Here’s wishing everyone a Happy Labors Day.

AND I hope everyone stays safe from the Hurricane.   

Karoo Karoo!   It sounds like an old Blondies song!   I keep reading about The Karoo, a vast desert in South Africa, mostly from Serena Crawford’s Instagram.  Her latest adventure in The Karoo certainly piqued my interest and I’ve spent a few weeks reading all about the now chic vacation spot.  Serena is the darling of the internet,  one of the more beloved people on Instagram.  She hails from South Africa and she travels the world, meeting a cast of characters from every walk of life – and she brings it all back to us, generously sharing her adventures through her photographs. 

Serena’s former kitchen and living room.

We first met Serena when her houses were published in magazines and photos ended up on Pinterest.  Word quickly spread that she had joined Instagram and today she is surely one of the more popular on social media.  She has fabulous taste and has introduced the world of Instagram to South African design.

I knew little of South African design, before.  I always gave credit to both Rachel Ashwell for the resurgence of white slipcovers and Renea Abbott for bringing the must beautifully made slipcovers to Texas.

Go ahead and laugh at me!!

The truth is white slips have been a staple in countries like India and England and Africa, where they form a basis for South African décor. 

Serena’s outdoor room. 

Traditional South African design include textures such as a thatched ceiling, dark brown antique furniture, trophies – real or faux, bamboo furniture, oversized accessories, large house plants, accent chairs, baskets, printed textiles like suzani, ikats, and African cloths.

Recently, Serena announced she had sold her house and was moving on, building a new home – somewhere near a beach, perhaps?  She’s been quiet about this new house, but there is no doubt it will be fabulous.   Once she moves, décor devotees will be anxiously awaiting to know – “where did she place her bar cart?    where is her gorgeous crystal chandelier?  where is her infamous drinks tray?”

The drinks tray, the bar cart – a must in South African décor.  What will her new house look like?   Maximalist or minimalist?

Hotels and safari camps are especially good places to study Africa décor because of their gorgeous web sites.  Houses are harder to find, unless it’s on a designer’s web page or in a magazine like this:

It’s colonial décor at its best and it is just fabulous!

South African Designer Greg Mello’s web page.

Today, though, I want to focus on that one section of South Africa that Serena has mentioned on Instagram a few times – The Karoo.   She recently spent a few days at a guest farmhouse there and I just gasped at the décor!  I was screencapping her stories and studying every single detail.   The owners of this guest house, great friends of Serena, decorated it in South African décor with a splash of English Country Manor mixed in. 

Is EVERYONE a designer in that part of the world?!?!?!

A guest hotel in the Karoo.

Studying this guest house led me to research The Karoo.  What IS it?  Where IS it?  And why do they have so many quaint, chic guest houses to stay in?!!?!

Karoo Karoo

We always say the world is getting smaller – until you look at a satellite map of the world.  Just the tip of Africa where Cape Town is – looks immense.  The red circled area is the Karoo, a desert which for thousands of years hosted a nomadic tribe, the San.  Karoo is actually the San word meaning ‘Land of Great Thirst.’   Settlers from the Cape moved north to the Karoo around the 17th century and stayed.  

Over the past few centuries, small towns have popped up along the ancient routes.  In the country,  farms have vineyards and grow ostrich.   The architecture found here is a mix of Cape Dutch, Victorian and Karoo.   When you read a travel article about the Karoo – most everyone says that it used to be just a place their parents raced through to reach the beach at Plettenberg Bay.  No one actually visited Karoo or certainly vacationed there.  But today, that has all changed.

Here you can see Cape Town at the far left, then at the far right Plettenberg Bay - the popular beach.  To reach it, you drive straight through the Karoo.

Today, the Karoo is a chic destination where old homesteads have been turned into guest houses found on AirBnB.  Along with the vineyards, there are now safari ranches.  But mostly, there is what everyone comments on – the quiet, the stars, the endless landscape.  You can drive down a highway and see two cars in six hours.   The area is that vast – it is approximately the size of Germany.

With my interest piqued by the guest house where Serena Crawford visited her friends – I wanted to see what other guest houses and hotels were available in the Karoo.

There are a lot, to say the least.  Most are tiny – hosting one or two families.  Others are boutique hotels.

But one place gets the highest ratings on all the websites:

1:   The Samara

There are two distinct areas of this hotel that you can book – Karoo and Samara Mara.  The area is over 70,000 acres and is much more than just a place to stay.    The concept was new to Karoo when the Tompkins bought the 11 farms that make up The Samara.  They returned it to a game reserve and cheetahs now roam the land after they had been hunted out over 130 years ago.  Six elephants returned to their land, after 200 years.  The Tompkins hope the lion will also return.   But there is someone they are fighting against coming – the oil frackers!!!!! 

