THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCESM
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES
THE MIDDLE EAST'S NEW TRAVEL MAGAZINE: FOR BEAUTIFUL DESTINATIONS, HOTELS, THINGS AND EXPERIENCES

Stay in the homes of actors, photographers and architects with this chic South African private rental company

An innovative private rental company is opening up the stylish homes of South Africa’s top creatives and art collectors with a unique portfolio of exciting stays and experiences

Isabella Sullivan

14 May 2024

art house collection

I adore hotels, but what I truly cherish when visiting an exciting destination is being able to bed down properly, live like a local, and settle into a homely space equipped with home comforts. Of course, this needs to be stylish and better than my actual home, and that’s where Art House Collection comes into play: a rental service where the private homes of architects, magazine editors, interior designers, stylists,
photographers and artists double as stylish and unique holiday stays.

The company is the baby of Elana Brundyn, a consultant, former museum director and prominent figure on South Africa’s art scene who founded Art House Collection as an offshoot of In Residence – her husband Pieter Brundyn’s luxury international villa rental company known for its Cape Town mansions to rival Iron Man’s, Tony Stark’s. ‘The idea came to me on holiday,’ admits Brundyn. ‘I was holidaying with my husband in San Miguel de Allende. We were staying at this charming villa; it was soulful and intimate, filled with craftsmanship and texture. I told him it would make the perfect addition to the In Residence portfolio, but he felt it lacked that certain grandness that so many of Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard villas have. And that’s when Art Collection was born.’

While In Residence villas are typically larger, striking architectural properties on the Atlantic Seaboard, Art House Collection’s are filled with character, from relaxed beach bungalows to family-friendly manor houses on a wine farm. It’s in an Art House Collection property, that I find myself at my new home-away from-home, Brenaissance, a remarkable four-bedroom pad atop a hill in the Cape Winelands. In the homestay, dining rooms can host newfound friends, families can stay together in multiple bedrooms (there’s even a maid’s quarters) and a kitchen can supply casual meals after days exploring.

art house collection jonksmanhof
Picture-perfect Frida and Irma in Montagu

The most unique South Africa villa rental

‘I decided to start Art House Collection to offer travellers an alternative – sometimes unusual or surprising, but always rich and inspiring – to conventional villa rentals,’ continues Brundyn. Today, Art House Collection’s reach stretches across South Africa. In Cape Town, there’s Heaven on Fourth, a colourful beach house on the Atlantic Seaboard with red striped awnings and African art; Palm Springs, straight out of a Slim Aarons photograph and evoking Sixties Palm Springs glamour, boho St James Beach House and Heatherfield Manor, a Victoriana former Parsonage near vibrant Kloof Street, to name just a few. Travel further afield to the Cape Winelands and you’ll find everything from modern megamansions and design-led Cape Dutch homesteads to cattle rancher estates with manicured hedged gardens filled with taxidermy. The latter is where I stay, where collections include massive fossil reliefs and sculptures by South African artist Toby Megaw and Denzil Herring’s still-life paintings.

‘That’s what still guides us today: this desire to seek out the most unique homes – each one carefully curated and individual – and open them up for like-minded travellers to experience,’ explains Brundyn. ‘From the moment an Art House Collection guest opens their eyes in the morning, they should feel part of an experience where every detail has been carefully thought through and arranged to make their stay as personal and considered as possible.’

art house collection: Marina in beachy Plettenberg Bay
Marina in beachy Plettenberg Bay

Joining her in her mission is new CEO Piet Smedy, former editor-in-chief of House & Garden South Africa, who made the move from publishing to hospitality, expanding the team’s quest for shiny new properties and overseeing the finer details. Like a hotel, guests can request extras like slippers and robes and can opt into concierge services, using the Art House team’s connections to curate memorable, priceless experiences focusing on food, art and culture – from trips to the Norval Foundation and private vineyard tours to helicopter rides and private chef dinners in the comfort of their temporary home. At Brenaissance, we enjoy an intimate couples’ dinner, cooked in the model kitchen, by renowned chef and culinary consultant Nicola Spilsbury, whose clients include A-list international celebrities.

