by Amy Schoeman
You can’t help but think of fairy castles when you see the turrets, spires and parapets of Bougain Villas as you veer around the bend in Sam Nujoma Drive in Klein Windhoek on the way out of town.
The vision is further enhanced when you enter the courtyard, resplendent with fountains, tiled walkways, arches, colonnades, balustrades and balconies, and become seduced by the artful blending of architectural styles, making it completely different to any other shopping precinct in the capital.
Bougain Villas is the invention of Jenny and Johan Steenkamp, owners of the ever-popular Jenny’s Place & Secret Garden Restaurant – a long-time favourite amongst locals – and Pension Bougainvilla, the guest house on the corner of Nelson Mandela Drive and Barella Street, the latter also in Klein Windhoek.
Initially their idea was simply to build a more substantial crafts outlet because the existing one at Jenny’s Place had become too small. But before they knew where they were, the notion had mushroomed into something much bigger and more ambitious – the stylish leisure-shop complex that opened to the romantic strains of Swakopmund’s Trio Feminale on the first of April 2006.
Blend of styles
Where did the concept for this highly imaginative development come from? Says Jenny, “We were inspired by the styles of the traditional buildings we’d seen on our travels in Europe and started thinking about combining them. We also looked on the Internet, which strengthened our idea of blending the different styles.”
No less than seven European architectural styles have been incorporated in Bougain Villas: Tuscany, Gothic, Tudor, Art Nouveau, Rennaissance, Fachwerk and old German. The architect was Hennie Pelser from Pretoria, who has done this kind of development before, among others for a large shopping centre in Pretoria. He’s even designed this kind of precinct for one or two Arabian sheikhs, this time blending Middle-Eastern architectural design features.
One of the most heartening aspects about Bougain Villas is that it consists solely of leisure and boutique shops. Moreover, it is the owners’ policy to keep it this way. Says Jenny, “We’ll definitely not have any kind of supermarket here, and certainly no chain or franchise shops, so the money that’s spent in the centre will remain in the country.”
The largest and most dazzling shop at Bougain Villas is undoubtedly Jenny’s Place Art & Crafts emporium. It stocks an impressive array of goods, from beads and buttons to a substantial selection of basic art supplies, wrapping paper, haberdashery, candles, greeting cards, stationery and a surprisingly imaginative range of party gear.
You enter across a beautifully tiled footbridge over a pond with water-lilies, reeds and rushes. The circular interior is centred around a graceful Fontainebleau-like fountain, and has several levels. A wooden staircase leads up to more shops.
The shop’s main thrust, however, is its wide selection of art & craft supplies. Jenny started the art-supply outlet at the original Jenny’s Place in 1995 “Because I’ve painted and sketched all my life and could never find the right art supplies in Windhoek. This shop is definitely the only one of its kind in the country.”
As was amply demonstrated at the opening, the tiled courtyard lends itself to events such as fashion shows, live musical performances and receptions. In the middle it too has a large fountain, surrounded by a lily pond and an array of potted plants. A shaded veranda-type walkway and various archways lead to the different shops. It also provides a friendly and safe space for young children to run around and play in while their parents spend time looking around the shops.
Another boon is a very large parking terrain and different entrances into the complex, making it the perfect place to spend a leisurely Saturday morning after enjoying breakfast at the Secret Garden Restaurant next door, or alternatively going there for lunch after your shopping expedition at Bougain Villas.
This article appeared in the May/June ‘06 edition of Travel News Namibia.