In order to keep the sky dark, it’s mostly only candles at night.

If you visit, you book it as part of a larger trip – one to Cape Town and other popular areas at the tip of Africa.  If you’ve been there before, let us know in the comments!


At the Samara there are two main lodges and several other smaller places with suites.

The Karoo Lodge was on the property when the Tompkins bought it in the 1990s.   So romantic! 

Why is South Africa and really all of Africa so romantic?  I’m sure if you live there it’s not that way (or maybe it is?) but to a foreigner it all seems like it is straight out of a movie or a fairy tale.

From another side.

The bar.  Love the ceiling.

Set for dinner inside with a skin laid over the white linen.

Most beds are canopy with mosquito netting.

  And another room with the bathroom showing.

Typical South African décor – baskets and baskets, overscaled furniture and natural accessories.

The Manor House is newer and more luxe:

Lunch is served around the pool.

The rooms open to the living area furnished in South African contemporary décor.

Love the art work.

Past the living area is the dining room.

All the bedrooms are decorated differently.

Love the bathrooms with the tub and brown furniture vanity and  over scaled cabinet with baskets.

The Samara is by far the largest and most exclusive place to stay in the Karoo. 

But, there are a host of farmhouses, B&Bs, and small hotels found in the tiny towns that dot the roads.


2.  The Drostdy  

This hotel is on a downtown corner.

This hotel caught my eye – the Drostdy   It is a true gem located in the town of Graff-Reniet.   Established in 1786,  it features charming Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture. 

The national  park Camdeboo National surrounds the town, providing fabulous scenery and wildlife.  Drostdy Hotel was first built in the early 1800s, it is now a blend of contemporary and antique décor.

The rooms lead off this charming courtyard.

The restaurant is next door to the main building and sits on a back courtyard.

The main lobby at the Drostdy Hotel.

I LOVE this sofa!  And I love this look, with the thick leather tufting in caramel leather mixed with the white pots.

As usual, great South African décor, everywhere you look!

A dining area set up as for a meeting.  Please – notice that GORGEOUS cabinet!!!!  What I love about it is the juxtaposition of the rustic vases atop the dressy cabinet.    A collection of trophies along the back wall.  South African décor uses trophies as opposed to hanging plates.

A guest bedroom in the hotel.


The bathrooms with classic black and white tiles and vanities.  Notice the great sinks AND the brass doorknob.

Another guest suite.

3.  The Mount Camdeboo

Besides The Samara, there is another private game reserve in the Karoo – The Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve.

Founded in 1996 as a private country retreat, today the land is shared with the paying public.   There are a number of different places to stay at this reserve, including an original Dutch manor house dating from the early 1800s!!!!!!

The 1800s Manor House is where the main bedrooms are.

Distinctive original Dutch architecture.

One of the bedrooms with the mosquito netting and beautiful dark armoire.

Also with Dutch architecture, another guest house on the game reserve, the Courtyard, dates back from the late 1700s!!!! 

The stone Peppertree Cottage was actually the gate house to the large manor house.  Notice those trees!  It must be so romantic to have a candlelit dinner outside and this must be why it is called the Honeymoon Suite cottage.

Inside the stone cottage – even the walls are stone – just wonderful!!!!

The Hillside Manor dates from the early 1900s.  It’s more removed from the other manors and has its own pool. 

The best are the safari tents!

I’m going to have to go watch Out of Africa tonight!!!

There is even an outdoor tub.

Another popular town for tourists is Prince Albert.

Prince Albert with its Dutch Reformed Church steeple at its highest point.

The town is set between the Karoo desert and the Garden Route.  It is having a resurgent as a foodie destination, for those that enjoy their food and wine.

Prince Albert on the Western Cape has so many places to stay, but one that I saw is just adorable:

4.  The Prince Albert Country Stay

The Prince Albert Country Stay.  Too cute!!!!!!  There are guest rooms on this block and on the block across the street.

You can eat and shop for antiques while you stay here.

The kitchen.

Breakfast on fancy plates.  Looks yum.  Except for the eggs.  I have never eaten an egg in my entire life.  Something about the smell doesn’t agree with me. 

The meals are set at tables around one of the pools.  The hotel sits on two different blocks, with two pools.

Each room is designed differently, with different antiques.    The rooms are simple but that is their charm.  Something about this place really appealed to me.

Outside sleeping or sunbathing.

Love the mix of ticking and chintz fabrics.

What a bed!!

Even the bathrooms are quirky and cute.

