Fireplaces making life a bit warmer

Winter is upon us and when considering ways to heat up your home, one obvious thought would be to add or restore an indoor fireplace. In light of the cost of electricity, homeowners are starting to consider the fireplace as a must have piece of heating furniture which provides a cosy ambience, comfortable gathering place for family and friends and adds value to a home.


“As with any home improvement, it is a good idea to take a moment to think about exactly what you are trying to achieve with your indoor fireplace.  Consider the structure that you already have, the amount of heating that you want to achieve and, of course, the design of your home” advises Craig Hutchison, CEO of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.


According to Hilly Nachman, owner of The Fire Place Studio there is never a bad time to install a fireplace, whether you are building or renovating, upgrading an existing installation or just installing from scratch. “Most people tend to wait till it gets cold and then are in a hurry to get it installed, so there is a fairly long lead time in mid-winter of 3-5 weeks”.


Choosing the right design and product is key to ensuring your fireplace is a positive component rather than an underutilised element in your home. There are various types of indoor fireplaces you can purchase; we compare the pros and the cons of some.


Wood Burning Fireplace

A traditional wood burning hearth typically made of stone or brick, is what most people think of when they picture a fireplace. There are a number of options in this category, and they can differ in terms of how easy they are to install, how much heat they put out and how cost-efficient they will be for you to operate. If you do not already have a fireplace in your home, it will require a fair amount of construction work to put in both the opening itself and the chimney for proper ventilation.


  • Valued for its aesthetic – you can’t beat the look and sound of a wood fire
  • They create a cosy, rustic atmosphere in any space
  • Most people like the smoky scent they give off


  • Expensive to install and to maintain
  • High maintenance
  • Spit out burning embers, so screens are needed to ensure safe use


Gas Burning Fireplace

A popular alternative to traditional wood burning fireplaces. Opt for a free-standing gas fireplace that utilizes a pipe which enables you to install your fireplace in any room.  Direct-vented models require a chimney for ventilation either a pre-existing chimney or a new chimney can be constructed.


  • Create more heat at a lower cost
  • Require less construction or reconstruction to install
  • Burn natural gas instead of wood and are easy to use


  • Despite burning clear, they still pose the slight risk of emitting contaminants
  • Need a line installed between fireplace and fuel source
  • May not offer the same feel as wood burning versions


Ethanol Burning Fireplace

Fireplaces that burn ethanol have become the current trend for their ease in installation as well as their contemporary design.  Most contain a burner that can be filled with the bioethanol fuel for easy repeated use.


  • They are more environmentally friendly and odourless
  • Require minimal installation
  • Can adjust the temperature and are easy to turn on and off


  • Provide less heat than gas fireplaces, won’t heat your entire home
  • Require refilling


Electric Fireplace

Easy to incorporate into a space and are quickly catching on as the most popular fuel type available. They create warmth by heating interior coils with electricity. Most models come with an internal fan to better distribute heat throughout your home. Given that there is no real flame inside an electric fireplace, they employ a “fake” flame to give them a lifelike look and feel.


  • Most cost effective option to install
  • Enable you to turn the heating function on or off while maintaining a fireplace-like ambiance
  • Low maintenance and safest option for a home with kids and pets


  • Less attractive and does not give that authentic fire feel
  • Energy consumption is high and will increase your electricity bill
  • Are not permanent fixtures so they are not likely to add value to your home


Table top Fireplace

These come in different sizes, enabling you to make use of them in a variety of settings.


  • Easily portable, often usable both indoors and outdoors
  • Simple, easy and safe to use
  • Relatively cost-effective


  • Heat output is lacking so should be used only as supplemental heat sources
  • Last only for a few hours
  • Need to make sure the tin cans are fully intact to prevent a hazard from happening


Wall-Mounted Fireplace

There are two subtypes of wall-mounted fireplaces, those that need to be connected to a chimney and those that don’t. The type you get depends on what type of fuel you use. Many people use a wall-mounted fireplace as the focal point of their room.


  • Saves space, common option for those with small homes or apartments
  • Self-contained wall-mounted fireplaces can even be moved from room to room as needed.
  • Less mess as they run on either gas or electricity


  • Less heat
  • Often looks faux depending on the manufacturer of the unit
  • No added value – is portable, it will not add value to the home


Wood Stove Fireplace

Modern stoves come in steel as well as cast iron. There are many, many different styles of fireplace to choose from, ranging from traditional style stoves all the way to contemporary double sided fireplaces heat radiates from all surfaces of the fireplace rather than large volumes of air escaping the chimney like with an open fireplace.


  • Very safe, have a glass door that traps the flames inside. This ensures a higher level of safety when the fire is in use.
  • Fuel efficient,  extremely eco-friendly as far as efficiency goes
  • There is little to no maintenance or effort required


  • Need a dry place to store wood
  • The upfront, capital cost of building a sizeable wood energy facility can be high
  • When wood burns it releases hazardous gasses (e.g., nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide) and soot.


Trends for fireplaces for 2018

Dave Tunbridge, Sales Manager at Fireplace Warehouse says that Fireplaces have really evolved over the years with the new products now being more environmentally friendly and efficient. Today’s fireplace design allows you to use less fuel for more heat and emit lower emissions into the atmosphere. Another design trend is that one does not need to have a black fireplace anymore as some units are available in different colours. Most clients are looking for modern or retro design units nowadays with the wall mounted type being one of the most popular selling units at the moment.

Andrew Balding, Managing Director at Morso agrees that the trend seems to be that fireplaces have a modern “white” finish.  White is regularly referred to as the most complementary colour that can be added to any room or decor. It’s simple and clean nature ensures cohesion and synergy with the rest of your furnishings, varying from traditional to contemporary.

Solar Power in your home

Solar energy has exploded over the last decade with the cost of solar panels decreasing, making solar more affordable than ever.  Many homeowners have already invested in this to make their homes more environmentally friendly and sustainable, but if you are still investigating the options available to you, this article could assist you in taking that final step towards sustainable living.


“Whether you go completely off-grid or simply supplement your household energy intake with a smaller system it will already be the start to increasing your property value. The primary investment of solar power is often enough to scare one off, however the payback period of your investment, and  future rewards, make solar power affordable to most homeowners” comments Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.



What is solar power?

Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaic (PV), indirectly using concentrated solar power, or a combination of both. It’s renewable, and can be used in a variety of ways to sustainably fuel homes, producing hot water and electricity.


Why consider solar power?

Solar systems require very little maintenance and you could end up saving up to 60% -80% on your electricity bill, depending on the size of your home and what kind of solar energy system you install. Whether you build a new energy efficient house or upgrade your existing one, solar technology will definitely add to the value of your property.


How solar works?

  • Solar panels collect sunlight and channel it to an inverter, where it’s converted to electricity to power your home.
  • Photovoltaic (PV) cells convert sunlight to direct current (DC) electricity.
  • The electrical panel sends power to your lights and appliances.
  • The meter tracks how much electricity is generated and measures the energy you draw and feed back to the grid.


Some solar electric systems will use batteries to store the unused electricity.


Cost involved?

Solar energy systems can be quite expensive when it comes to installation. The size of your home as well as the amount of work that is involved for installation will determine the cost. The costs are decreasing as new technology is introduced for more efficient solar energy generation.


Cala van der Westhuizen, Head of Marketing and Sales, Energy Partners Home Solutions highlights the main pricing categories as follows:


  • The complete heating solution costs around R35 000 for the average home.
  • The complete Solar photovoltaic (PV) system costs upward of R80 000 and should be viewed as a long term investment solution.
  • The cost of the ICON Home Energy Hub ranges between R100 000 – R180 000.


Some suppliers are approved credit providers and offer financing options for homeowners. Energy Partners has also developed a long term lease model, where the client can simply lease the system    instead of having to pay for it upfront.


Where should one start?

Installing a solar system is not just a matter of putting up a few panels and adding a few batteries, there is no standard system, each system has to be correctly sized to suit the requirements of each home. Make sure the company you are dealing with is an established company with a good reputation and can provide the correct advice and service backup.