But it isn’t just couples and discerning timesavers who Art House Collection’s stunning portfolio appeals to. ‘Just like our homes, the travellers who stay with us are unique,’ explains Smedy. ‘They can be families, couples, or even solo adventurers, each looking for something different, whether that’s to be transported and inspired or simply given the space to exhale. But they all share a certain curiosity, a sense of individuality, and a need to experience something that the four walls of a hotel room, no matter how grand, can’t offer.’ So what makes an Art House property? ‘There’s no checklist,’ he admits, ‘simply put, a property needs to align with our philosophy. They need to be comfortable and well-appointed, but more than that, it comes down to a feeling: a lightness when you step through the door, the intrigue of a beautifully composed space that has been touched by a creative hand. It’s this natural easiness that defines an Art House.’

Esther: a real-life sandcastle villa on the wild coast of the eastern cape
Esther: a real-life sandcastle villa on the wild coast of the eastern cape

Art House Collection homes

A creative hand is undoubtedly felt in properties like Esther – an unmistakable, sandcastle-like estate with terracotta-toned turrets – set on a private beach and wildlife reserve on the sunshine coast of the Eastern Cape. Then there’s Frida and Irma, two immaculately restored 160-year-old houses in the pastoral enclave of Montagu, famed for fruit orchards, rock formations and healing hot mineral springs. Frida and Irma are delightful for friendship groups or families friends travelling together, giving each their own exquisite home linked by lemon orchards and home to pools which resemble wild swimming. And they’re not all sprawling estates with multiple bedrooms. Nearby in Montagu, minimalist faith sleeps just two guests, designed around Dutch, Scandinavian and Japanese principles with zero clutter and purposeful placement of objects and artwork with an unfussy garden and rooftop terrace.

In South Africa’s Karoo, the vast semi-arid region stretching 500,000 square metres across South Africa, there are two charming whitewashed homestays, including Karoo Heritage Manor – a restored heritage home reimagined as an African-noveau design space – and Helen House, a cottage oozing with historic charm, plus a private plunge pool and hot tub. The Karoo poses as an alternative South African escape – one of peace, nature, exploration, history and heritage, where villages remain almost frozen in time.

‘By virtue of South Africa’s incredibly diverse landscape, we’re able to offer our guests Art Houses in just about any environment, from chic city spaces in the heart of Cape Town to bungalows along the white-sand beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay, Cape Dutch manor houses surrounded by vineyards in the Winelands, rustic mountains cabins and farflung countryside cottages. We’ve even recently added a riad-style home, filled with pieces sourced from the souks of Marrakech,’ adds the forward-thinking CEO, Smedy.

'Zanele' on Cape Town's Atlantic Seaboard
‘Zanele’ on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard
Colourful Heaven on Forth feels more like Cuba than Clifton: south africa villa rental
Colourful Heaven on Forth feels more like Cuba than Clifton

A truly unique stay

Indeed, personal and meaningful collections add a certain familiarity and homeliness that hotels can’t quite deliver, where love and personality are poured into four walls, expressing each individual owner – a real treat for art lovers. ‘Art House Collection offers guests a safe and relaxing space to engage with art,’ adds Brundyn. ‘A private home isn’t as intimidating as a museum or gallery, and the properties in our collection are as diverse as their owners, ranging from designers and collectors to artists, film actors and magazine editors. They’re mostly creative professionals for whom that creativity extends far beyond their day job – and this offers our guests a very unique window into the creative community of South Africa.’

The creative community of South Africa is under the spotlight, but communities further afield are chomping at the bit. ‘We’ve already received requests from homeowners in Italy and the Netherlands to bring Art House Collection to Europe, so we know the audience is there,’ reveals Smedy. And there are even plans for a launch closer to home. ‘I would love to see Art House Collection grow into the MENA region; with such a rich and diverse culture of craftsmanship and art, it would be the natural next step.’ We’re waiting…

Stays from ZAR3,800 (about AED750) a night, arthouse-collection.com, reservations@arthouse-collection.com, @arthouse.collection

This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of Near+Far

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