South African swoon

Interior design highlights from safari lodge to the wine region


Helena Harrison

12/8/20233 min read

Having recently returned from a trip to South Africa I thought I'd share some of the snaps and observations I had from an interior design perspective during my time there.

I loved the application of traditional craft pitched against high end polished finishes. Honest materials are utilised such as in this well executed example within a winery in Franschhoek where the chandeliers are made from wine bottles. There is a real balance of rustic chic without it looking pastiche.

Expose thatched roofs with pitched ceilings add drama but also set the tone for how the rest of the room plays out; anything too synthetic or futuristic is not going to sit well in these spaces. Instead the designs are careful to employ heritage colours and texture in natural or woven materials.

Bold prints and fabulous abstract artworks feature throughout but with colour palettes often constrained perhaps aligning with the controversial colonial history of these premises.

Craftmanship is exposed and informal but undeniably accomplished. At the Gondwana Lodge on the Sanbona conservation reserve there was much attention to detail, with many bespoke items: a basket-weave cane chair or a fun ostrich feather arc lamp. Here they also had the most fabulous embossed wallpaper which looked painstakingly handmade,

As mentioned so much of the furnishings were a work of art in their own right but I also saw lots of great contemporary artworks while I was there. Sanbona had some interestingly curated pieces and the Gallery at Grande Provence had an insightful exhibition on.

I was drawn in, making me reflect on the country's past, present and future: themes of identity, being uprooted, and where inequality still lurks. I appreciated the insight and how these creative voices continue to shout in this complex country.

Sculptural forms, eye-catching patterns and great application of texture sum up my experience, embracing local materials and traditional skills. Luxury minimalism but with a dynamic edge aligns with my own interior designs and I'm sure my time there will feed into my ever-evolving practice.

Francke Gretchen Crots

Francke Gretchen Crots

Uwe Pfaff

Walter Batiss

Back in the bustle of Cape Town I was lucky enough to visit the Silo Hotel which boasts a jaw-dropping rooftop pool. Inside the design is sympathetic to the brutalist architecture punctuated with huge modern African artworks, lighting is made of industrial materials but refined which complements the dominating proportions of this leviathan building.

We also brunched at the vibrant verdant eatery Our Local. A trove of flea-market finds, corrugated roof, rough plaster walls and greenery; this place oozed character.