Embracing a verdant river bank within a private 33 000 acre concession in South Africa’s Kruger National Park, Singita Sweni is a refreshing sidestep from your typical safari lodge.
Safari company Singita didn’t have to search far for inspiration when reimagining Sweni Lodge – it was right outside the window. In collaboration with long-time design partner Cecile & Boyd, the new open-format space is awash in mixed metals and pops of colour honoring the diverse creatures of the bush: the sheen of bird feathers, the vibrant pigments of butterfly wings. Glossy organic materials – polished mud and timber, gold and bronze ore, and richly hued marble – display the iridescence of the insects buzzing around the Sweni River wending past the grounds. Noticeably absent: the traditional safari vibes (wood, canvas, and leather materials awash in brown and green earth tones) and cliché Out of Africa tropes. “The redesign champions the small African animals tourists often overlook when they go out looking for the big five,” says Geordi de Sousa Costa, design director of Cecile & Boyd.
Costa studied 1960s and ‘70s design before commissioning local artisans to enliven the property with textured accents. Coral Stephens Handweaving, a small operation based in Swaziland, fashioned cushion covers made of mohair and finished with tassels and fringe. “It dyes beautifully and has intense luster, which, combined with golds, pinks, and jade greens, gives the whole weave character,” says owner Murrae Stephens.
Handmade asymmetrical tiles in cobalt blue and emerald green, crafted by Southern Art Ceramics, can be found in the common areas and guest room bathrooms. Above the beds in the six suites are geometric wall hangings by African Sketchbook Fine Art Fabrics intended to mimic the angles and lines of nature, an idea echoed by lighting designer Conrad van der Westhuizen’s ceiling lighting fixtures with brass disks and glass globes meant to emulate “the branch patterns of the trees surrounding Sweni.” Woodworker Adam Birch’s handcrafted sculptures are joined by a miscellany of design objects tastefully appointed throughout the interiors. The result is a Sweni 2.0 that feels indicative of modern African tastes.