This week I had tea with designer-artist Jaco Janse van Rensburg at his office in Cape Town. It seems mildly inadequate to whittle St Ronans down to a word as functional as office. St Ronans, located in Hof Street, Gardens, is bigger in spirit and intention than just a place to do work. Across the road from Leeuwenhof, the official residence of Premier Helen Zille, St Ronans incorporates an orchard, a vegetable garden, and a couple of residences, one of which is used as studios for designers. The property belongs to Karen Roos whose impact on the interior design business and publishing industry needs no further tralalala. Karen has an office here, flanked by designers Porky Hefer, Yelda Bayraktar Hefer and Jaco.
I feel on the brink of a thousand words. It’s one of those kinds of places.
You can tell, St. Ronans has been polished by a desire to honour authenticity and historic legacy, and that makes everything about it feel 100 percent right. Like children who get lots of proper attention, buildings that are exquisitely well cared for and gardens that are tended fastidiously have a way of opening their arms to you and letting the love flow back.
The property is beautifully looked after. Every summer, after being chewed on and spat out by a Cape Town winter, St Ronans gets painted back to Colgate white. The painting crew were at work outside Jaco’s office when I was there on Wednesday. This annual whitewashing is one of the rituals that gives this property its semi-monastic feel. I’m quite sure there are others. Exiting down the path that snakes past the recently planted seedlings in the vegetable garden, it seems that the air, heaving with loaminess and the smell of fresh hedge clippings, is so thick with peace and quiet you could hear a locust hop. Or at least hear the sound of secateurs ka-thwicking away at the ficus. Evidently, gardening and the idea of growing beautiful things is a sacred thing at St. Ronans.
Judging by the artichokes, the vegetable garden will soon bear gifts like Father Christmas in boom times.