This newly renovated luxury lodge in South Africa is a nod to the country’s diverse arts and crafts
An aesthete’s dream come true
BY Priti Mahajan | July 17th, 2019
The surrounding landscape informs much of the colour palette for Phinda Homestead, a contemporary Zulu-inspired bush home located on a private reserve. Here, shades of burnt clay serve as colour accents, and basket ware inspired by traditional Zulu weaving populate key spaces. Handmade clay pots, hand blown glass, nguni cow skin, beadwork, and other Zulu flourishes feature in special and surprising ways too. Traditionally, where clay was scarce, baskets were made into vessels, using the native ilala palm, the leaves of which are soaked in a dye made from dung or natural pigments. The plant grows abundantly in the marshy habitats, and so, is a renewable resource that works well as a design material.
ENTRANCE AND VERANDAH:
A circular reflection pond at the entrance marks the spot where a giant Marula tree once stood before a fire burnt down the previous homestead. The reflection of the water creates a sense of calm as you enter the house, and to complement its circular form, Debra Fox and Christopher Browne of multidisciplinary agency Fox Browne Creative, who helmed the renovation in December 2018, created a still life installation, combining contemporary hanging planters made by South African designer Joe Paine, woven Zimbabwean basket ware, and traditional handmade Zulu clay pots. These are grouped on a sleek metal table crafted by the design team at The Urban Native, a contemporary South African furniture and product design firm. Its products are defined by the juxtaposition of abstract ethnic cultural graphics and motifs with the functionality, look, and feel of classical European mid-century and Bauhaus furniture silhouettes.
The dining table and massive sliding doors that lead into the kitchen are the heroes of this room. These are one-off pieces, made from fallen hardwood by a master craftsman from the design workshop, One Good Tuesday. At one end of the room, a large beaded mirror made by Sithabe African Crafts—an initiative started by women who were brought together by their love of South Africa and its crafts—is mounted on a handwoven reeded Zulu mat above the bespoke sideboard. Above the dining table, a collection of woven Ghanaian baskets is grouped together to create striking pendant lights. Finally, woollen handloom rugs from Shuttleworth Weaving, a women’s cooperative in the Midlands region of Kwa Zulu Natal, anchor the space.
The circular reflection pond at the entrance marks the spot where a giant Marula tree once stood
In the dining room, the large table and the doors are made from fallen hardwood by a master craftsman from the design workshop One Good Tuesday
A custom armchair by Casamento
In the bathroom, hand strung reed curtains made by the women of a craft cooperative are used to frame the bath
In the sitting room, archival botanical prints of the native fever tree create a feeling of being in the bush, even when inside
18th-century archival botanical prints of the native fever tree, a popular image of the African bushveld, are hand-printed on linen wall hangings, creating a feeling of being in the bush, even when inside. The reserve is well known for its cheetah population, so, custom embroidered retro armchairs evoking the animal were designed in collaboration with furniture designers Casamento in Cape Town. To make them, Casamento used traditional techniques to create handcrafted furniture in natural fibres, with embroidery, cross-stitching, tapestry work and painting. It is the only upholstery studio in South Africa that is dedicated to a foam-free environment, and constantly explores recycled and natural fibre alternatives for its products.
In the suites, a large woven circular reed mat acts as a dramatic headboard and room divider. It pays homage to the Zulu tradition of weaving, while also referencing the reflection pond at the entrance. By the bed, hanging hand blown glass pendant lights, finished with Zulu beadwork detail, were commissioned from a young South African artist, and hand strung reed curtains made by the women of a craft cooperative frame the bath, giving the bathroom a natural, organic and tactile feel.