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A tower... and zebras

- Words Fabrizia Caracciolo — Photos Maganga Mwagogo

In a nature reserve in Kenya, the mad dream of an interior designer reconciles (fake) Tudor and hippopotam­i

Hippo Point is a private nature reserve north of Nairobi, on an isthmus between Lake Naivasha and Lake Oloiden, at an altitude of 2000 meters. It plays host to over 350 species of birds, and about 1200 animals. The owner, Dodo, is an interior designer of German origin, married to Michael Cunningham-Reid, stepson of one of the most illustriou­s figures of colonial Kenya, Lord Delamere. Over the years Dodo has restored various houses belonging to her husband’s family, also building new ones, all based on her elegant, eccentric style with an accent on simplicity. There are two constructi­ons on this property. The Manor House is a typical African country home in fake Tudor style from the late 1920s. Glowing wood floors, sumptuous bathrooms and an elegant rose garden form a clear contrast with the natural setting inhabited by wild animals that are free to roam. The second constructi­on is nearby, an eccentric “folly” created entirely by Dodo with the help of an engineer. It is a five-story wooden tower, 35 meters high, with five bedrooms and a large living area with terrace.

«When we acquired Hippo Point an elderly English lady was still living in the main house. So we decided to build the tower to be able to live here», the designer explains. The key to its insertion was to use local materials: cedar, mahogany, black granite. The Biedermeie­r dining chairs have ebony inlays for an African touch. When the time came to renovate the main house, Dodo’s approach was different: «I wanted to conserve the original style, but it was very disorderly – too many little rooms, too much black. So I chose honey-colored cedar, with its marvelous aroma. Even a fake Tudor house can have simple, clean interiors».

Dodo Cunningham-Reid came to Kenya in the early 1970s. With great ability, she has been able to combine two very different worlds: the elegant, cosmopolit­an culture of Europe and the wild nature of Africa.

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