Rare, quirky and luxurious

WITH A DIFFERENCE: The Marilyn Monroe room and the Robinson Crusoe room are two of the themed bedrooms at the Stumble Inn guesthouse situated in Nahoon.
WITH A DIFFERENCE: The Marilyn Monroe room and the Robinson Crusoe room are two of the themed bedrooms at the Stumble Inn guesthouse situated in Nahoon.
Image: Sibongile Ngalwa

What do fairy godmothers, Superman, Marilyn Monroe, pink flamingos, Idi Amin and camels have in common?

They are all resident at a zany Nahoon guesthouse, where rooms have been decorated in themes as dotty as the inn-keepers who created them.

Stumble Inn Guesthouse owners, Mary and Mike Harder, ingeniously combined their talents to establish a guesthouse as unique and quirky as it is luxurious.

Mary’s irrepressible humour and passion for colour, coupled with Mike’s superb carpentry skills and ability to make his wife’s wacky visions come to life are a match made in heaven.

“When we opened in 1996, B&Bs were quite a new concept in East London, and there were only two or three, but we wanted to do something different.“We didn’t want it to be stiff or formal. Our craziness relaxes people and makes them feel at home,” said Mary, who was once a music teacher, and who is obsessed with beaded pink flamingos, which wade happily in the front garden.

“Some guests insist on staying in their favourite rooms – the Hollywood room and the Eastern room are very popular – but some secretaries ask if we don’t have normal rooms when they make reservations for their bosses. I say to them: “Doesn’t your boss have a sense of humour?

“Some think the rooms will be really kitsch, but we think they are tastefully crazy.”Her description is apt because, although the Harders have pushed the envelope in many respects – mirror ball disco lights, anyone? – they have not crossed the line and descended into tackiness and clutter.

Because, although restraint is an unheard of word at Stumble Inn, the overarching feeling is one of comfort, other-worldliness and a light-hearted escape from the rigours of everyday.As a four-star rated establishment they take service and quality seriously, and every room has all the luxurious components that ensure a comfortable stay.

What separates the Stumble Inn from other themed establishments is that almost everything is handcrafted.

Mike has fashioned fanciful headboards, carved Egyptian figures into wooden cupboard doors, built bedside tables of old suitcases and constructed a sturdy work station out of tennis racquets, cricket bats and hockey sticks.

He has also made a delicate waterfall water feature from 360m of fishing line.“I am a cabinetmaker. I used to have a furniture business. I can build anything,” said the golf enthusiast, who also transformed the pool deck into a putting green.

“He complains that no one compliments him, so he installed a group of spectators to cheer him on,” giggled Mary.On a madcap tour of the 10 rooms the couple pointed out offbeat elements of every room – so easy to miss when the eye has so much to take in.

Looking up is also important – a life-size Superman roars overhead on the deck, while on the Egyptian room patio a mummified Tutankhamen rests in peace in his glassed-off ceiling sarcophagus.

The Austin Powers room is a celebration of 1970s excess and psychedelic frenzy.There’s a round silver bed, wavy purple dressing table, crazy daisies on Fanta orange walls and a disco mirror ball.

The marine room has gashing sharks and a dolphin-shaped tap, the Robinson Crusoe room has cannibals peering over the headboard, and Saddam Hussein lives on in the President’s room.Everything is tongue-in-cheek, every theme has been systematically carried through to en-suite bathrooms, many resplendent with TV sets recessed at the foot of the bath.Said Mike:

“It blows first-time guests away. That is why we do it. People think we’re crazy, but we are just having fun.”lFor more information see www.stumbleinn.co.za