Olive trees and rooms upstairs.  One bedroom is called The Loft and another is The Library. 

The vintage army beds make cute sofas or extra beds.

Who doesn’t want to bathe with the Queen watching over you???

  Great English fabric on vintage chairs, antique rug and armoire.

Look how cute this room is – in its own little house with a picket gate!!

“Self Catering” is a word most of the guest houses use to describe themselves.  More cuteness.


Seriously.  I could live here!  Love the blue antique shutters, the old chest, the great bed with curvy lines.

The second pool.   Love the lime green against the white. 

Drought tolerant plants, I’m sure, given that the Karoo is basically a desert.

One more darling room.  Love that bed and bench – and the gilt framed print is a nice added touch of juxtaposition.

There are so many different rooms, it’s hard to choose from.  I didn’t even show half of them!

5. The African Relish Cottages

Another really cute place to stay in Prince Albert, is in an old vintage building called The African Relish Cottages - Akkedis HERE.

This is another white stucco with lime green accents in a vintage building.

Beautiful drought tolerant plants.  Wow. I love these!!!

Outside eating under a reed pergola.


Inside eating, green and pink.

Those throws!!   This décor has such a traditional African vibe.


That bathroom!!!  Love the ceiling. 


And finally a sofa/bed outside.  This hotel has several locations each with its own completely different décor.

6.  The Lord Milner

If you are a fan of the movie The Grand Budapest Hotel, you will love this next place to stay in The Karoo!!  The only thing missing is Ralph Fiennes and Lobby Boy.  Are you smiling, too?

The 3-Star, Heritage Site, Lord Milner Hotel, located in the Karoo is a three hour drive from Cape Town.  There are just 15 rooms, each decorated differently.   The hotel is in a town called Matjiesfontein, founded by a Scottish railwayman named James Douglas Logan.  For decades, the hotel was a popular overnight stop in The Karoo, thanks to the rail station. 

The hotel was named after Lord Alfred Milner, the then governor of the Cape during the Anglo-Boer War.  The hotel was finished in 1899.   During the Anglo-Boer War, 10,000 troops were stationed in town and the hotel was a temporary hospital.   With such a history - the hotel is called the most haunted in South Africa.  The entire village was named a National Heritage Site in 1975. 

An evening shot of the check in. 

In the day, you can see concrete encaustic tiles with green walls and stained wood doors.   Wonderful!!!

The double lobby - yellow walls and curtains.   Notice the arches and wood ceiling.

Here with the same encaustic tiles and yellow drapes, the white walls tone it all down.

Matjiesfontein was known as a health resort - especially for those with lung issues.   Famous guests such as Winston Churchill's father, Lord Randolph, Rudyard Kipling and Cecil John Rhodes visited the hotel.

The town offers a lot to see - there is a museum filled with Victorian memorabilia located in the original train station.  And there is the Transport Museum filled with vintage cars, bicycles and even a steam train!                     

The dining room.

Lobby Boy! 

Some of the courtyard rooms.

This cottage is part of the hotel.

The cottage bedroom. 

The black and white bathroom in the cottage.  I'm beginning to think all Karoo bathrooms are black and white!

This suite with the insanely high ceilings and antique headboards is located in the Old Marie Rawdon Museum!


The Museum - looks like a pharmacy!!!

The church is darling.

The hotel hosts weddings inside and outside.

To see more go HERE.

There are hundreds of guest houses/B&B/self caterings to stay in in the Karoo.   Most are either restored old farmhouses in the country or historic houses in town.  Foodies are especially drawn to this area and it’s become a close in destination for safaris in South Africa with its two large animal reserves and several smaller ones.

I saw so many interesting places to stay, choosing which ones to show here was very hard.  Be sure to google “Guest Houses in the Karoo” if you want to visit or just want to look at all the options.

And now to what I think is by far one of the cutest guest houses I saw.  It’s so well designed you will want to just move in, like me. 

It’s the farmhouse that Serena Crawford showed us when she visited.

The guest house is available on AirBNB, so I felt posting the photos from there and the web site for the farmhouse would show you what you get if you rent it for a vacation.   

***If you do want to book it, use AirBNB or their direct web site***

The farmhouse is called Daniel’s Kraal.

7.  Daniel’s Kraal

First, what IS a Kraal? I keep seeing this word over and over when looking at Karoo properties - a lot of the guest houses were named Kraal.   What it literally means is to drive your cattle or sheep into an enclosure.  Sort of like corral.  Hmmm.   I think I’ve got it!  By God, I’ve got it!!!

“They kraal their sheep every night.”  OR “The kraal for the cattle was not suitable.”

