At Home with Jackie Burger at her Weekend Retreat

“It’s the wrong shade of blue”

When these words are uttered by Jackie Burger, they’re almost always succeeded by a flurry of activity; people rushing around to find the ‘right’ shade of blue — which, in this instance, is found inside the fold of one spiky limb of the Agave americana below the bedroom window of Jackie’s weekend retreat.

But Jackie shrugs, because she chose the ‘wrong’ blue herself, learning the way we all do that you cannot judge a shade of paint by it’s tin. The lucent Karoo light that revealed her mistake is the same light that will fix it, helped by the wind and the rain.

Karoo time, Jackie will tell you, is both sudden and slow – sudden when a rain-flattened leaf splits the soil or when an unimaginable breeze balloons inside the French brocade curtain and cools down the afternoon.

Slow when the day is measured in colours instead of hours: in patient shades of white, yellow, pink, grey and night.

Above it all is a sky so big you can’t help calling it ‘heaven’ – or agreeing that heaven over the Karoo is just the right shade of blue.

Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa
Salvaged army stretchers are ideal for sleeping outdoors.
Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa
The poplar beams, reeds, stone and whitewashed walls remain faithful to the traditional Karoo aesthetic. The wreaths on the walls are made by a woman in Prince Albert from broken ostrich shells and natural materials she has found in the veld.
Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa
Jackie loves french linen and hand embroidered pieces.
Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa
The house was built on the site of an old reservoir. ‘We left parts of the old reservoir walls exposed to pay homage to the history of the house’
Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa
The table in front of the kitchen hearth makes ‘a perfect place to think and plan’

Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa
Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa

Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa

Do you come here often? ‘About once every two months – not often enough. Last year was wonderful: five years after we bought the original two-roomed cottage, complete with the previous owner’s furniture, we were finally building, which meant we had lots of excuses to come here.’

How did you go about decorating? ‘It was important for us to do it slowly – it took ages figuring out where the light falls and when. We wanted the windows to act as picture frames for the surrounding landscape, and we took our time choosing which ‘pictures’ we wanted framed.’

What guided you? ‘I tried not to impose an alien aesthetic onto the quiet beauty and humility of the Karoo. Everything has been done with the greatest appreciation for the surrounding environment.’

Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa

Where did you source the majority of your items? ‘Most of my pieces are from years of careful collecting. I don’t believe in discarding beautiful furniture just because it’s old. There is beauty in decay, and beauty in handcrafted pieces.’

Jackie Burger's  Weekend Retreat | Elle Decoration South Africa

What make the Karoo special? ‘You can feel the heartbeat of everything here. People fall in love with the romance of small towns but it can be challenging. When the drought and the mosquitoes come, people sell up and move on. But I find sitting at the old monastery table eating homemade bread and jam or walking in the veld infinitely healing.’

Photography: Micky Hoyle – Production: Laureen Rossouw – Text: Annelize Visser

First Published in the Country Issue 84.

Want to linger in the Karoo a little longer? Try this lip-smacking recipe for a Karoo lamb koeksister.

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