Sanctuary Mandela will offer an experience that is inspired by Nelson Mandela’s life while he resided and worked at the property in Johannesburg.

The former statesman’s presidential residence has been re-envisioned and is now home to a one-of-a-kind boutique hotel, promising the perfect blend of tranquillity, heritage, healing, reflection and mindful experiences. The space has been carefully curated by local firm, kim h nieu. who took inspiration from Madiba’s life.

But how does one take such a remarkable man’s presidential home and transform it into a unique and inspiring guest experience?

“The main concept throughout this space is the story of the man who lived here, but we did not want it to feel like a museum,” says Ehrardt Nieuwoudt from kim h nieu., who designed and decorated the new space.


The boutique hotel will celebrate the late South African president and offer spaces for reflection, healing and thought-provoking experiences inspired by his life.

It was also the home were Madiba hosted the likes of Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton, and it was in the surrounding streets that mourners spontaneously congregated when news of his death was announced back in 2013.

What’s more, each of the rooms commemorates Mandela’s many names. The rooms come kitted with modern comforts like Wi-Fi, two single beds or a king-size bed, flat-screen TV, aircon and shower facilities. There is also a Presidential Suite that boasts 54m² of space.

We spoke to Ehrardt Nieuwoudt, lead interior designer and owner at kim h, about this inspirational project to find out more about how they managed to create such an inspiring space.

Q: Please give us a brief overview of the project and the client?
Ehrardt: We were approached to design the space in early 2018. We set forth to develop and design it along with the stakeholders and architects. Construction started towards the end of 2019. There were obvious hurdles in 2020 with the pandemic that delayed the process but now finally, three years later, the project is basically complete.

Q: What were the main elements of the design brief?
Ehrardt: Thebe Tourism’s brief was to design a space of reflection that tells a story without feeling like a museum. It had to feel like a hotel, but also like a home. I designed the space to incorporate various items that bring out an element of structure as we had to demolish sections and keep certain parts of the original structure. This is emphasised by many of the finishes & furniture pieces that show or hint at its structure.

Q: What was the main concept for the design?
Ehrardt: We wanted to create a space that tells the story of the great man who lived there and encourage visitors to look for, and discover, the stories in the space. I tried to achieve this by not making each of the pieces too obvious, by incorporating them into the spaces and elements instead of featuring them.

“As this ultimately needs to be a space of reflection, the process of discovering the elements, encourages and adds to the theme. We also had to be as true as we could to the original structure, but as a very large part of the space is new additions, we decided to accentuate the new elements and how they integrate with the existing structure instead of trying to blend them in, thereby honouring the previous space in a subtle way.”

Q: What unique products, materials or installation methods were used in the project?
Ehrardt: Upon entering, you are greeted by a sculpture of Mandela reading a paper. This is based on a photo that was taken of him on the exact same step.

The two boardrooms are largely situated where his study was. There was a curved thatched addition we had to demolish. To honour this structure, we showed the footprint of the structure through an exposed section of its foundation under glass and picked up on the curve in the swimming pool with its steps. Other areas are the three bedrooms we managed to keep including the original main bedroom.

Q: Are there any particular challenges or anecdotes that you can share?
Ehrardt: When you enter the house, you are met by the reception counter. I wanted to do something different to greet and prepare visitors for the experience and for the area to be a nod to the past house but had no idea what to do. After months of design attempts, I remembered I kept a few of the original bricks during demo and…problem solved. We incorporated this design concept into the reception counter to deliver a uniquely beautiful and welcoming piece.

Being one of the only presidential homes that members of the public can stay in, Sanctuary Mandela is truly unique. Here, guests can dine on Madiba’s favourite cuisine, soul-search and gain historic insights.

For more information, contact kim h nieu.:
Tel: +27 860 44 4456

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