A barn just outside Heidelberg in the Southern Cape is a trove of handmade furniture and crafts
Words: Marianne Heron
Pictures: David Morgan
It’s become quite the stopover for intrigued motorists bound for Cape Town or the Garden Route. Turns out they have been inspired, or rather seen ‘Inspired’, a neat, white barn in a green field looking for all the world like an illustration from a child’s storybook. Inside, it’s filled with original furniture and craft work, and it is here that its own fairy tale unfolds.
A few years ago, Sally Pretorius was working in Pretoria as an insurance assessor and, after receiving her diploma in landscaping, in garden design. There she met Pierre Roode, who had spent about15 years travelling with Kingsley Holgate, humanitarian explorer, author and storyteller, on his adventures in Africa. After meeting Sally, Pierre hung up his travelling hat, tried urban life in Pretoria, and found it was not for him. Country life beckoned. “We chose Heidelberg by accident,” says Sally.
Before travelling, Pierre had started making furniture out of wine cases discovered on a farm in the Karoo, for guest cottages he had renovated in Worcester.“People who had stayed would leave carrying pieces of his furniture they wanted to buy,” says Sally. Pierre’s practical handcrafted furniture, waxed to give the recycled pine a mellow patina, are affordable and fit readily into any home – and naturally Pierre had to make replacements for these ‘takeaways’, combing the Karoo for more old port and brandy cases.
His experience became the inspiration for a furniture-making business appropriately named Soon (Something out of Nothing) that he started in a small industrial unit in Heidelberg. Then a local farmer offered Pierre a dilapidated milkshed dating back to 1873, plus a 1797 waenhuis, in return for restoring the buildings. The very shed, incidentally, situated on Doornboom Farm beside the N2, was what Pierre had once fantasised would become his workshop.
Today that workshop is humming as Pierre, Willy Malopo (also a veteran of Kingsley’s travels) local men Piet Daniel and Kassie Jemaar, and Sally’s son Morné create everything from cupboards to washstands. The old waenhuis beside it has become a shop selling not only Soon’s furniture but original, locally made craft including mosaics, cushions, rag dolls, picture frames and wooden ornaments.
Many of the pieces were created by Sally – angel figures, hearts and a collage of bird houses made from wooden off-cuts, and cushions from old flour sacks. Nothing goes to waste at Inspired, where all kinds of materials are creatively recycled. “Visitors seem to be looking for something they haven’t been able to find elsewhere,” says Sally. “And Pierre and I put a lot into what we do and they seem to appreciate that.”
Two mottos hang over the counter at Inspired. One reads, ‘The only way to have time is to make time’ and the other is ‘Life is About Finding a Balance’. It seems life in the countryside at the foot of the Langeberg mountains does offer that time and balance, and you could say that Sally and Pierre’s choice was inspired. And their story is ongoing.
“Now we have been offered the house at the top of the field to turn into a guest cottage,” says Sally. “We really have been absolutely blessed.”