 When investing in solar technology, it is important to prioritise, reducing your heaviest loads first, as this will deliver the greatest savings:

  • Start by replacing the home’s light bulbs with energy efficient lighting.
  • Replace your home’s geyser with a heat pump, or solar geyser. A highly insulated hot water storage system can also cut the homes electricity costs by an estimated 50%.
  • A solar photovoltaic (PV) system can provide up to 30% of an average home’s energy. It is hugely beneficial in the long-term and must be viewed as an investment. However, before embarking on this, it is important to understand whether the home’s rooftop has been designed to accommodate the optimal number of panels.
  • Lastly, homeowners can choose a complete integrated system. A hybrid inverter and battery, such as Energy Partners’ own ICON Home Energy Hub, enables property owners to integrate power from their solar PV panels, the national grid and batteries. It also incorporates a mobile app to track energy usage and savings in real time.


Latest technology

Until a few years ago solar panels were a scarce sight and largely limited to the roofs of affluent households. This has changed rapidly in the last ten years; the specific development in solar energy has seen the sharp drop in prices and an increase in technological advances in solar technologies and in power storage.


According to Cala van der Westhuizen from Energy Partners Home Solutions, solar panels are currently at the top of their game. Storage is improving constantly and lithium ion batteries are currently the preferred technology with many other technologies in battery storage being developed. Another exciting product that has been introduced is a DC element and solar PV conversion that can be applied to your current geyser.


As technology improves, the cost of the technology will decrease and investment recovery periods for the solar equipment and devices will become much shorter.



  • Saves money – after the initial setup costs have been taken care of, you will start to benefit from having solar energy by reducing your electricity bills and see it is indeed a return on investment.
  • Increase property value – buyers are increasingly interested in eco-friendly homes and the increased efficiency with a pre-installed solar panel system is an added bonus.
  • Reduces your carbon footprint – solar power is environmentally friendly and doesn’t produce any carbon emissions, it’s clean and renewable, which allows you to do your bit to alleviate global warming.
  • Low maintenance – once you have your solar energy system installed, you don’t need to maintain it, once you’re equipped you’re set to enjoy years of trouble free energy.
  • Multi-functional – solar power can be used in many ways namely to generate electricity, charge batteries, power lights and heat water.



  • High initial cost – to install solar power in your home will require a substantial initial investment.
  • Weather dependent – solar panels need direct sunlight to gather solar energy effectively. A period of cloudy, rainy days can have a noticeable effect on the energy system. Unless you include a system of batteries with enough capacity to store up energy to last your home through the night, as well as days/weeks when it may be raining or overcast.
  • Positioning is important – household and other structures do not always allow for the ideal positioning of solar panels on your property.  If you install them in an area that doesn’t get much sunlight, you will still get some energy but you won’t get the full benefits.
  • Solar energy storage is expensive – solar energy must either be used immediately or stored in deep cycle solar batteries with PV inverters. The batteries can often be large and heavy, taking up space and needing to be replaced from time to time.
  • Space required – extensive space is needed to house enough solar panels for significant electricity production.


The sun is an unbeatable source of renewable energy, providing us with more energy in a single hour than the world’s population uses in one year, if you are looking for ways to boost sustainability in your home, having solar power is key. As electricity prices soar and the cost of solar power installation decline, a renewable energy investment is increasingly looking like a smart choice for all homeowners.


Up your home value with a fresh coat of paint

Deciding to paint your home is a huge decision. Not knowing where to start and the thought of turning your household into, what may seem like a construction site for a period of time, may put you off. However, whether it is painting the exterior or interior to freshen up a room, the rewards of a newly painted home are endless.

“Your home is the biggest and most important investment you’ll make; hence homeowners are taking no chances when it comes to maximizing the value of their property. When the time comes to sell, a beautiful, well-maintained home can offer many benefits that resonate with buyers” says Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.

Should you be thinking of undertaking a paint project we have made it a little easier to get you started with some helpful tips from Dulux.



  1. Remove furniture to avoid ruining wood and upholstery with spilled or splattered paint. Consider renting a temporary storage unit or putting items away in the garage while you work. Alternatively put all items in the center of the room, and cover them with plastic.
  2. Protect your flooring with professional-style drop cloths throughout the room. Plastic sheeting is cheaper, but it’s easily punctured and can shift under your feet while you work, exposing areas of flooring. A heavy canvas drop cloth or a professional grade butyl-backed cloth protect against spills and also help keep paint from being tracked through the rest of your house.
  3. Remove wall hangings, it is the perfect time to give the entire room a face-lift. If there is any chance that you might want to reconfigure your pictures and clocks when you re-hang them, remove nails and picture hangers and fill in the holes with crack filler before you paint. Be sure to let the crack filler dry before covering.
  4. Clean the walls to be painted to assure you of a smooth, professional-looking result. Dark smudges can show through a coat of paint, and oil or other substances on the wall can change the consistency of the paint being applied. Clean all walls with a solution of water and mild detergent. For tough stains or smudges, like kitchen grease or grime stains, professionals rely on trisodium phosphate. Mixed with bleach, trisodium phosphate can also remove mildew and mildew stains before you paint. Be sure to rinse the walls thoroughly when you’re finished and leave them plenty of time to dry before you get to work.

–      Exterior – to remove flaking paint, chalkiness, as well as dirt and debris, clean exterior walls by high-pressure water blast, using a rotating nozzle at a pressure of 150 to 180 Bar. Remove any remaining loose, flaking paint from the surface with a sharp paint scraper and firm hand pressure. It is not necessary to remove well-bonded layers of paint.

–      Interior – wash interior wall surfaces with a solution of pre-paint sugar soap powder. This will ensure that any dirt and grease on the surface, as well as chalked paint, has been removed. Rinse thoroughly with clean water.


  1. Don’t paint over problem walls. If your walls have holes or cracks, fix them before you start with the paint. Geo-paint advises that wide cracks and large holes can be “bridged” with fiberglass tape, spackle will fill small holes and cracks, and texturizing products are available to match your existing wall finish.

–      Dampness and moisture in walls – the most damage to paint systems, and eventually to the substrate and the structure, is caused by excessive moisture in the walls. Prior to painting, the building needs to be inspected for all signs of dampness. Tell-tale signs of dampness are the deposition of salts on the surface, flaking paint, water staining and discoloration. Repair and seal any area of water ingress from roofs, balconies, horizontal or sloping wall tops, joints between windows and plaster reveals with Dulux Rainshield.

–      Cracking – cracking in walls can have numerous causes, but one of the main causes is the settlement of the building in combination with inferior plaster mix, and the presence of moisture and dampness. It is important to assess the cracking and ensure that it is not interfering with the structure of the building.


  1. Remove outlet covers and switch plates. Childproof plastic outlet covers can help protect wall sockets from paint while you work. If you’re going to paint the ceiling of the room, don’t forget to remove light fixtures and ceiling medallions whenever possible.
  2. Tape off all your baseboards and windowsills before you start. invest in professional painter’s tape, available at most hardware stores and paint suppliers. Taping is simple, but time consuming. Doing it right, though, makes for truly professional-looking results. Be sure that none of your tape is on the wall to be painted, or your old wall color will be playing peek-a-boo around the perimeter of your room. You can also use painters tape to tape out patterns or color blocks on your wall.
  3. Set up a staging area in the center of the room or just outside it for pouring paint, storing open paint cans, and cleaning brushes and rollers. This will cut down on spills and accidents, or at least keep them contained to one designated area.

Best paints to use for the longest lifespan

The type of paint will make a difference and so will the manufacturer. When you use higher quality paint, you’ll notice that you use less paint to get a great result. Paint coatings are composed of different chemicals, which combine synergistically to provide the paint with its properties. In order to derive the optimum paint properties and maximize the longevity of the coatings, it is of paramount importance that the paint coating is applied using best painting practices and according to the manufacturer’s specifications. It is essential that the substrate to which the paint coating is applied is free of defects that will affect the adhesion of the coating system. Adhesion to the substrate is the key to coating longevity. The secret of a perfect, long-lasting paint finish is a sound, clean and dry substrate, and the correct use of products.


