FADE TO GREY

Elle Decoration (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - Text LEIGH ROBERT­SON Pho­to­graphs ELSA YOUNG .

Thanks to in­te­rior de­signer Yvonne O’Brien, Lon­dolozi Lodge’s Gran­ite Pri­vate Suites now epit­o­mise un­der­stated bush chic

Like any­one who’s stepped off the daily grind and im­mersed them­selves in the luxe wilder­ness ex­pe­ri­ence of­fered at Lon­dolozi in the Sabi Sand Game Re­serve – pos­si­bly the most iconic of South Africa’s sa­fari and con­ser­va­tion prop­er­ties – on the bor­der of the Greater Kruger Na­tional Park, in­te­rior de­signer Yvonne O’Brien of The Pri­vate House Com­pany has her fair share of wildlife en­coun­ters to re­lay.

Among the panoply of breath­tak­ing sce­nar­ios that play out in the bush, it can of­ten be those un­her­alded soli­tary mo­ments that re­ally stay with one. For O’Brien, who’s spent a good por­tion of the past 13 years mov­ing be­tween Lon­dolozi’s five camps, de­sign­ing and re­fresh­ing their in­te­ri­ors twice over dur­ing that pe­riod, it’s the sight of ele­phants am­bling to­wards the river in the af­ter­noon, most re­cently when a herd pressed past her room at Gran­ite Pri­vate Suites dur­ing its re­fur­bish­ment. ‘I looked up and there they were,’ she says of an in­stant al­most spir­i­tual in its quiet in­ten­sity.

The ele­phant has been a most fit­ting mo­tif at Gran­ite Pri­vate Suites since the camp was launched at Lon­dolozi some 10 years ago. Echo­ing the reg­u­lar vi­sion of the crea­tures on the banks of the Sand River, to­wards which all three rooms and the ex­pan­sive deck and bar area face, emo­tive black-and-white pho­to­graphs on the walls through­out the camp cap­ture them with touch­ing in­ti­macy. When O’Brien was tasked with re­do­ing the in­te­ri­ors of this Re­lais & Châteaux-listed prop­erty, along with a more ex­ten­sive overhaul of the lodge’s orig­i­nal Varty Camp, built 20 years ago, she had to prac­tise her usual re­straint to en­sure its essence was re­tained.

‘When we redo a camp, we have to watch that we don’t lose what reg­u­lar guests love about it,’ she says. ‘Ev­ery­one has their own favourite look, from the clas­sic colo­nial style and earthy bush tones of Tree Camp and the old-world sil­ver and fur­nish­ings of Pi­o­neer to the sim­ple, clas­sic con­tem­po­rary el­e­gance of Gran­ite.’ In the spirit of sus­tain­abil­ity that un­der­pins the lodge – which is as much its de­sign phi­los­o­phy as its con­ser­va­tion ethos – there’s an em­pha­sis on re­work­ing what’s al­ready there, ‘rather than chuck­ing it out and start­ing it again’, says O’Brien. ‘The el­e­ments are so dif­fer­ent in the bush. You know what will and won’t work.’

Gran­ite’s un­veil­ing re­veals less a de­par­ture from its orig­i­nal style than a par­ing back of ex­tra­ne­ous fea­tures to give it ‘a cleaner, more re­fined look. It’s less busy, more un­der­stated now,’ notes O’Brien. Her start­ing point was Ard­more’s quirky Na­rina wall­pa­per for Cole & Son, its soft, geo­met­ric pat­tern in­spired by the stylised feath­ers of the Na­rina tro­gon bird. ‘It’s smart, but has a strong African feel,’ she says. ‘That was my back­drop. Ev­ery­thing else could be neu­tral.’ In her sig­na­ture style, the de­signer’s lay­ered the spa­ces in mul­ti­ple tones of grey, from washed-out hues to moody char­coals, re­flect­ing the gran­ite rocks that flank the camp and adding to the per­va­sive sense of un­der­stated lux­ury.

For Gran­ite’s main deck and chic sunken cock­tail lounge, O’Brien says she was briefed to in­fuse it with a hint of Greek Is­land-style el­e­gance and sim­plic­ity, ‘al­though the re­sult is still very much re­fined bush lodge’, she smiles. It is, in­deed, an area no­table for its seren­ity, where one might while away the hours with a pair of binoc­u­lars in hand, wait­ing for the ele­phants to ar­rive.

A lounger be­side the plunge pool over­look­ing hectares of bush stretch­ing be­yond the river might be a fit­ting place to set­tle down with fourth-gen­er­a­tion Lon­dolozi cus­to­dian Boyd Varty’s book, Cathe­dral of the Wild, in which he talks about the con­nec­tions that are made in na­ture and the restora­tion of self that in­evitably oc­curs. ‘We get to see the most beau­ti­ful parts of our­selves re­flected back at us,’ he writes. ‘It’s not only through other peo­ple that we get to ex­pe­ri­ence our hu­man­ity, but through all the crea­tures on this planet.’

this spread There’s a distinct tac­til­ity to the in­te­ri­ors at the re­fur­bished Gran­ite Pri­vate Suites, from nat­u­ral stone and tim­ber to leather and heav­ily tex­tured wo­ven tex­tiles. The oc­ca­sional chairs are from La Grange In­te­ri­ors, the cof­fee ta­ble from The Pri­vate House Com­pany and the round ta­ble (in fore­ground) from Wey­landts.

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