Experience new country in the old country
words colin o’mara davis photographs angie làzaro
and gunther gräter decor stylist stephen graham
It’s a well-worn story: the prospective homeowners happen upon a simply charming house… yet it’s somewhat deficient in legendary potential.
Soon come the daydreams, the snagging, the draftsmen, the architect and, before long the sledgehammers! Floors become landfill and interiors are flayed like fillet mignon. From here, the supplanted structures are coloured and dressed à la mode, and it will remain this way until the next intrepid proprietors find their way up the driveway and over the threshold.
This is not that story, however. In fact, nothing about this getaway (or its owners, for that matter) is conventional. When the Moti family first purchased this patch of land in the Waterberg’s Welgevonden Private Game Reserve in 2008, few would have had the capacity (let alone the constitution) to imagine what had begun to transpire.
‘At first we were brought in on a styling job,’ explains Larry Fisher of Natalie & Larry Designs. ‘We were going to work with what was existing and just update the look.’
What is today Paperbark Lodge, an exclusive game lodge hosting five boutique suites and spread over 500 hectares of the northern Limpopo’s spectacular savannah and piercing cliff sides, used to be another unassuming, yet oh-so-ubiquitous, thatched lodge house.
Nevertheless, the Motis aren’t all that taken with stereotypes, no matter how deep into safari country they venture. The family was intent on making Paperbark a destination for those with discerning tastes, and it was their passion for design is cemented in their impressive collection of authentic Baroque and Rococo period pieces.
Not one to pass up the golden and truly unique opportunity, Larry (with Natalie in tow) set about imagining inspired interiors.
‘The existing pieces really dictated the décor,’ says Larry, describing the team’s
stylistic considerations. Upon site examination, however, Natalie and Larry discovered that some structural alterations would have to be contended with first, and their recommendation was that an architect join them in situ.
Says Krynauw Nel of Krynauw Nel & Associates: ‘We undertake a fairly wide scope of architectural work, whether domestic, commercial or transformations to existing buildings, but the focus is always on how the human body experiences space. It’s about how buildings “feel”.’
On his first site walk-about, Krynauw felt little connection between the built structure and its environment. While the low canopy of the shaggy thatching hugged the site and was a rather charming colloquial feature in itself, it restricted views. ‘That’s what people want to experience in a setting like this. You’ve got such a wonderful environment all around you, but you don’t experience it because you’re not aware of it.’ Having set the point of departure, Krynauw had the existing door and window frames extended to accommodate spatial flow, to better realise and experience the space, the architect introduced integrated central views by removing the main building’s server-island.
At the time, the house had only one formal lounge around the fireplace: Krynauw would soon enough harness the inherent potential and extend the lounge to the exterior and create the ‘glass pavilion’. Integrating a frameless glazing system, the new perimeter face can open and close without disturbing the visual relationships between the interior and its environment. The floor area is a massive cantilevered structure supported by stone pylons and a steel I-bar frame, but the overhangs that appear to soar over the precipice make spatial interaction immediate. Krynauw remarks that the steel superstructure proved to be an invaluably advantageous design solution.
‘You’re in the bush – you don’t really have the time to revisit or redesign the location.’
Cast off-site, the beams are hauled in and erected rather quickly, ‘and you don’t have major construction headaches either, because all the bars are straight and they’re just bolted and welded in place.’
The 18th-century Rococo style is enjoying a revival. Characterised by highly decorative organic forms, this style was considered whimsical and much less formal than High Baroque. In decoration, interiors are often asymmetrically styled or unbalanced for striking effect. Ormulu or gilt-bronze finishes help to add visual appeal to walls, especially in mirror-frames.
On this project the architect and the designers found themselves sharing many responsibilities and, in a synergistic collaboration, they devised a strong visual vocabulary to help them establish the lodge’s characteristic appeal. Custom designed and manufactured gates, balustrades, rails and even the family crest reveal a cohesive crossover from architecture to decoration.
Following French flair in theme and decoration, each of the five suites is aptly named for effect – consider Moulin Rouge, Crème Da Masque, Le Jardin, Toile de Jouy and Napoleon. Employing a rich scheme of the Baroque period’s jewel colours and furnished in Rococo’s sculpturally stylised undulating forms, Larry and Natalie’s interiors are dramatic though very romantic and, surprisingly, extremely well suited to the bushveld – almost reminding of latter-day Napoleonic colonisation.
To create opulent bedroom settings that are as luxurious as they are comfortable, layer fabrics in combinations of surface texture. Velvets and chenilles work wonders as headboards, ottomans and bolsters. Complement these textures with silks and any variety of rayon blends for added shimmer. Details like trimming and tassels are excellent if your bedroom can stand the drama.
Reservations and inquiries Paperbark Lodge 011-888-8888, www.paperbarklodge.co.za
Architect Krynauw Nel & Associates 011-788-9549
Decorators Natalie & Larry Designs 011-802-8976