Painting tools needed:

  • Step ladders and extension ladders – to help you reach elevated areas
  • Paint scraper – to remove loose or peeling paint from wood, plaster, and
other surfaces
  • Triangular-load scraper – to remove paint in small or tight areas
  • Steel wool – to remove corrosion from metal surfaces
  • Wire brush – to remove efflorescence and loose material from masonry, or to remove loose, flaking paint
  • Putty knife – to scrape away loose paint, or to apply filler
  • Glazing compound – to replace cracked, broken, or missing panes of glass
  • Spackling paste – to fill nail holes and small imperfections in walls
  • Sandpaper (various grits) – to smooth and feather previously painted surfaces, or to roughen glossy surfaces so paint will adhere better
  • Sanding block – to hold sandpaper and help you sand surfaces to an even finish
  • Caulking gun and tubes of caulk – to apply caulk to cracks in walls, gaps, and seams in woodwork
  • Masking tape – to protect window panes and trim from paint
  • Paint guide – to protect carpets and walls when painting baseboards and other trim
  • Roller tray and grid – to load rollers with paint
  • Brush comb – to clean paint brushes
  • Paint pail – to mix paint and carry it to the worksite
  • Drop cloths – to protect furniture, floors, and shrubbery from paint


Getting started

Step 1 – Choose a colour

Choosing a colour is the hardest part:

  • If you really don’t have any idea about what colour to paint try pulling a colour out of a piece of art or area rug that’s in the room. It’s a guaranteed way to find a complimentary colour.
  • Take home several paint chips and see how they look in the room. Hold them up to the furniture, floors, artwork, cabinets, and anything else that’s already in the room. Try to narrow it down to three or four choices.
  • Get a small sample pot of each colour and paint a large square on the wall.
  • Also try using the Dulux visualizer app which is a tool that allows you to test colour on the wall without having to waste any paint.
  • Almost all of the brands now have testers available. It is well worth spending the money to buy a few to test in your space before purchasing litres of the colour. Plus the leftover samples are great for other small painting projects.
  • Leave the test areas up for about a week so that you can see what the colour will look at different times of day and in different light.

Step 2 – Choose a finish

Once you’ve chosen a paint colour and design, you’ll need to decide on a finish.

  • Flat (matte): No shine at all. Perfect for low traffic areas like living rooms and bedrooms, as well as ceilings.
  • Flat enamel: Has almost no shine but is a bit easier to clean than flat paint. This is also perfect for low traffic areas but may be a better choice if you have kids or pets.
  • Eggshell enamel: Has a tiny bit of shine and is a good choice for moderate traffic areas such as living rooms and most scuffs can be wiped off of this surface with a damp cloth.
  • Satin enamel: Has a bit more shine and works well in high traffic areas or areas that have moisture.  It is also super wipe able which is why it is perfect for kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Semi-Gloss enamel: Shiny but not glass-like. This is what you should use on cabinets and trim, or in really high moisture areas.
  • Hi-Gloss enamel: Shiny! This gives an almost glass-like finish and is perfect for high use surfaces (like a railing) or furniture.


Step 3 – Determine the amount of paint needed

Many of the larger brands have paint calculators on their websites to help you with this sum, but if you wish to do it manually, here is how:

  1. First, assess the size of the area that you’re painting. Measure the width and height of walls with a metal tape measure and multiply these together to calculate the overall square metre measurement.
  2. Subtract the space used by windows and doors using the same calculation method as above, and remove these from your overall square metre measurement.
  3. Multiply your new total square metre measurement by the number of coats you’ll need – its recommend factoring in at least two coats. It’s also worth including a little extra paint for touch ups.
  4. Finally, divide this total figure by the m²/l number on your paint tin. This will give you the total litres of paint you need for your project.


Step 4 – Get painting

Always start painting from the highest area to the lowest. Start with the ceiling or top of the walls and work your way down. This way you can catch any drips and it won’t ruin a freshly painted wall. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to put too much paint on the brush or roller. It’s far more effective to put a small amount on and use even strokes to apply thin coats. It’s tempting to slather on a lot of paint in the hopes of not having to do another coat, but the end result won’t be what you wanted.


“Even if you are not putting your home on the market yet, a fresh coat of paint will allow you to enjoy that new look whilst ensuring your home is market-ready for when you do decide to sell” Craig noted. “So why not explore your options and do a few calculations, you might be surprised how far this low-cost renovation might take you.”


The Cape Town Southern Suburbs: One of the most sought – after addresses

The Southern Suburbs make up some of the most popular residential areas in Cape Town, comprising charming groups of suburbs which lie to the south-east of the slopes of Table Mountain. It is seen as the city’s most expensive residential neighbourhoods with a choice of various private schools, upmarket eateries, wine estates, beautiful homes and trendy apartments.


“The Southern Suburbs area is large and varied, and is predominantly residential. It is identified as being the more affluent of the Cape Town Metropolis with incredible family neighbourhoods. The properties vary from large plots of land, to a variety of older-style homes that range from cottage-style semis in Mowbray, Claremont and Wynberg, to more ornate and certainly far larger homes in Constantia, Newlands and Bishopscourt” says Delia Walters, Office Manager Engel & Völkers Southern Suburbs.


It boasts the ever popular University of Cape Town which lies on the mountain above Rosebank, Rondebosh, Mowbray and Observatory. When visiting the area there is always something to do to for young and old with a diverse mix of amenities and shopping areas like Cavendish Street, and depending on the time of year, you can even catch a game of rugby or cricket – in Newlands at the side-by-side rugby and cricket grounds, which are the home of the Stomers and Cape Cobras teams respectively. Tourists are attracted by the wine estates, the beautiful botanical gardens, various museums, hiking and walking trails and horse riding trails found throughout the suburb.


One can see why the Southern Suburbs will always be in demand and why it commands some of the highest property prices in Cape Town.


Average property value

There is no average, but there is certainly something for every buyer. Property values range from R1.2 million for a flat in Plumstead to R55 million for a house in Constantia.


Typical property type

As varied as the property prices are so are the homes. From R5 million for a trendy apartment in Upper Claremont to the beautiful palatial homes in Bishops Court and Constantia Upper. There is a combination of lock-up-and-go family homes with large gardens, beautiful cottages dating back to the late 1800’s early 1900’s and ample student accommodation in modern and affordable apartment blocks.


Trends and tips when buying property in the Southern Suburbs

Prices in the area will always be on the increase, so try not to be too set on an area or type of house. Delia advises that you consider your budget and then be realistic about what you can afford, you might have to compromise and buy an older home which needs some work in order to be able to afford to live in certain parts.


When moving from other parts of the country to the Southern Suburbs it can be quite a shock when you find that R2 million doesn’t really go very far. However, if you are on a limited budget, you do your research, and are prepared to downscale – anything is possible. If you are specifically moving into the Southern Suburbs for the schools, be sure to check the zoning for the school’s first. Real estate agents could be of great help here, so do not be too shy to ask.


What does the current market look like?

Buying a home in the Southern Suburbs will always be an investment. High rental returns make it a first choice for investment buyers wanting to grow a rental portfolio. Areas such as Rondebosch and Newlands have an ever increasing demand for student accommodation due to their close proximity to the University of Cape Town.


A large percentage are cash buyers due to the high price brackets of the properties, while first time buyers might find it harder to find their dream home at an affordable price. Don’t despair though, there is a property to suit almost everyone.


