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Chris Weylandt can't decide on a job title. "I normally just put my name," he says. Alongside his life and business partner Kim Smith, Weylandt is the name, design director and driving force behind the South African furniture and homewares stores, Weylandts.
The business goes back to 1964, the year Weylandt was born, when his father, Edgar, opened a modest furniture store in Windhoek, Namibia. Almost three decades later, Chris started work in the family business, and the brand grew rapidly. Weylandts now has 11 stores: eight in South Africa, two in Namibia and one in Melbourne's Abbotsford. There are also rumours of another store opening in Sydney in the coming year. "In Australia there's an appreciation of good living, quality of life and of design," he says. "It made sense to us from a cultural and lifestyle perspective to open there."
While Weylandts is now a chain, there's nothing formulaic about the company's character or inventory. Weylandt and Smith travel about six months a year and go out of their way to source products that are limited or unique, handmade and discovered in out-of-the-way places - rattan sunloungers handwoven in Indonesia, say, or kudu-head ornaments carved from jacaranda wood in Swaziland. Weylandt focuses on the furniture and Smith on the homewares. "We always know what the other one is buying. That's why the Weylandts handwriting is so strong," he says.
A distinctive feature of the stores is their size; the Melbourne store, for instance, spans 3,000 square metres and, despite featuring all the ranges, including the company's first foray into clothing, it's never cluttered. "That's come from growing up in South Africa - the space, the natural beauty," says Weylandt. "We always want to capture that generosity of space when we showcase our products."
There's far more to the Weylandts' story than scatter cushions and statement rugs. Recently there has been talk of boutique hotels and there's The Kitchen, the casual restaurant and café located in select Weylandts stores, and as a standalone restaurant in Franschhoek Valley, at the couple's 11-hectare farm, vineyard and 18th-century homestead, Maison Estate.
On weekends Smith and Weylandt alternate between Maison Estate and their holiday house at Scarborough, while during the week they live at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in central Cape Town. The city and its surrounds are a constant source of inspiration for tastemakers, says Weylandt. "Obviously we go to Europe, and to the high-end shows, and get inspired by great designers. But, more so, it's the experiences from day-to-day life: visiting markets, the little places, just seeing how people do things. Cape Town is real, it's got soul, and it's got character."
Here's his insider's guide to the city and surrounds.
THE KITCHEN AT MAISON ESTATE, FRANSCHHOEK VALLEY
"There are always good times here with the family. The restaurant flows from the patio onto the lawns, where there are massive eight-metre tables under the oak trees. That's my favourite spot: surrounded by beautiful scenery, only a couple of metres away from our home, chenin blanc in hand. Virtually everything we sell on the farm is what we produce and grow. Our chef, Arno Janse van Rensburg, visited Australia, where he worked at Cutler & Co in Melbourne, and he's also been to Denmark. When people are inspired, and are exposed to new ideas, it's amazing to see what it does to them. Arno likes to experiment, but he always keeps it simple and he keeps it real. Right now he's into pickling. Whatever comes out of the garden - whether it's the beans, cauliflower or artichokes - ends up in a jar." R45, Cape Town, 7690, +27 21 876 2116, maisonestate.co.za
NEIGHBOURGOODS MARKET AT THE OLD BISCUIT MILL,
"The Old Biscuit Mill was the starting point for community markets in Cape Town. On a Saturday morning there are more than 100 stalls, and the vibe is busy and happening, but you'll need to get there early, otherwise everything is gone. Everyone is a specialist at the market. There's a fantastic biltong merchant, a small butcher and numerous stalls selling organic vegetables. I always start with a Bloody Mary - it's a good Saturday-morning drink. I'll listen to some music and buy a bit of charcuterie. Woodstock itself is a great area, too. There's a new energy here - a lot of youngsters, small businesses and entrepreneurs with ideas or workshops starting up." Saturdays 9am-2pm, 373-375 Albert Rd, Woodstock, Cape Town, theoldbiscuitmill.co.za
