Décor & Gardening
Vaughan and Belinda met 10 years ago, when she was in the process of relocating from Joburg. “The joke at our wedding was that Vaughan was the only builder I never fired,” she smiles. “I was doing renovations on a house in White River and my friend suggested him. Although he wasn’t a builder, he had a building team, and did a great job on the renovations. It all escalated from there.” The couple ran a bed and breakfast in town for a while and Belinda continued to work on her business, Botanical Bliss, which does garden design and landscaping.
One day Belinda drove Vaughan past the property of what was to be Lyttle Irving. She laughs as she recalls that at first he couldn’t understand what on earth she’d want with a place like that. “The property at that stage was horse stables, veld and avo trees. It was a complete mess: there was barbed wire everywhere, and the grass hadn’t been mowed in ages,” Belinda explains.
“But I had this vision of the stables being turned into a house, and how I would do the garden, and there was a borehole with plenty of water so I could have a nursery for Botanical Bliss. I pitched my ideas to Vaughan, and between the two of us it materialised into what it is now.”
They sold the other property in town, which they had thought would take three months, but as it turned out, the new owner wanted to move in almost immediately. With nowhere to go, they had two weeks to turn their new premises into somewhere they could stay.
“There was one building which had a bathroom, it used to be an office and change room, and we converted that into a place to live,” says Belinda. “And then it was just the two of us, and six dogs, and two horses,” Vaughan adds laughing. “It was on our very first night staying there that we realised this place would do great as a fully self-catering guest house.”
In 2010 the duo advertised their little establishment for the Fifa World Cup, and the units were ready just in time for their first guests from Argentina. “Vaughan was literally putting the locks on the doors as they checked in from Chile. We opened under absolute chaos. We didn’t have televisions in the units then, so they watched the soccer in our house. They didn’t have transport so we hired our car out to them,” she says.
“They were the most amazing guests though, and we are still great friends. It was fun chaos,” Vaughan adds. “Vaughan’s late mom’s maiden name was Lyttle, and Irving was my late gran’s maiden name. We combined the two to come up with what to call our guest house. We felt it went perfectly with what we were trying to achieve: that French farm, country, natural style. It’s our Lyttle farm,” she beams. “Our great Dane is also called Lyttle. We have four dogs, chickens, ducks, fish, bunnies and two cats. It’s a wonderful place to raise our five-year-old son, Matthew.”
Belinda does all of the decor and landscaping herself, and Vaughan oversees the building of both the guest house and Botanical Bliss. “Belinda will ask me what I think about a colour, and I go, ‘You’re talking to the wrong person’, if it were up to me everything would be white,” he smiles.
“I design and decorate, and Vaughan implements. We work so well together; he organises the chaos that I create,” Belinda adds.
We sit outside, sipping on a cup of freshly brewed coffee, listening to the birds and watching wild ducks swim in the dam. The grass is greener than green after all the rain, and the flowers are in full bloom. The scent of jasmine fills the air; large spreads of white daisies fill the garden and typical brown picket fencing adds to the picturesque setting. They have done a wonderful job of creating a French-inspired farm, as they like to call it.
The gorgeous little dam came about due to the need for nursery irrigation. The couple wanted to find the most cost-effective and aesthetically pleasing way to do this, and therefore built the dam in a way that all rainwater from the roof flows into it and in turn feeds the garden and the nursery.
The latter, Belinda tells us, has a combination of indigenous and exotic plants that are all water-wise and do well in the Lowveld. They are mainly for the use of her landscaping projects, but she does get clients who order from her, and she supplies to them and will place the plants too.
The one-hectare property boasts four adorable, quaint units which cater to your every want and need. Different sleeping configurations for each unit ensure that they accomodate families, couples, business travellers and even singles (there is no single supplement fee).
Each unit leads into a private, manicured French Provençal courtyard. An enchanting walkway leads you to an eco-friendly pool, which is simply divine to languish in on a hot summer’s day, and Vaughan has built a wooden deck so guests can sit and enjoy the view over the water. A state-of-the-art firepit, operated by the mere push of a button, emerges out of the deck, and is great to sit around in the evenings.
“We find that most people don’t want to spend a fortune to put their head down for the night. All they want is a clean bed and somewhere they can make a cup of coffee and a slice of toast the next morning, and a braai in the evening if they don’t feel like going out for dinner. That’s what we’ve tried to create here, a home away from home,” Belinda says.
“We have guests from all walks of life. Uplands parents whose children are boarders stay with us when there are events on, salespeople from all over the country, extended family visiting, those who are down for sporting events and international tourists. We are a great stopover for folks on their way to the Kruger or one of the private game reserves,” Vaughan tells us, “some of whom have become the dearest of friends.
“The only complaint we tend to get is that people can’t sleep because it’s so quiet and peaceful, and really I actually take that as a compliment. That’s exactly what we wanted to achieve here: a tiny oasis where you can completely unwind”, he boasts. “Running a guest house is definitely a passion; it’s actually a lifestyle choice. We would both rather be doing this than working in an office. We just aren’t corporate people. Of course, even though we live in paradise it’s still work, and it’s difficult to switch off as it’s a 24/7 operation and we are constantly on the go, but we try to keep a balance. We have a great house-sitter who takes care of everything, which gives us an opportunity to switch off and get away from time to time,” Belinda explains.
The couple are looking to expand Lyttle Irving in the future and add more self-catering units, but for now they continue to be blissfully happy and enjoy what each day has to offer.
GET IN TOUCH
083-252-7270, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.lyttleirving.co.za