The Southern Suburbs as an investment option

  • Consistent upward trajectory in house prices
  • High rental return
  • High rental demand for students and young professionals
  • Excellent private girls and boys schools
  • Close proximity to the city centre
  • Scenic walks, hikes, equestrian trails and parks focused around a family lifestyle
  • An abundance of restaurants, coffee shops, upmarket deli’s, art galleries and boutique shops
  • A vast choice of modern homes, townhouses, mansions, heritage homes and apartments



Events to consider if you are in the area:

  • Kirstenbosch Summer festival – every Sunday from the middle of November until the end of March. Live music performances by Prime Circle, The Parlatones, Mango Groove, Lira and Freshly Ground are some of the main acts which can be seen. Bring a picnic blanket and basket and enjoy an evening concert with a glass of wine.
  • Cape Town Cycle Tour 2018 – Sunday 11th March 2018. Where thirty-five thousand cyclists embark on arguably the most scenic cycling race in the world.
  • Two Oceans Marathon 2018 – 31 March 2018. This is by far the most scenic ultra-marathon in the world. It’s also one of the toughest, with the route taking runners over the gruelling Chapman’s Peak and Constantia Nek.


Delia’s recommendation of the top 10 things to do in the Southern Suburbs:

  • Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is acclaimed as one of the great botanical gardens of the world; few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of this setting against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.
  • Rhodes Memorial situated on the Northern slope of Table Mountain, this vantage point not only allows a panoramic view but is one of the few vantage points where both the Atlantic and Indian oceans can be seen.
  • Garden Tour at Cellars Hohenort – the exquisite gardens of The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel, nestled in the verdant winelands of Constantia, Cape Town, is nothing less than breath-taking to see. Colours erupt as Clivias and roses bloom; and countless shades of green blanket the landscape thanks to ferns, delicious monsters, herbs and camphor trees.
  • Relax at the Liesbeek River – The Liesbeek River Project is a community project that has transformed an overgrown wasteland into an area where people can now go to read a book, meet the friends for tea or entertain the children with a spontaneous picnic lunch. Situated on the banks of the Liesbeek, the river is deep enough for children and dogs to have a paddle!
  • Baxter Theatre – as both stage venue and producer the Baxter has received national awards for outstanding local performers and home productions. Classical music, opera, comedy, dance and dramatic theatre is presented throughout the year on a daily basis mornings, afternoons and evenings for all ages and tastes. Seasonal festivals run annually.
  • Constantia Nek Farm – Gordon and Anne Kling own and produce Kling wines on Constantia Nek Farm. Constantia is the oldest winemaking region in the Southern Hemisphere and originated in 1685. Some of the finest wines are produced in this region and regularly received international and local acclaim.
  • Purple Wine Tour – is a free extension of the Cape Town Blue Mini Peninsula City Sightseeing bus (more commonly known as the hop-on-hop-off bus). It explores a few of the wine estates in the Constantia Valley, which form part of the Constantia Valley wine route.
  • Newlands Brewery – nestled at the foot of Devil’s Peak and neighbour to the historic rugby and cricket grounds, is the oldest operating brewery in South Africa and the home of great South African beer.
  • Groote Schuur Estate – Groote Schuur big barn used to be the home of Cecil John Rhodes. The house sits in Rondebosch and was refurbished by Herbert Baker many years ago. This fascinating house is steeped in history, filled with original colonial furniture and is now a museum.
  • South African Astronomical Observatory – up on what passes for a hill, just across the Liesbeeck River from the Southern Suburb of Observatory, is SAAO (South African Astronomical Observatory).  It lies wedged between the River Club and Valkenburg, its grounds home to a number of domes, one of which houses the Victoria telescope, built back in 1897.


A list of ultimate favourite restaurants

Spoilt for choice, whether it is fine dining, pub food or the best burgers and chips, there is something for every palate and pocket.

  • Harbour House in Constantia offers beautifully presented dishes and an array of seafood.
  • Bistro Sixteen82 in Steenberg Tokai boasts their signature wines and tasty dishes served with a view.
  • The Square at the Vineyard Hotel in Upper Claremont serves delicious meals for anytime of the day.
  • Rock Sushi Thai – in Meadowridge serves the best sushi; noodle and Thai curry dishes in the Southern Suburbs.
  • Starlings in Claremont, perfect for brunch and quick catch up with friends.
  • Four & Twenty in Chelsea Village Upper Wynberg, a firm favourite for breakfast.
  • Cafeen in Claremont Village, a gem of a coffee shop serving light meals and great coffee.
  • Hudsons in Upper Claremont is a popular spot with students with great burgers and cocktails.

Places to stay in the Southern Suburbs

Catering for families on holiday or short business trips, there is a large variety of accommodation.



Whether planning a visit or relocating – if you are not familiar with the Southern Suburbs yet, make sure to add it to your list of places to visit this new year.


Affordable Bedding Plants

When you’ve got a garden to fill and a budget to keep to, budget plants can be ideal items to add to your shopping list. You’d be looking for ones that offer long flowering times, require little maintenance, can thrive in a multitude of conditions or just quite plainly have free-flowing growth habits.

Beautiful gardens make a property stand out and buyers would pay more for a simple, well- maintained garden.  “A good first impression could make a world of difference as you have a chance to influence how potential buyers feel about your home before they even step inside. If you are considering selling or buying in the near future, a neat, well-manicured, and easy to maintain garden could be a deal breaker when it comes to adding value to your property” says Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa. “There’s no need to spend a fortune, buyers can be put off by spaces that look tricky to maintain – basic weeding, pruning and adding a bit of color to your beds will have the desired effect”.


The Bedding Plant Growers Association has compiled a list of the top 6 cost effective budget plants to brighten up your beds this summer.


Offering masses of blooms for months on end, these toughies thrive in areas where others just wilt. This is why verbena has made our list of winners when budgeting for your landscape. A true trooper, blooming from spring right through to autumn, with just the bare minimum of care, makes these ‘best of both worlds’ classic annuals a must. In fact, the main cause of problems with verbenas is over-pampering, especially when it comes to feeding and watering.

Start off by planting the seedlings in well-composted soil and water regularly while they are settling in. Once they are approximately 15cm tall and well established, they can be fertilised, once only, using a balanced slow release fertiliser. Then it’s important to only water them when the top centimetre of the soil dries out.

Verbenas do their best when they get between 8 and 10 hours of direct sunlight a day and are planted in well-drained soil. Plants that are kept too moist and don’t get enough sun are susceptible to powdery mildew and other diseases so simply planting them in their ideal position acts as a natural prevention for this problem.



Our next valued landscape addition, dianthus, offers the gardener excellent value for money as a bedding plant. With just a little care, they will brighten up any landscape for up to a year. They are very tolerant of both heat and cold so can be planted throughout the year. In short, if you are looking for months of glorious colour then they are just the thing for you.

Dianthus are very easy to grow. Plant them where they will receive at least four to five hours of full sun each day. They thrive in fertile, fast draining soil. Plant your seedlings 25cm apart at the same depth at which they were growing in their seedling trays. Fortunately, insect and disease problems are infrequent.

Water your Dianthus during dry periods, once or twice per week, but avoid over-watering because it may turn their foliage yellow. Usually, a weekly watering of established plants will be enough unless the weather is extremely dry and windy. Add a general purpose fertiliser once a month for added flowering potential.



Bellis perennis or English Daisy combines a neat, compact shape with some serious flower power, making it ideal for brightening up landscapes. Planted now, they will shrug off the frost’s icy fingers, producing wave after wave of delightful blooms. In its native England, its tenacious nature has earned it a reputation as a bit of a weed. Fortunately, we don’t have to worry about that in this country where it behaves like the perfect annual; giving up masses of blooms through winter to early summer and then quietly dying off. Which is exactly what every landscape needs, making way for something new.

Plant your Bellis in full sun, although they can withstand part shade, in well-draining soil.  Before planting add compost to the soil and dig in some slow release fertiliser. Plant only to the depth they were in the tray. Mulch well around the new seedlings, but be sure not to smother the young plants. For the first couple of weeks, water at least once a day and after that less frequently, depending on the temperature.



If it’s long lasting, bold colour you are after for your landscape, then look no further than Begonia semperflorens or Bedding begonias. Just the thing to brighten up dull areas. Begonias are renowned for their easy-growing and free-flowering habits, they thrive in both sun and shade and these obliging plants are also tolerant of both acid and alkaline soils. If planting in a sunny position the seedlings need placing closer together (10cm apart) as the plants won’t spread as much. If it is very hot, it is a good idea to mulch between the plants to keep the soil cool, although as the plants grow they will soon shade their roots.