CHAPMAN'S PEAK DRIVE
"This is an incredible nine-kilometre scenic drive around the peninsula, only 20 kilometres south of Cape Town. The diversity within such a small distance is what makes it so beautiful. The west coast is so exposed and rough, and when you go to the other side, near Kalk Bay, it's much calmer. From Cape Town and the Camps Bay area, go via Chapman's Peak, around Misty Cliffs and Scarborough, and then on to Cape Point, before heading back to Cape Town for sunset at Lion's Head. The wine farms around Constantia are near the drive, too - Steenberg Farm has a great tasting area - and in August and September whales often park themselves all around the Cape. It's breathtaking." Chapman's Peak Drive runs between Hout Bay and Noordhoek, starting 20 kilometres south of Cape Town, chapmanspeakdrive.co.za; Steenberg Farm, Steenberg Rd, Tokai, Cape Town, +27 21 713 2222 steenbergfarm.com
"We've got a weekend place on the Cape Peninsula nature reserve in Scarborough, right next to Misty Cliffs. It takes only 45 minutes to drive from Cape Town, and this is where the kitesurfers come. I just love watching them and the ocean - the Atlantic is rough here. I've done a bit of kitesurfing in my time, but not what these guys are doing."Misty Cliffs is 45 kilometres south-west of Cape Town, Western Cape, Atlantic seaboard.
CHEFS WAREHOUSE & CANTEEN
"This tapas restaurant is relatively new, but what I like about it is that the menu changes all the time. It's a great intimate eating spot in Heritage Square, in the centre of Cape Town, with beautiful old stone walls and shelves of preserved foods. At night it's dark and a little sexy. The food is modern - it takes the concept of tapas and applies it to different cuisines with a lot of Asian influence. I love the Vietnamese oysters. They're served on a bed of salt and topped with crisp shallots, coriander and a soy and ginger dressing. The quality of the food is great, the innovation is there, and the owner always seems to be present, which I like."92 Bree St, Cape Town, +27 21 422 0128, chefswarehouse.co.za
DYLAN LEWIS SCULPTURE GARDEN, STELLENBOSCH
"Dylan Lewis is probably the most famous sculptor in South Africa at the moment. The scale of his work is very inspiring (we own a very small piece), and how he expresses the tension between man and beast is incredible. For the past couple of years he's been creating this private sculpture garden in Stellenbosch, set against Helderberg Mountain, about 55 kilometres east of Cape Town. It's a real journey. You walk through and there are areas to pause and chat - peaceful resting areas with water features, his oversized sculptures in the landscape. It's powerful, dramatic, meditative and provocative all at once."Visits by appointment; Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa, +27 21 880 0054, dylanlewis.com
"Weekends are the only time I really have for breakfast, so if we're in town, Kim and I go for brunch at Jason. You can see Table Mountain from the bistro tables outside. I order a sandwich and a South African craft beer, and Kim will have something sweet like a house-made pastry. It's a busy place filled with beautiful people, a lot of young business people and design-oriented youngsters. Jason Lilley is the owner - lots of tattoos, and always busy baking. It reminds me of what you might see on Smith or Gertrude streets in Melbourne. It's quite hip and a real meeting spot for Capetonians."185 Bree St, Cape Town, +27 21 424 5644, jasonbakery.com
YOGIS BARBER SHOP
"The barber scene is quite strong in Australia, and it's becoming popular in Cape Town. Yogis is a fourth-generation barber doing the best shave in town. It's trendy, but there's a realness to it that I love, and the people are compassionate. Yogi, the owner, doesn't often cut any more, but chats to customers and coordinates it all. Mr Mo does my shave. He doesn't have a moustache so much as a three-day beard."103 Buitengracht St, Cape Town, +27 21 424 5408, yogis.co.za
Qantas flies direct from Sydney to Johannesburg; connect to Cape Town on South African Airways or British Airways
Qantas flies direct from Sydney to Johannesburg; connect to Cape Town on South African Airways or British Airways
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