Motse Lodge at Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, a privately owned 111 000 hectare game reserve in the Northern Cape, recently had its public buildings and nine private houses revamped. Guests can now interact with nature in an environment that beautifully reflects its surroundings.
When upgrading the lodge, the team at Savile Row, a South African-Namibian architecture firm, wanted returning regular guests to immediately notice the upgrade in comfort, luxury, intimacy and attention to detail, but still have it feel comfortingly familiar.
Barefoot luxury at its best
Adrian Davidson, director at Savile Row, says the lodge’s biggest differentiators are its unique fauna, flora and space set against the rocky foothills of the Korranberg, overlooking the vast open plains of the Kalahari.
He says Motse Lodge is the epitome of barefoot luxury. The team drew their design inspiration from the colours, textures, forms and fauna of the Kalahari – taking a successful, well-loved destination and transforming it into a laid-back yet luxurious environment that is comforting and authentic.
“We are always interested in how buildings and spaces influence the way people behave, particularly recognising this when designing hospitality environments, and we like to view the world through guests’ eyes.
“Our approach is to examine each step of the guests’ journey and their experience, so we can create better spaces and memorable moments. With this project we created a symbiotic flow between the lodge and landscape, making a seamless transition between the two spaces to emulate the ecology of the area,” says Davidson.
Design team achieves casual elegance
According to Davidson, the friendly “can do” attitude of the team working on the project for eight months – from the client, who was full of passion and vision, to the contractor, KDB Builders – ensured that guests would never feel a divide between themselves and nature at the lodge.
He says the same amount of attention was given to the small and rare being as beautiful and valuable as the vast and awe-inspiring, as the team placed as much emphasis on small details as on the architecture.
The design aesthetic was all about casual elegance and incorporating natural materials, colours, textures and forms for everything from the buildings to the décor. Guests can enjoy privacy and exclusivity that define contemporary luxury, knowing there is a strictly eco-conscious stance.
The project involved extensively reworking the current structure to improve operations and comfort, which included fairly dramatic space planning changes completed within four months to fix historic design flaws that impacted on operational efficiencies.
Legaes with space, light and connection
“Each house (legae) is a calm haven, with the main bedroom and bathrooms upgraded with new fittings and finishings and opened up to create more space, light and visual connection to the outdoors. As guests enter their legae, they are met by the welcoming glow of the suspended pendants, a collection of local artworks, some furniture pieces that are one-off pieces curated by Savile Row’s studio, separate dressing areas and a snack pantry,” says Davidson.
To create intimacy in the expansive main bedroom of the legae, a canopy is suspended over the bed, featuring a hand-illustrated canvas map of the Tswalu property by Davidson, to create a “room within a room” elegantly incorporating the mosquito net curtain and paddle fan. Beds have been orientated to maximise the views and bathrooms lead into private gardens with outdoor showers, open to the exceptional night skies of the Kalahari.
Expansive outdoors connect to intimate pockets
Davidson says high thatch roofing, whitewashed walls and armchairs provide a counterpoint to polished engineered timber floors and screed floors refinished with cemcrete. Extensive shaded private outdoor patios and sun-and-star beds ensure guests can enjoy the night or day skies.
He says the public buildings and each house were extended and altered to improve the visual connection and flow of the openness of the Kalahari into the internal spaces and pockets of intimacy designed for private, contemplative moments.
According to Davidson, a covering to the front facade of the main building creates an outdoor setting for guests to enjoy the tranquil view of the watering hole. A new entrance and welcome lounge bar were constructed with views of the Korranberg.
He says Tswalu Kalahari Reserve has partnered with Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen, a Michelin-star chef, on re-planning the kitchen and creating opportunities for indoor and outdoor dining experiences as well as on the new restaurant, Klein Jan, to open at the end of 2020.
A memorable experience that impacts
The rim-flow pool and traditional thatch roofs with the savannah colour palette allow the ultra-luxurious lodge to remain unobtrusive. Public deck spaces were re-planned and Thermory Ash decking, one of the few solid timbers able to perform with the extreme dry and hot desert conditions, was installed.
The gym, spa and boutique store with a gallery were relocated to repurposed outbuildings. A new photographic studio for the guests to capture, edit and learn photographic skills during their stay was also added to the facilities.
“One quality that we try to achieve in our work, is to create environments that are warm and humane as opposed to glossy, vain design statements, where the look is more important than how it feels. These qualities are noticeable when you experience them in the flesh. For us great design is not just a pretty picture or an idea, but an integration of all elements, the whole system and the whole journey. We aim to design lasting environments and spaces that really impact people,” says Davidson.
Acknowledgement and thanks go to Savile Row for the information contained in this article.