One of the many advantages Bedding begonias have is that they are relatively maintenance free. They don’t need deadheading and will provide colour from early spring right through to the end of May, especially if given a regular helping of seedling food. If you’re landscaping in an area with mild winters, the plants will survive the cold months although they may look very scrappy through July and August. In early spring, feed them, cut them back and they will give another good show.



Primulas are the soul of winter and spring, whether planted en masse under trees or in formal displays. Dainty but generous, these flowers are a favourite for landscaping because of the abundance of their blooms and the ease with which they grow. Primulas are versatile and hard-working. Planted in swaths in a woodland setting, Fairy primulas create a flower carpet that blooms well into summer.

Primulas thrive in well-drained, fertile soil in a spot that receives light shade most of the day. Make sure that the soil is loose and enriched with plenty of compost. Many of the primula species are marshland plants so, as a rule of thumb; it is best not to let them dry out or bake in the sun. Primulas like moisture. Water them regularly. They can tolerate full sun in winter and spring but in hotter regions plant in semi-shade or in an east-facing location where they will only receive morning sun. They can tolerate mild frost but keep them well mulched. Mulch will reduce heat and preserve moisture on sunny days and provide protection in winter.



Petunias are one of those rare gems that reward very little care with masses of blooms making them an excellent choice for landscaping. There’s a wide range of petunias that will brighten up any sunny areas with the minimum of attention, giving you months of stunning colour.

When planting Petunias, choosing an area that offers a lot of heat and light will encourage them to flower throughout winter and spring – for up to five months! Those that you plant in cooler areas – even if they get full sun – will grow and establish in winter and burst into colour in spring and continue well into summer.

While your soil needn’t be particularly rich to grow good petunias, it must drain well. It’s always useful to improve the soil by conditioning it with organic matter, such as compost and a little well-rotted manure. Petunias do best in full sun, but can handle partial shade, especially in hotter areas, but give them at least six hours of full sun every day. They can survive the cold and do well if planted in late winter so that they have established themselves by the time spring’s warmth triggers flowering time.


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Keeping cool over the holiday season

Living in the Southern Hemisphere goes hand in hand with hot summer temperatures. Air conditioners in all homes will be cranked up to maximum speed to keep families cool, providing welcome relief from the sweltering heat. Not too long ago, having an air conditioner in your home was a luxury only accessed by the elite; nowadays almost all households have a system.


The cost of air conditioning units have come down considerably, making the technology accessible to the average Joe, and it comes with some great benefits. The air being pushed through the ducts is filtered therefore improving the air quality of your home, which means fewer allergy-causing bacteria, and the added security which comes with not having to leave windows and doors open to cool a room.


“It is very easy to jump and quickly have an aircon installed when we are boiling hot in the summer months – we have all made expensive mistakes in times of un-comfort. I do believe that knowledge is power, so ensure that you stay updated with everything property. The market, home finishes and technology available, even décor trends. This will guarantee that you can make an informed, educated decisions in the spur of the moment, and not sit with a very expensive, unattractive wall decorations” Craig added.


Buying an air conditioning unit should be researched carefully. Start with your own requirements such as the space to be cooled, where the unit will be located, and then pair this up with the models available taking into consideration budget, installation, maintenance costs, and most of all increased energy bills ” says Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.


If you are in the market for an air conditioner or simply wish to gain some ‘power’ for future reference, then this is where to start…


Measure & determine your size:

You will need to measure the space that needs to be cooled. If you have a large home with many rooms, it’s possible more than one air conditioning system will need to be used to sufficiently cool every room effectively. While split air conditioner units could be cheaper alternative compared to a central air system, they also have limits on how far the air will reach.


Too Big:

  • If your unit is too large for the area that you need cooled, it will turn on quickly, cool the room rapidly and then shut off. Heat will soon sneak in to your house and it will have to turn on again to re-start the cooling process.
  • The constant on-off cycle will defeat the purpose of its energy efficient design.
  • A too big unit will also not run long enough to dehumidify the air, resulting in a “clammy” feeling.
  • Oversize can also reduce air quality and aggravate allergies.


Too Small:

  • You will end up spending more on electricity without much benefit as your level of comfort will not be optimal.
  • If your unit is too small, it will run constantly and spend most of the day trying to cool your home. Without the power to cool it rapidly; it will run constantly and increase your electric bill.


Just Right:

A basic rule of thumb is 220BTU (British Thermal Units) per square meter of the room. Other factors such as ceiling height, size and location of windows and doors may cause a need for more cooling power.  If we keep to optimal conditions, then an 8000BTU can cool up to 36m2 , 9000BTU = 54m2 etc.


Decide on the position & select a type:

  • Central air or ducted systems are the most energy efficient type of air conditioners; they maintain a consistently cool temperature throughout the home, are silent, and offer the best smart home cooling automation solution.  As the aesthetics of the system is important – the best solutions are always ducted as all units can be hidden and noise levels are lower than decorative or exposed units.
  • A split air conditioning system perfect for cooling just a room. This system is unobtrusive and silent as the unit sits in your room and the compressor that makes the noise is installed on the outside wall near the room. No major installation or ductwork is required.
  • Portable aircon units are mobile and can be moved around to any room in the home. These units are becoming increasingly popular especially among individuals who live in rented flats and apartments. Portable aircon units are comparatively cheaper and easy to maintain.
  • Ductless air conditioner is a great option for enclosed spaces as there is no need for pipes connecting to a box outside the window.  The ductless mini split air-cons also have the same components as the split air conditioning systems. The installation of these units is easy and they also have a near-silent operation with high reliability, demanding less maintenance and replacement of components over its operating lifespan.


Turn to the calculator & think of cost

Byron Baty from SA Heating & Cooling advises clients to look for the energy ratings to assess what system is best for them. “Selecting on brand is often a common mistake. Don’t assume that because you are buying a consumer brand that you are purchasing a good, efficient, air conditioning system, good quality units use less electricity” he added.


  • Be aware when choosing a portable air conditioner which is less expensive due to its smaller nature and cooling abilities that it might not always be what you need for the space you’re trying to cool.
  • Large homes will benefit more from having either a central air conditioning unit installed or alternatively a unit in each room, although the initial upfront cost can be expensive, you’ll save on cooling costs down the road.
  • You should not only look at the unit cost, but also the electricity consumption, as in the long run you might end up spending more in a few months on electricity, than you would have simply buying a better unit upfront.
    • Energy consumption and running costs must be assessed; vast differences exist between a systems electrical usage – as much as 40% in many cases.
    • Purchase only class B or above preferably class A+ or A++ rated units.
    • Buy units with real clock timers
    • Insulate your house if you are undertaking a new build to avoid energy losses.



Read up about the technology:

The Inverter technology (DC) is the latest evolution of technology concerning the electro motors of the compressors. An Inverter is used to control the speed of the compressor motor, so as to continuously regulate the temperature. The DC Inverter units have a variable-frequency drive that comprises an adjustable electrical inverter to control the speed of the electromotor, which means the compressor and the cooling / heating output. The drive converts the incoming AC current to DC and then through a modulation in an electrical inverter produces current of desired frequency. A microcontroller can sample each ambient air temperature and adjust accordingly the speed of the compressor.


The inverter air conditioning units have increased efficiency in comparison to traditional air conditioners, extended life of their parts and the sharp fluctuations in the load are eliminated. This makes the inverter AC units quieter, with lower operating cost and with less break downs. The inverter AC units might be more expensive than the constant speed air conditioners, but this is balanced by lower energy bills. The payback time is approximately two years depending on the usage.