Daniel’s Kraal is located in the Klein Karoo with rolling green lawns surrounded by mountains.   It was established in 1836 when the main house was built.   Apparently until 1898, the only wagon route to Cape Town was through this guesthouse’s property.  Back then a wagon wheel maker lived on the farm called Daniel’s Kraal.

Hidden away in a valley in the Klein Karoo lies the luxurious homestead overlooking rolling green lawns and surrounded by mountains.


I tried to find the road that leads to Cape Town but couldn’t locate it on google earth, it is that secluded!!!  The closest town is Calitzdorp, a 10 minute drive where all the chic restaurants and coffee shops are.

Surrounding Daniel’s Kraal are vineyards, olive trees, bush and these mountains.  See that tiny white house?  That’s the place!!!  Daniel’s Kraal.


A closer view.  Aerial View of farmhouse and farm buildings.

The main house was built in 1836. 

It has the historical South African thatched roof, stucco walls, and a large, inviting verandah.  

The kraal sits on 5700 acres of Karoo wild landscape along with the fossils it is so famous for.  You can either relax by the pool or a fire or go hiking and biking or birdwatching or play games on the lawn.

While that is all well and good, my interests are in the interior design created by the owner.  It’s so welcoming and warm and it just grabs you and says "come in and look around."

A picket fence helps encircle the pool.  In the house, the front bedroom and bath overlook the pool and lawn.  Behind it is the "Pink Bedroom" right next to the outdoor


The verandah acts as another room in the house – just outside instead of inside.   To the left of the open verandah are two rooms, the kids bunk room and then the main bedroom.

White stone steps lead up to the pool area.


Striped French mattresses on sun lounge chairs.

A collection of Kooboo wicker with more striped cushions.

The awning on the verandah is striped.  Here, it is rolled up.

And, here the awning is half way down.  I love the way the awning looks – it’s romantic.

The awning adds so much to this façade. 

Inside the verandah, it is divided into two sections – a sitting area and a dining area.  Notice - at the far left, a Dutch door leads inside to a bedroom which looks out to the lawn and swimming pool. 

The dining table, set for lunch.

The décor at the Kraal changes a lot - of course it does, it's the home of a very creative woman!!!  There are many newer photos on Instagram where you can see the more updated rooms.  Here, new rug and pillows add to the look on the verandah.  Additionally, two French baker's tables were moved from a bedroom to out here where lamps provide  light at night.

Another photo of the newer look on the verandah.  I love the night view.

I’ll take my martini right about now, thanks!!!!  You too?!?!??  Great!  I’ll wait while you go get yours.

Notice the front door with its multipaned transom above.  I've never seen a transom like that one.


What a view from the dining table!!!  At the right, an oversized print anchors that side of the verandah.

And here on the right is another Dutch door that opens to two more bedrooms, the bunk room and the main guest room.  This check sofa that is so cute will later be moved- inside!!!

The table set for lunch - layer upon layer, just as the house is decorated!!!

Another night view shows the house all lit up.  Love the row of hats hanging on the wall at the left.   The front door opens right into the dining room.  

Through the dining room is the living room with its pitched roof and ancient fireplace:

The living room!   LOVE!!!  The huge fireplace warms up the room.   A trophy collection hangs above it.  Two wicker chairs are flanked by two different sofas and an antique trunk doubles as a coffee table.

Note:  This is an early design of the living room.  Later, you will see how this room has been changed a bit.

Here, you can see part of the roof and the tiny original window.  Notice the series of bird prints hanging on the wall AND that display case!!!  Love!!!!

Notice the tiny wood door next to the fireplace.  A wood store?

Behind the chairs, a ceiling to floor bookcase flanks the opening to the dining room.   That original window is just darling!!!

Close up of the antique light fixture.  I have never seen one like that.  Very unique.

See the green wood shutter on the small window.  Just charming!!!  Notice how thick these stucco walls are – they keep the house warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

And from Instagram, here is a look at the newest lid décor.  The check and chintz sofa that was on the verandah was moved inside while there is now a lovely new red rug.  Also new to the room is a low coffee table.


And from Serena’s IG stories, a view towards the door that opens to the dining room.  Wish the photo was better!

The dining room with slipcovered chairs and layered rugs.   Through this open door is the Pink Bedroom.

Notice the ceiling here is wood planks instead of thatch.  There must be a second floor above this room.   So charming!!!   I suspect this room is used only in cold months.   Warms months – I’ll guess that the table is set on the verandah.   Notice the built in shelves flanked by extra large prints. I really love the way these large prints are used.

See how the prints are hanging around the room – all at the same height.  A view towards the back of the room.  You can see the door leading to the living room here.  Notice the silver domes.  LOVE.  wwwee the corner cupboard.   

