Possibly the most astonishing thing about Ellerman House – and there is plenty here to be amazed by – is that so few people know about it. Now almost 25 years old, it has succeeded by being as under-the-radar as it has been reverentially consistent in luxury. The people who need to know about it, do.
This former residence (or, to be exact, mansion) high above exclusive Bantry Bay, is a study in refinement and peacefulness. Even though the gracious building is in the heart of Cape Town, its 9 rooms, two suites, and 5-bedroom villa, each with unsurpassed views across the Atlantic, offer the perfect amount of isolation.
Below the spacious yet cozy reception rooms and large porches spreads a manicured garden and pool. The rooms throughout the property are decorated with magnificent works by South African masters, including Irma Stern and Pierneef.
The rooms have recently been buffed up – new fabrics, bedding, and wallpapers – although subtly enough that repeat clients (of which there are many, despite the prices) probably won’t notice. While the main residence has a more traditional ambiance, the more modern villa’s rooms – with names like Aqua and Lilac – are lushly simple. The kitchen has a glass wall that opens electronically for you to ask the chefs any questions, and across from it is a ‘pantry’ full of goodies for guests to raid at all hours and which has become infamously addictive.
Ellerman House owner Paul Harris, a well-known Johannesburg financier, was the main mover behind the creation of Penreach, which works with schools in rural communities in the north of the country. Established in 1994, Penreach now touches the lives of more than 2,000 teachers a year, working in over 900 schools, and directly benefiting more than 350,000 learners . At least ninety percent of the teachers are women.
Penreach has also gone beyond schools, to help fund beneficial projects such as the provision of psycho-social support to teachers, orphans and vulnerable children; the improvement of state-run feeding schemes; the establishment of vegetable gardens; the development of sport and sports facilities; environmental education, with a view to turning schools into profit centers through waste management; the provision of IT training; youth leadership development camps; and administration training.
So successful has it been that Penreach is aiming to reach other parts of the country in the future.
Harris, who is also a patron of the arts, has one of the finest ‘galleries’ in the country decorating the walls and rooms of Ellerman House – you can find not only every South African master here but possibly also their finest work. In 2009 he opened a magnificent specially built gallery on the property to foster contemporary artists. The gallery now has enough artworks to rotate the exhibition four times annually, and the exhibition there of artists has led clients to buy their works.