Choose your functions:

Now you should have an idea of the type of aircon you require and you can start comparing the ‘feel-good’ aspects between the brands to pinpoint the winner. Air-conditioners can vary greatly when it comes to additional functionality. Here are some options to look out for:

  • Energy –  saver switch: Normally, an air conditioner’s fan runs constantly, even when the compressor is turned off. But with an energy-saving switch, the fans turn off when the thermostat turns off the compressor, saving you money.
  • Humidity: most systems come with the ability to keep rooms ‘dry’ so that humidity can be reduced without a room becoming over-cool. Lowering the humidity level will decrease the growth of dust mites and mould.
  • Fan only function: The fan mode is more economical, since the unit does not run with the compressor on. Without the compressor you only get the same cooling effect delivered by a regular electric fan.
  • Heat: many modern AC systems not only provide the ability to cool but to heat too, ideal for winter months.
  • “Check filter” light: A visual reminder to clean or change the filter.
  • Oscillating vents: An internal motor that automatically sweeps the unit’s air flow from side to side, cooling the room more evenly.
  • Remote control: This handy option lets you adjust the temp from anywhere in the room. Great for increasing the temperature/thermostat in the middle of the night when your body temperature drops.
  • Sleep mode: Slightly raises the room’s temperature setting at night to avoid night time chills.
  • Timer: Automatically turns the unit on or off at a predetermined time when you’re not there, letting a room cool down or heat up before you enter.
  • Ventilation/exhaust: Lets fresh air from outside circulate into the room.
  • Manufacturer’s warranty: Generally ranges from one to two years for parts and labour.

This should equip you with the basic knowledge to know what type of Aircon you would require – so bring on Summer…

The Most Versatile Room of the Home – The Garage

Your garage must keep up with your needs and lifestyle. Aside from housing your car, it is one of the most useful parts of the home; it is used for a variety of things, such as storage, a DIY workshop or maybe even a man cave.


“When choosing a home, the garage is often overlooked as we get so caught up in the beauty of the home, but it is something which is worth spending a bit more time on, and to consider what you would want to use it for ” notes Craig Hutchison, CEO Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.


Craig continued with some suggested questions one should ask yourself: With today’s fixation on security – Does the garage lock? Does it have automated doors for the added security of not having to get out of your car giving possible prowlers time to stop you before you are safely in your home? If you drive a big car, will it fit into the length and height? Do you need direct access into the house or prefer a separate space away from the main building?


If you have however already settled on your dream home and overlooked the space you require, it is not too late. The reality of having a functional work space in your garage, while still being able to store the necessities and park a car, need not feel like an impossible dream – there are a few things you could do to fix your current situation.


Spring is here and you’ve no doubt got to sprucing up your home for the season, now it is the garages’ turn.


The Doors

Start off with upgrading your garage doors. It is after all what we see first and can be seen as the eyes of the house. Replacing old doors or alternatively just adding a new coat of varnish or paint could make a huge difference “Well maintained garage doors are the key to enhancing curb appeal and can have a major impact on your home’s appearance and value” Craig advised.


Common Garage Door Materials

Wood doors range from inexpensive, to very expensive.

  • The costs are mostly related to the material the door is made of. A lightweight wooden frame, filled with foam insulation and wrapped in plywood is more affordable, whilst true frame-and-panel doors made of durable mahogany, redwood or cedar will cost a bit more.
  • Wooden doors are the visually attractive option.
  • However take note that they could carry a short warranty and require frequent repainting or refinishing, especially if you live in a damp climate.


Steel leads the pack because it is relatively inexpensive yet tough with low maintenance.

  • Bare steel rusts, so you need to touch up scratches promptly.
  • High-quality steel doors may have lifetime warranties on the hardware, laminations between the steel and any insulation, and factory-applied paint.
  • Budget doors tend to have shorter warranties on some components, such as paint and springs.

Aluminium doors are inexpensive, sturdy, and rust-proof with heavy-duty extruded frames and dent-resistant laminated panels.

  • These doors have aluminium frames and panels made of other materials, such as high-density polyethylene.
  • Because of its light weight, aluminium is a good choice if you have an extra-wide double door; it won’t put as much strain on the operating mechanism.


The Floor

Next we look at the floor. You want the most durable, good looking, and longest lasting floors. Standard concrete floors are functional, but, with a little extra effort, they can also be attractive. Give the floors a makeover with splash of paint, new tiles or rubber mats.


Garage flooring is to divide into two primary categories:  

Floor coatings – If your garage floor is stained with oil, grease or even paint, you can easily give it new life with some epoxy floor paint. This will also increase the perceived worth of your home. Floors made from cements or concrete can actually deteriorate pretty quickly.

  • Pro: Epoxy floor paint resists solvents and chemicals, as well as being water resistant and easy to clean. You also have a non-skid option.
  • Con: Though durable and resistant, you will have to replace it eventually. Once the epoxy is applied, changing colors or designs can be a labour-intensive and costly endeavour. In those situations where the floor has to be repaired, removing the coating is quite extensive and difficult.


Floor coverings – These are products that are set on top of the garage floor and can be removed at any time. There are three basic types of garage floor coverings– porcelain garage tiles, 100% PVC interlocking floor tiles and rubber mats. These are hardwearing, remarkably durable, and resistant to most corrosive chemicals whilst also aesthetically pleasing.

  • 100% PVC interlocking floor tiles – The ease and simplicity of installing these inexpensive interlocking tiles has made this flooring option increasingly popular. However inexpensive tiles can look cheap if they are not professionally installed. Tiles may come apart at the seams, creating tripping hazards.
  • Porcelain garage tiles – These tiles are hardy and tough, they can be slippery when wet so maybe not a good idea in a damp garage, depending on which tile you choose this option could get quite costly.
  • Alternatively you can roll out a mat – Garage floor mats come in a variety of styles and colors. It’s the least expensive option and may be a temporary quick fix; however its lifetime is a lot shorter and will have to be replaced often.


The Walls & Space

Once your garage doors & floors are form you can now de-clutter the area, throw out anything that you have not needed to use in a year and sort out all your tools and equipment. Most people use their garage as general storage point and it can quickly turn in to a cluttered mess. No matter how large your garage is, you could always use a little more room.


Here are 9 tips to help you create the right storage options, maximize your space and make your garage feel bigger than it ever has before.


10 tips to maximize space

  1. Build garage cabinets: Having a formal storage cabinet will help keep your garage organized. This clears up space and prevents items from lying around and getting lost, it also aids in keeping harmful materials/substances safe.


  1. Install wall organizers: Garages have plenty of wall space and you should definitely use it to your advantage! Install wall organizer units for tools and auto care products, while hanging larger items namely garden tools, even bicycles on hooks. Wall bins are perfect for sporting goods, kid’s toys or small garden equipment.


  1. Add overhead or ceiling storage: Use ceiling-mounted racks for additional overhead storage or lay down boards across the ceiling beams, this will double your storage potential. Ceiling storage is great for boxes, luggage, and less frequently used items.


  1. Get magnetic wall boards: Ideal for any steel or metal items lying around. Having small steel and metal parts magnetized to the board will keep them organized and prevent them from getting lost. Baby food jars are just as great for storing small parts in because they are clear, stackable and you can attach their metal lids to the underside of a shelf with hanging jars for easy access – just twist on and twist off.


  1. Go mobile with work areas: If your family uses the garage for crafting or as a workshop, then replacing the bulky old workshop table will definitely save space. Opt for those that are wall-mounted and can be folded after every use, or alternatively build a work area with wheels. Put wheels on as many stationary items as you can such as floor cabinets, tool chests and work benches. Items on wheels can be moved away from the walls to create temporary work areas, or even rolled outside for an afternoon and then easily rolled back into place when you’re done.


  1. Upgrade to adjustable shelving: Adjustable shelving lets you move your seasonal items namely clothes or decorations around in your storage boxes as needed. You can add on in the future and customize the configuration as your needs change. It is the simplest, least expensive garage storage solution. Install open wall shelves, place items inside large plastic containers that you can move around and put small shelving units in unused corners of your garage to make the most of your space.


