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Small Hotel, Big Break: The Robertson Small Hotel is the post-holiday break we all need

The Art Gazette x Norval Foundation collaboration cements the boutique hotel’s cred as the go-to luxury lodging for design lovers

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By Piet Smedy | January 10, 2022 | Travel Leisure

The Lowdown

Although it’s been around since 2011, it was the 2016 overhaul by owner Tim Rands’ daughter, Abigail, and British designer Sophie Ashby, of Studio Ashby, that catapulted The Robertson Small Hotel into the swooning hearts of design-savvy travellers and aesthetes alike – establishing it as the de facto cool kid on the luxury winelands hotel scene.

Photo by Paris Brummer

The Hotel

As the name suggests, the hotel is small, comprising the original Victorian manor house, a 1909 build and National Monument, Stables and Poolside suites. There’s a restaurant, The Small Restaurant, headed up by lauded chef Chris Erasmus of Franschhoek’s Foliage fame (with all dishes prepared using market-fresh, locally sourced, seasonal ingredients to perfectly showcase the premium produce of the region), a swanky Michael Chandler-designed bar, EM Bar, as well as a not-your-average shop purveying a range of pieces by local designers and wellness rooms.

Photo by Paris Brummer

The Design

Anyone familiar with Sophie Ashby’s work will find the hotel is filled with the hallmarks of her style: A distinct absence of colour phobia (‘Colour is a hugely important tool for me, I use it subtly but not particularly sparingly,’ she says), interiors that are at once modern and quite classic, and a charming playfulness that shakes off any air of stuffiness. And perhaps most surprising is her special South African connection. ‘My mother is from Cape Town and we grew up here for a time when I was younger. I feel like I am as South African as I am English in a way, despite my English accent. It’s a country that gets under your skin,’ says Sophie. ‘This project was the perfect excuse to come back regularly and work with new makers, craftsmen and artists. I am a collector and lover of African design and art and so it was the golden opportunity to forge special relationships and get really immersed in the exciting things happening here.’

Sophie and the team used 12 tones throughout the hotel, with various combinations in each room, each one inspired by a different element of the local landscape. This was key to making the hotel feel fresh in the summer months while still intimate and warm in winter. ‘The colours of clay, ochre, aloes; these are colours you could be surrounded by whatever the weather,’ says Sophie.

Collaboration was central to the project’s success, with Abigail and Sophie working with some of the biggest names in local design on every aspect of the hotel – from room key tags from Pichulik and a custom scent mixed by House of Gozdawa to Bofred furniture and textiles by Alexis Barrell, the list goes on. ‘The hotel is light, fun, colourful and full of humour with little touches guests can interact with,’ says Sophie. ‘Whilst the level of service, comfort and luxury is very high, I didn’t want the surroundings to intimidate or show off – it’s a hotel full of art, design, colour and soul.’

Photo by Paris Brummer

The Art Gazette x Norval Foundation Collaboration

‘The golden thread has been working with people who have a deep sense of curiosity and fascination with the world,’ says Abigail of the hotel’s most recent collaboration, an art focus venture with online platform Art Gazette and Norval Foundation. If you don’t know, Art Gazette provides an accessible space through which to discover emerging talent and acquire local art. It also has an innovative model geared towards supporting artists’ studios whereby Art Gazette buys preparatory studies or exploratory works from artists to sell (usually it is only the final pieces that make it into a gallery), giving these artists the financial support to pursue more ambitious, career-defining works. You’ll be able to see (and shop) a selection of these works, curated by Art Gazette co-founder Morné Visagie, at the hotel.

Photo by Paris Brummer

Hotel address: 58 Van Reenen Street, Robertson, Western Cape, 6705


Phone number: 023 626 7200

Prices from: Rooms in the Manor House from R2 030, the Stable Suites from R2 780 and the Pool Suites from R3 010, all per night per person sharing

Take a look inside the Robertson Small Hotel in the gallery below.

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