South African Décor:   Dark wood doors and furniture.  It’s so rich looking, isn’t it?  LOVE!  

On the Daniel's Kraal web site, there are four bedrooms listed for rent.  You can rent out all four or just one.   

  First, there's the Main Bedroom.   This one features a wood four poster bed, softened with a mosquito net.  Love the large, tall, settee at the end of the bed.   Notice how the side chair props open the door.  Love that!!  It just reminds you that this is an old farm house with wonky wood doors – not those particle board doors found in all the newer homes.  Through this door is another room with a daybed if needed. 

A view showing the antique wood chest and chair.  The desk in front of the chair is out of view.

The Dutch door from the adjoining room opens to the main bedroom, showing the beautiful roof.

Adjoining the main bedroom is this room with an antique daybed and vintage suitcases!!


Access to the en suite is through this room.

The bathroom has the same tub, black and white floors – but look how it was decorated with an antique cabinet filled with luxurious towels and a side table holding bath oils, candles, and soap.  Subway tiles and crystal chandelier.

Love this!  It’s just an example of the attention to detail found throughout the house.


And the sink.  The bathrooms are so fabulous!!

Very well done.

Off the main bedroom, the terrace overlooks the herb garden.

Part of the herb garden across from the main bedroom and house.

Fresh herbs are used for meals.  I love how there is even a trophy above this door.  And notice the wire pot racks!!!!!  Too cute!    No inch goes undecorated!!!

The second room is the Pink Bedroom, located in the middle section of the house right off the dining room – cool in the summer and warm in the winter.


Toile bedding and French bakers tables which are now on the verandah.  Notice the original? wall of cabinets.  

On the thick stucco ledge, antique mirror and David Austen roses with an original wood window.


Today the same bedroom looks like this after it was redecorated - scalloped bedding and linen canopy. 

Close up of this beautiful antique bed.  So pretty!!!

Notice the rails that hold the canopy back!  Beautiful!!!!

The bathrooms are all so cute.  Black and white floors mixed with brown furniture and black paneling, baskets and crystal chandeliers.   Of course, there are the tall ceilings and tiny windows with thick stucco walls – which add all the charm to the house, including the bathrooms!!!

This is the third wonderful bedroom with access to the front yard and a view of the pool.  Beautiful lamps.   Earlier décor which today has been changed.

To enter, you go through the Dutch door on the verandah, on the sitting room side.

Earlier view of the front bedroom.

Today, the bedroom has been changed and looks like this.   Love the corona holding the mosquito netting.   This is a rare room with painted furniture!  Most furniture in the house is dark, antique brown stained.  The painted furniture is a nice change – both dark and light furniture looks so good.


At the window overlooking the pool, new linen curtains.


Looking inside from the outside.  The toile headboard was also in this room for a while.   Love how the bedrooms have changed throughout the years!!

Overlooking the front lawn, this bathroom has a white garden seat and exotic black and white towels along with a star chandelier.

On the right side of the house are stairs leading to the second floor. Below the stone stairs is an outdoor shower.

On the opposite side of the outdoor stairs and shower, is a round rose bed and the kitchen which was probably added on decades ago.  Behind the kitchen, where the chimney is, is the cozy living room with the pitched roof and extra large fireplace.

The kitchen, located off to the right of the living room.

And there’s another bedroom!   Away from the main farm is this small cottage, off the highway to Cape Town.  If you don’t want to stay in the big house or just want to spend a quick night on your way out – this is the place for you!  

  I am almost never overwhelmed by a new built house or an extra large house, unless it is a palace owned by royalty!  LOL. 

It's the smaller houses, the older ones, the cozy ones, the maximalist ones that are impossible to pass by without a second or third glance. 

You know, the houses like this, like Daniel’s Kraal.  It’s hard to define or describe such house to love.  It could be in Malibu or the hills of Tennessee.  When you see it, you just know.

That’s what happened to me when I saw this Karoo farmhouse on Serena’s Instagram @serenacrawford.

These are the houses I try to always show here – to share with you in case you didn’t see it yourself first, or if you already did – I’ll show it hoping we can discuss it together over the blog.

The owner of this farm designed such a house, one that says  “Welcome, come in.  Let me show you the things I love, the things I have collected over the years.   Let me make you a meal you will want to linger over at the table, let me draw you a bath before you go to sleep.  Let me turn down the sheets and wish you a restful night.”

If you want to stay or contact the farm, go HERE


btw, everything is on sale for Labor’s Day!!!!





Antelope Head, every color HERE








Leather Accent Chair HERE