  1. Install pegboards and hooks: Having a pegboard installed not only lets you hang and organize smaller tools that normally get consigned to a drawer or cupboard, but also allows you to keep larger items namely rakes, spades and other tools in place. You can go large or keep it small depending on your needs.


  1. Tie and keep wires in one place: If you have a ton of wires lying around this can add to a cluttered look. Tie up extension cords and wires lying around with cable ties; keep everything together in one drawer so you only have to search for a specific wire at a certain place.


  1. Lock down power tools: Power tools that are rarely used can be kept in your most inaccessible storage. Since these also tend to take the largest space in your garage, pack them away.


Don’t be afraid to use your creativity when thinking about your storage solutions and maximizing your garage space. Think of other ways or things that you can do to save up space and that fits with your style and preferences. Find what works for you and you will be happy with your newly decorated and clean garage.

Take a step to the outside of your home – Planning the ideal garden

There is plenty of research that shows the mental and physical benefits of gardening such as relaxation, exercise and of course family fun. Planting a garden provides enjoyment for many homeowners – watching your garden go from bare ground to ripe produce or beautiful plants, offers a sense of satisfaction. Vegetable gardening can be particularly gratifying and an excellent source of fresh produce, from the soil preparation to the joy of harvesting.


“A well planned, functional garden design can be considered an investment. It can add “curb-appeal” to your house and in turn, increase the overall value of the home. Aside from the monetary value, a garden can assist in securing a quicker sale”, states Wendy Williams, Sales Director of Engel & Völkers Southern Africa. If you are planning on selling your property in the coming months, then refurbishing your garden should definitely be a consideration, but first gain an accurate assessment of your property’s market value from an expert such as a qualified real estate agent or valuator. Once you have this value, you will be able to work out your budget.


Boosting curb appeal is easy with the help of colorful plants and functional furniture. A good first impression could make a world of difference as you have a chance to influence how potential buyers feel about your home before they even step inside. Remember to try and keep it low-maintenance, even if you love gardening, it doesn’t mean the next owner will feel the same, and an elaborate, high maintenance garden can be considered a negative by a potential buyer.


If your garden is looking a little worse for wear after the winter, then getting your garden in shape for summer is the perfect project to tackle right now. You can revive your tired outdoors in no time – whether you are up for a bit of a larger project, or simply ‘dusting off’ the winter, Spring is the perfect time to start working towards the dream garden you have always been wishing for – whether it will be filled with healthy vegetables or colourful flowers.


We look at some steps to get you started:

Remember: The trick is to start small, whether you are growing a vegetable, herb or a flower garden.


Step 1: Preparation

  • Start with a basic clean-up, by weeding and removing any dead plants to get an idea of how much space you have to work with
  • Deadhead any existing flowersto enhance new growth;
  • Promote better drainage for wateringand fertilizing by breaking up the soil – this will already enhance the dull looking garden.


Once this is done you have created a canvas to start with….


Step 2: Set the scene

Work through the checklist to determine what type of garden would be best suited for you:

  • What kind of garden do you want to grow?
  • Do you want it to beautify your yard with splashes of color or grow delicious vegetables and herbs? Do you perhaps want both a vegetable garden and flower garden combined?
  • Will most of the plants be in containers or in beddings? Consider who will be using your yard; do you have kids or pets?
  • Are you hoping to use your yard for outdoor entertaining? Do you want your garden to have a theme? (Formal, Traditional, English/cottage garden).


Step 3: Map out your garden

Ever wanted to try your hand at architecture? Planning your garden can be just as fun. By mapping out your garden it will be easier for you to see what will go where and what you still need:

  • Sketch out a basic diagram of your garden’s dimensions and what you want it to look like.
  • If you’ve previously planted a garden, think about what you’ve grown before and consider what worked and what didn’t.
  • Decide how much space you have, make sure the location of your garden will provide for optimal growth and appreciation.
  • When choosing a location, consider planting the flower garden close to an existing structure (house, patio or fence) to create a transition between the house and the yard.
  • Map out where your beddings will be and where your free standing pots will stand.
  • Do you need to incorporate utility areas such as washing lines, dustbin storage, compost bins? Will these need to be hidden with garden features?


Step 4: Choose your plants

Early in your planning you should determine how your plants will function in your landscape. Plants can be used in a number of ways; they can provide you with fresh fruits and vegetables or beautiful scenery.

  • When selecting new plants, look for resource-efficient plants, ones that will require less water, fertilizers, and pesticides.
  • Consider budget, ease of care, and compatibility with neighboring plants, aesthetics and size.
  • When planning a vegetable garden ask yourself how much time you want to spend in it, vegetable gardens require constant attention; they need to be weeded, watered and then harvested.
  • Flower gardens are probably one of the most enjoyable gardens to plan from year to year. Ask yourself what your particular style is and what will look most appropriate with your home.
  • Decide what types of plants you prefer –once again as with the theme, try to limit your selection to only a few to ensure your garden has a unified look and feel.
  • Should you use container/potted plants? Using pots and container plants adds a wonderful structural element to your garden. Even herbs such as purple basil and ornamental peppers can spice up a pot. Succulents have become extremely popular for their low maintenance and drought tolerance.


Step 5: Don’t Forget Decorative Touches

A spacious sitting area is the perfect spot to enjoy the garden. Patios, decks and pathways make the garden usable and provide space for you to enjoy all your hard work. Items to consider:

  • Would you want to install a water feature? Water features add a dynamic element to your garden, allowing you to experience the soothing sound of flowing water in your garden.
  • A popular favourite trend is adding a fire pit to your garden either in the garden itself or close to the patio where you will be entertaining.
  • Add some lighting be it for décor or for security purposes. By using LED’s the cost of having lights in your garden is significantly reduced and it allows you to use your garden at night too.
  • Remember that a garden makeover doesn’t always mean only adding new plants and shaping the beds; it is also worthwhile refurbishing currently existing structures. Take into account everything that currently exists in your garden that can be refurbished to enhance it even more. (Painting a wall, sanding and resealing a wooden fence or deck, replacing old pots).


Step 6: Mind Your Budget

  • Carefully estimate the total cost of the materials you will need, by starting slowly.
  • Don’t buy things you won’t necessarily need. Not everything needs to be bought all at once, or bought new. Good planning for what you’ll grow is key to avoiding overspending.
  • Plant your own seeds instead of purchasing them from a nursery or alternatively get cuttings from a fellow gardener.
  • You could also save on costs by making your own fertiliser as well as pesticides. Rich, homemade compost is the best slow-release fertiliser your garden could ever desire.
  • Allocate a budget and split your project into phases – you will then be able to work on your garden as your budget allows.


Gardening can provide much more than beauty to your yard, growing something with your own two hands can fill a person with satisfaction and pride and is good for the soul. It is truly a life-time hobby, the more you learn the more proficient you will get and it is then the possibilities become endless.

Traveling to Hoedspruit: Living or visiting – the best of both

Hoedspruit – One of SA’s top property rental towns

If you are traveling to Hoedspruit, whether to live or simply for a holiday it is sure to cater for all. The name Limpopo derives from the Limpopo River. It is South Africa’s wildlife province and is a land of beautiful and contrasting landscapes with plenty game and nature reserves including the northern section of the Kruger National Park. It is a favourite destination for and sought-after by tourists for its big 5 game parks, birding, untamed bush landscapes and harbours an ancient African kingdom located at Mapungubwe National Park. The Great Escarpment with beautiful mountains, forests, rivers and waterfalls lure visitors to the area. Outdoor enthusiasts love to indulge in the activities on offer like abseiling, fishing, and white water rafting as well as hiking. Although most only visit the area when a break is due from the busy city life, many call it home. The spectacular game parks and natural attractions are just as influential to house hunters exploring the real estate market.

Real estate in Limpopo has proven to be as popular with locals as it is with foreigners. This broad area offers property choices from smallholdings to share options, there are also various residential properties, golf estates and security villages on offer. “Hoedspruit is among SA’s top rental towns, achieving highest rentals second to the Western Cape region, this being a remarkable example of rapid expansion in an area with low rental supply. If you are looking to buy an investment property, Hoedspruit will offer you a great return on your investment” states Ryan Forder, Licence Partner of Engel & Völkers Hoedspruit.

