Sheltered in the shade of one of Joburg’s most genteel suburbs, an intimate hotel welcomes you with exotic nostalgia from places afar
Story Natalie Borukova Production Colin O'Mara Davis Photos Gunther Grater
‘It is beautiful, isn’t it?’ The question is undoubtedly rhetorical. Housekeeping manager Merriam Ramapulana is thoroughly enjoying being witness to the successive ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as we explore the new Melrose-based boutique hotel, The Winston. A grand colonial-inspired facade and a magnificent jacaranda strung whimsically with large pendant lights set a foundation for intrigue. This is a place that promises to surprise and delight.
Above left: The wallpaper for the Commissioner Restaurant was custom-made from archive family portraits sourced from a local museum. Center: The classical integrity of the interior detailing is retained throughout using beading to effect the idea of wall panelling. Right: Dark hues and reflective surfaces ensure a bar that’s heavy with mood and atmosphere.
Beyond the threshold lies an eclectic ensemble that quite frankly wrestles with aesthetic logic. Against a language of classical interior detailing, a deep-buttoned Chesterfield sofa shares space with casual slip-covered armchairs, linens mingle confidently with heavy velvets and sumptuous silks, and a bold geometric wall of black and silver strobes against its pale blue counterpart. A curious assortment of artefacts and objets that appear to have surfaced from all corners of the globe have been carefully placed, anxious for discovery. The Winston Hotel is a truly confounding amalgam of disparate parts that have been married into a composition of consummate charm. As it entices you to uncover its every secret corner, it is almost as though you are exploring a foreign city for the first time, filled with excited anticipation.
Above: Walls clad in a dark Anaglypta wallpaper make for dramatic cloakrooms; the hotel is littered with items that ensure you don’t forget which country you’re in; a vista engages you wherever you stand; architect Ian Gandini was responsible for the colonial-inspired building. The suites are styled according to three themes and each is an assortment of hand-picked furniture and accessories. Owner Ruth Gershoni’s love of travel, art and books is evident throughout.
Inspired by their extensive travels abroad, owner Ruth Gershoni envisioned a place of respite laden with soul where every visitor would be welcomed as personal guest and leave lingering with emotion. ‘It was difficult to explain what I wanted,’ says Ruth, ‘because it went beyond words and became something on an emotional level.’ Architect Ian Gandini and interior designer Derrick Tabbert were Ruth’s fortuitous find, for they immediately, as she puts it, ‘tapped into my mind’. It was important that both the architecture and the interior exuded the impression of a grand old dame that had evolved over time and was steeped in history. Defined by striking colonnaded walkways, the architecture was loosely based on that of Whitehall Court, an Edwardian-inspired landmark in Joburg’s Killarney.
Considerable time and effort was taken to imbue the building with the desired nostalgia. Antique Marseilles roof tiles were sourced from demolition sites, and within, reclaimed teak parquet floors and a charming teal green floral carpet from a now defunct Durban hotel impart a regal old-world authenticity. The arresting interior owes as much to its eclectic nature as it does to Derrick’s dynamic approach to styling the functional areas. Colours and finishes in the bar are opulent and moody, accentuated at night by mood-enhancing lighting. By contrast, the hotel’s Commissioner Restaurant is kept fresh and light. Similarly, each of the 30 suites is its own novel interpretation of the themes French Boudoir, English Country and Royal Safari. The high-gloss teak flooring is a unifying element that makes it possible for the diverse spaces to function cohesively throughout the building.
Above: In the reception, foyer and passages the paleblue walls serve a similar purpose.
‘I wanted the walls to create a sense of calm as well as have an underlying energy,’ explains Derrick, ‘so we painted about 10 samples before I was happy with the correct hue.’ The Winston seems a decidedly conservative name for a hotel of such bold notions. Mrs Gershoni wanted an English name and it is in fact quite fitting. Not only a larger than life statesman, whose indomitable spirit fuelled the British during World War Two, Sir Winston was described as having an ‘unapologetic Epicurean taste’. Evidently somewhat of a gourmet herself, Ruth is often to be found in the dining room surrounded by dishes of food ready for tasting before menu placement. ‘Staff will be regaled with stories of when and where the dish was eaten and,’ reveals hotel manager Allison Clarke, ‘you can always be sure of an amusing ending.’ It seems that not the smallest detail has been overlooked to provide guests with a complete and sublime sensory experience. The hotel even has its own bespoke scent. Mixed by a perfumer, it is a heavily guarded secret. Conjuring up images of exotic lands filled with myrrh and frankincense, it subtly permeates a truly beautiful and special place.
The Winston Hotel