after seven years I found living in Bakoven and Clifton too isolated. I’m lucky to have the luxury of idyllic resort living but still to be close to the CBD. I love the pedestrian dynamic, the absence of motorised transport that perpetuates a sense of separateness in any community.’
‘Sanitaryware! It’s a strange fetish, I know, but bathrooms have always been a major priority for me when evaluating the quality of a residential space. The bathrooms were therefore the first to undergo an entire renovation.’
On Favourite Places: ‘Clarkes is my local for breakfast. Its stuffed omelette is legendary and it does the perfect cortado. There are so many reasons why Japanese restaurant Takumi is without equal for sushi: its toro (when available) and the kamekaziroll (like all deep fried kinds of heaven in your mouth) are two of mine. And, of course, we are unbelievably fortunate with the outdoors in Cape Town. There’s no better way to clear a busy mind than to take a run in the forest or on the beachfront, or to watch the sun set over the ocean. I try to do this at least three times a week, followed by a glass of Shiraz, naturally.’
Cavalli Wine and Stud Farm: Strand Road (R44), Somerset West, 021 855 3218, cavallistud.com
Clarkes: 021 424 7648, 133 Bree Street, clarkesdining.co.za
Takumi: 021 424 8879, 3 Park Road, Gardens, takumi.co.za
Words: Genevieve Fisher
Photographs: David Ross