How else would you describe what feels like a piece of paradise in Karen? Just call it paradise, I guess. A walk in Karen Gables, the house that Chris built in this leafy suburb is like walking back in time.
The Cape Dutch architecture-themed house with two prominent white gables (wall topped with triangular decorative structure) makes the fairly new home look like an older establishment full of character and rich history. It is one of the most striking guesthouses in Karen.
I discovered this hidden gem by accident. A family friend wanted to meet me in Karen. He gave me the physical address as “that Cabro driveway next to Hemingways.” I lost my way twice. The driveway had a sign – 76. This was just a number, but in Karen numbers matter.
I followed the driveway to the end, driving down a steep slope that seemed to take me nowhere. Looks though, can be deceiving. A watchman and mean-looking dog ushered me to Karen Gables where my friend was waiting. Business done, it was time to find out what makes this house tick.
Chris came to Kenya from the Netherlands in 1998. He is a farmer who set up several farms in various locations – from the slopes of Mount Kenya to the vast plains of Masailand.
But Chris needed a home, a private sanctuary where he could retire after a day out in the farms. His base in Westlands had begun to tire him out. He found a piece of land in Mbagathi Ridge, Karen. It was eight acres but that was too big for one man. The land was subdivided as other buyers came on board with Chris choosing to keep the last acre and a half touching on Mbagathi River. It was the best decision he has ever made.
In 2008, his home began to take shape. Brick by brick, Chris built what has come to characterise the Cape Dutch architecture made famous by the Dutch settlers in Western Cape, South Africa.
In 2017, Chris decided to share his piece of paradise with the rest of the world. He turned the house into a guesthouse where weary travelers would come in and enjoy the serenity that Karen has to offer.
The one storey house has six modestly decorated guest rooms. The junior suite is a large, quirky and inviting suite with a fireplace and ensuite shower room. Large double doors open onto the lush gardens with a heated swimming pool. Upstairs, the rooms have large windows that open to verdant vegetation.
Inside the lounge are handpicked antiques, pieces of furniture, decorations and carpets. “I collected most of these from my home country,” Chris tells me.
The spacious kitchen allows the small staff to be creative as was evidenced in my brief visit. Here, the inspired chef went out of his way to make a decent meal of mashed potatoes, steamed vegetables and some beef. A pineapple flambé wound up our meal.
My treat though, was an exception. The guesthouse does not allow for walk-in customers. One must have a firm resident booking before making their way here where a night costs up to Sh30,000. With the prevailing tranquility and five-star treatment, there is no lack of those who can afford the amount with the house reporting back to back bookings.
To burn the extra calories, we strolled around the garden where Chris has created a mini terraced garden using rocks collected from the property during house construction. A flight of steps leads to the lower reaches of the property where Mbagathi River, full from the recent rains gently hums its way to Nairobi National Park.
“This place is still a work in progress,” says Chris. “I need to create more space for people to rest next to the river, maybe put a hammock...” When he does, Karen Gables will still be a paradise.