Residents and holiday home owners enjoy the quality of life, a life away from the city with the privilege of being in touch with nature. The towns’ amenities range from a local airport its own medical centre, quality food stores, and fine owner run restaurants with an array of both English and Afrikaans medium schools. Hoedspruit has a close knit community where all residents share a common denominator, the love for the untamed bush.


Area overview

Hoedspruit is one of the country’s premier eco-tourist destinations for visitors to the local game lodges and private reserves as well as to the Kruger National Park; it is situated at the foot of the world’s third largest canyon the Blyde River Canyon. Hoedspruit has fast become one of South Africa’s tourism and lifestyle focal points. In terms of property the Lowveld has plenty to offer. Hoedspruit lies in close proximity to game lodges and agricultural farmland. Visitors to this area are bush lovers and return 3-4 times per year to this unique biosphere and game viewing paradise. Hoedspruit is easily reached via a scenic drive from Johannesburg which roughly takes approximately 5 hours.


Average property value

Full title properties within the residential wildlife estates are placed on average around the R2 million margin (3 bedroomed) whilst share block properties within the Big 5 areas are on average between R6-8 million (full share). Large private farmland (over 100ha) within the popular Big 5 wildlife reserves such as Klaserie, Timbavati or Thornybush start from R30 million upwards.


Typical property type

Whilst a fair amount of properties are typical thatched bush lodges, construction companies have embraced a new trend of Chroma deck roofing which gives homes a classy farm-style appearance. Luxury homes are also starting to feature in some of the residential estates with ultra-modern designs of steel and glass.


Estate living

The top selling areas within Hoedspruit are the 2 residential wildlife estates, Raptor’s View Wildlife Estate and Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate. Real Estate in Hoedspruit is unique and each estate offers advantages and a unique lifestyle. If you do not have all the time in the world to explore the various options available to you, you can do a fair amount of research beforehand to single out some of the reserves and wildlife estates which might work for you. Engel & Völkers Hoedspruit can assist you with the individual estates rules and architectural guidelines which need to be considered before heading out to view properties.


Buying a property in and around Hoedspruit

Hoedspruit has seen some phenomenal growth in the property market. The Hoedspruit area saw the first residential wildlife estates being developed which at the time was a revolutionary concept providing for wilderness areas within a residential estate where game could continue to roam freely. Home owners can watch Africa’s iconic species from their patios and live in harmony with the natural environment. Needless to say that the lifestyle draws families and holiday makers alike to this unique area. A good percentage of property owners are foreigners who feature mostly within the second home market but often end up making Hoedspruit their permanent home once retired. For the more exclusive client our portfolio covers a broad spectrum of products that includes game farms, big 5 reserves and selected private and commercial game lodges as well as share block properties. Hoedspruit is also providing excellent investment opportunities for investors seeking to purchase and rent out to the ever-growing, unsaturated rental market.


10 reasons why you should invest in Hoedspruit

  • growing and strengthening micro-economy
  • proven history of capital growth in wildlife properties
  • quality of life
  • security and safety
  • local attractions, such as third largest canyon in the world
  • culturally dynamic
  • excellent schooling
  • farming and export hub
  • subtropical climate, mild winters
  • convenient access via Eastgate Airport


Best time to visit:

All year round due to the warm winters and increased game viewing opportunities when the bush is less dense.


What’s happening:

  • Hoedspruit Farmers Market (where only local produce is sold), 1st Saturday of each month
  • K2C Cycle Tour– an annual 95-kilometre mountain bike fundraising tour from the Kruger National Park to the Blyde River Canyon, passing through various private game reserves on the way in July, hosted by Hoedspruit Rotary Club


Did you know?

  • Most Hoedspruit restaurants source their fresh herbs from Hlokomela, an NGO that does valuable work in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.


Things to do in and around Hoedspruit






Our House: Kitchen – The heart and soul of your home

As the hub of your home, you want your kitchen to always look its best, you can say it is the heart and soul of the home. There is an expression ‘Kitchens sell houses’ and this is very much show to be true as it is the room with the most financial value and one of the biggest factors that could potentially influence the sale of a property.


“Homeowners have agreed that should wish to take on a re-modelling project, the kitchen is the best place to start. Statistics show that almost 50% of the buyers are influenced and impressed by a new kitchen, and 28% of would-be buyers are prepared to pay more if the kitchen was of a higher standard’, notes Lara Machado, Head of the Training Academy at Engel & Völkers Southern Africa.


However, a new kitchen is not a project to consider lightly, as it is a costly and long-term investment as a new kitchen may make your home more marketable, but that doesn’t mean you’ll get more money in your pocket. Lara cautions that renovations could improve a home’s value, however if your home is considered “over improved” compared with other properties in your area, it can actually be detrimental to your property’s value. It is advisable, and well worth seeking some expert advice from your local estate agent. You can ask them to prepare a feasibility analysis that will help you determine the impact of kitchen renovations on your home’s value. This is also true to fact in for any renovation you considering undertaking before putting your property on the market.


A good rule of thumb is not to spend money on something that has a great deal of personal taste attached to it. People like to see modern conveniences and styles in the kitchen, even if you aren’t in the market for a total re-do, one or two basic updates will make your kitchen look as if it had a complete overhaul. Simple upgrades include installing new, modern appliances, a splash of new paint, changing cabinet faces, or simply just the handles, replacing old electric cooktops with gas, installing floating shelves or adding a kitchen island / butcher block.


Consider the future of your home, and the changing demands it will need to adapt to. If after all things considered, you decide this is a project worth taking on, now would be the ideal time to take the project on as Summer will soon be here, which means you will likely be entertaining again after the winter hibernation, and what better way to do so than in a revamped kitchen with a new up-graded look with modern appliances. We have some great, low cost and easy to implement ideas which would go a long way to making your kitchen a hot topic at the next braai:


Ten ideas to upgrade your kitchen without floor to ceiling remodeling

  1.  Add an island/ butcher block table to the centre of your kitchen. This will give you more work space and storage space. For a smaller kitchen purchase a rolling island — the wheels allow you to move it out of the kitchen or to the side if you need more space.
  2. A chalkboard wall is a versatile decorative feature, but is also a practical addition as it allows the family to maintain to do lists, menus or shopping lists in a common location and a space for the budding artists in the family to express themselves. A can of black chalkboard paint is inexpensive and a great way to dress up a wall for the perfect backdrop. If you’re out of wall space, a door or cabinet surface will also work.
  3. Turn one of your flat drawers into a spice drawer. Ideally, this is a drawer next to the stove. Spice drawers are better than the more common spice rack since it frees up wall space for other items that get used more often.
  4. Add an induction cooktop or replace your electric stove with a gas stove. Induction cooktops are energy-efficient and generate heat directly into compatible pots or pans, making it even more efficient than gas.
  5. Why not give your upper kitchen cabinets a new look. Convert them to open shelving/ floating shelves – very convenient for storing essentials like cups and pans or condiments/spices all at a hand’s reach.
  6. Add a creative planter to your windowsill for edible herbs to spruce up your new kitchen decor with green colours and wonderful aromas.
  7. Stone sinks and counter tops is where the trend is heading. Change your old bland stainless steel sinks to beautiful stone sinks available in various colors and styles, or replace melamine counter tops with granite or Ceasar stone – this is sure to add value to your home’s resale price.
  8. Add in automation – The kitchen of the future is here today. From sensor-activated lights that illuminate the kitchen only when it’s in use, meat thermometers that alert your smartphone or tablet when your dinner is done to smart kettles and coffee machines that get turned on from your smartphone.
  9. A kitchen cart can add a bit more storage space and free up your counter tops from your cooking books, gadgets, and other non-cooking supplies.
  10. Should you have a large kitchen, adding a table and assorted chairs is a great way to make the kitchen cosy and create an environment for the family to be together while preparing meals.