Inspired by the elephants that frequent the river fronting its rooms, Londolozi Lodge’s refurbished Granite Private Suites by interior designer Yvonne O’Brien are the epitome of 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.’ privatehouse.co.za, londolozi.com
Photographs: Elsa Young
Looking for more wild escapes? Read Wild Coast Tented Lodge Yala is a Hotel Like No Other, The Refurbished Jock Safari Lodge in Kruger National Park and Singita Pamushana Lodge’s New Look next.