Earthy inspiration, owner of Garden Bleu, Rhoda Kruger, shares her secrets for relaxed entertaining with French flair.
Rhoda Kruger’s easy yet polished personal style reflects the charming and elegant decor of the beautiful Pretoria home that she shares with husband André and twin sons Emke and Ruben. Geared for entertaining, this creative couple has built a home that manages to combine slick furnishing and feature pieces with a homely feel that begs you to relax and enjoy a drink with them.
“I started working in the public sector but have always had a creative side, which I could only live out in my house. I took a severance package in the mid-nineties and started selling at art and craft markets; I opened the first Garden Bleu shop in 2002,” says Rhoda. “I love gardening but could only find imported garden decor items so I decided to manufacture a local range based on Victorian wirework and French country-style wrought iron items. I have subsequently expanded from garden decor items to include softer furnishings with a theme of linen and stone.”
Rhoda and André entertain on a regular basis and describe their hosting style as relaxed. “We often phone friends at short notice and invite them over for a chilled glass of wine and a selection of snacks like cheeses, breads, preserves, bottled aubergines and cold meats or a fillet on the braai from our favourite German butchery, Alma, with bread and salads.”
Rhoda is a keen cook who enjoys experimenting. She’ll often try new dishes with her husband and kids as the guinea pigs.Rhoda says that while André tends to be diplomatic, the honesty of the children soon lets her know if the dish was a success or not! Rhoda says that while André tends to be diplomatic, the honesty of the children soon lets her know if the dish was a success or not!
André believes that in South Africa, we should first design our entertainment areas and build the house around that, as we’re a nation that loves to entertain at home, often more so than going out. This is certainly evident in the Krugers’ home with a veranda that is conducive to outdoor living – perfect for the sublime Highveld climate. Although they have access to beautiful furniture at their shops, these pieces don’t dominate their house.
They often buy items on the spur of the moment. A favourite of Rhoda’s is an old wooden work bench harking back to the 1800s, as well as the tiles behind their stove, which they discovered in Holland at a salvage yard. The tiles date back to a 300-year-old French home that was eventually demolished. “We’ve always had a love of beautiful things and bought our first decor item while still at varsity,” notes Rhoda.
“I don’t stick to the norm and on a recent trip to Paris and Belgium, I bought quite a few antique wooden cutting boards, which I often use when decorating my tables. They’re also ideal for putting together a spread of breads, cheeses and preserves. My other passion is orchids – I use them as centrepieces on a table and have loads dotted around my patio.” The style that Rhoda has put together for F&HE’s table is simple and versatile. She has used a lot of wood and glass, bringing in nature with the orchids – a classic touch. Rhoda describes the setting as earthy and textural, South African with a French-country twist. A gorgeous wingback chair at the head of the table begs you to sink in and sip away with this welcoming and downto- earth family.
By DOMINIQUE BROWN