&Beyond’s design philosophy is simple, sustainable and responsible. While consistently maintaining a high level of luxury and comfort, it also respects, supports and celebrates each lodge’s unique surrounding land, wildlife and people.
Today’s travellers are more eco-conscious and environmentally and socially aware than ever, and while they do still seek travel that’s luxurious, it must be responsible and it must give back to our planet in some way. As a result, lodge design is rapidly evolving, and &Beyond strives to build sustainably, while at the same time, retaining the creative edge and signature charm that differentiates our guests’ experience.
Gone are the days of gold-plated taps, satin sheets and white-glove service. Today’s travellers crave sustainable luxury and true authenticity over opulence. Critical to our design philosophy is the subtle and always mindful art of upcycling, recycling and repurposing. Original artefacts and pieces of furniture – which add authenticity, local relevance and a deep sense of place and personality – are always retained and enhanced, and beautiful old antiques and furniture are lovingly restored and stylishly repurposed. Modern luxury, comfort and cutting-edge design are seamlessly combined with soulful, old world vintage.
Sustainability is an entrenched part of the design process, and we believe that less is often more and therefore emphasise the field experience that our rangers, guides and hosts offer over opulent, over-the-top lodge design. &Beyond CEO Joss Kent explains: “I believe that the safari lodge of the future has a light footprint and uses 100% renewable energy. It uses no plastic, has a zero-carbon offset, a sensitive ecological footprint and a sensitive design, with a strong sense of place.”
The best way to be global is to be local. A simple philosophy, yet this one ever-present golden thread guides the entire &Beyond experience from start to finish, including our design philosophy, which ensures that local communities are supported and celebrated. For more than two decades, &Beyond has enlisted the unrivalled talent of award-winning interior design masterminds Chris Browne and Debra Fox of Fox Browne Creative to bestow their magic touch on our iconic lodges. Their meticulous sourcing of the bespoke cultural artefacts has given each &Beyond lodge its own unique character.
Chris and Debra take a three-tiered approach. Firstly, and most importantly, they engage with local artisans from neighbouring communities at the grass roots level. Chris and Debra scour community-run craft markets situated near each lodge and regularly stop the car en route to scout out all of the rustic roadside stalls for unique craftsmanship.
The second tier involves supporting the local design industry by sourcing custom one-of-a-kind pieces from the more urban-based projects in nearby city centres, such as Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and Nairobi. The final tier focuses on high-end local design and includes the world-class collections of carefully selected star designers, such as Anna Trzebinski, Penny Winter and Antassia.
“Our focus is always as regional and locally authentic as possible,” Chris explains. “As a buyer, this process can be slow and challenging, given that the majority of these rural artists often don’t have any business experience. You have to make a concerted effort to guide the purchase process and to reinforce your commitment to the artist by nurturing and mentoring them on how to conduct business.”
Home is where the heart is
&Beyond Phinda Homestead, a sole-use luxury villa situated on &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa, was recently rebuilt from the ground up. The Homestead’s classic simplicity and sophistication have been retained and its enviable new look is a seamless fusion of sleek, modern design and rich Zulu heritage. Raw, earthy materials are combined with quirky accents, as well as the area’s local flavours, to create an elegant and contemporary bush home away from home. Traditional Nguni hides, intricate basketwork and colourful crafts, all sourced directly from the local communities, are featured throughout the home, paying particular homage to the area’s proud and vibrant Zulu culture.
As they say in South Africa, “local is lekker,” which means that the things closest to home are the best. Ninety percent of the design elements used to create Phinda Homestead are proudly and uniquely South African. One-of-a-kind Zulu reed-tassel curtains were sourced from a local roadside stall and now take pride of place in the luxury ensuite bathrooms. This is perhaps the largest purchase order that the women-run roadside craft stall has ever received, and the direct benefit – not only to these artists but also to their dependents – is substantial. Intricate hand-woven Zulu baskets produced by Khanyisele Crafts in the Nongoma community are also featured throughout.
Sense of place
The recent redesign of &Beyond Phinda Vlei Lodge showcases a strong, bold and vibrant story, which is very different to that of each of its sister lodges, but which still retains a profound sense of place and relevance. Inspired by the lavish homesteads of the pineapple and sugarcane plantation barons that once dominated the surrounding landscape, the subtle hero of Vlei Lodge’s new look is the cheerful banana tree wallpaper. The old and the new have been layered harmoniously, giving the lodge a bold new look that is homely and nostalgic. We’re talking quirky pineapples, vintage brass, antique furnishings, tropical accents, deep chartreuse velvet sofas and pale pink North Coast anthuriams.
Your private Mara
Moving north to Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, the recently rebuilt &Beyond Bateleur Camp also unveiled its own equally grand transformation. With fresh new design and stylish yet understated local African touches, the camp very much still retains its much-loved Out of Africa ambience and undeniable air of old school safari romance. All original pieces that were sourced 20 years ago have been retained and stylishly reutilised.
Bespoke artefacts, all lovingly handcrafted by hardworking artisans in the local Maasai communities, have been incorporated into the design. Most of these items were carefully curated from women-led initiatives, such as the beaded rungus (Maasai throwing clubs) that have been repurposed as door handles, the curtain tie-backs made from Maasai belts and, perhaps our favourite, the beaded Maasai wedding skirt ottomans. These traditional wedding skirts, made from goatskin, are authentic antiques. We have been working with the women of this particular Maasai clan for 20 years, having sourced the original pieces from them when the camp first opened. Over time the beaded skirts are replaced, retouched and replenished, thereby creating a sustainable business for these skilled women.
The incredibly talented Maurice, a local Kenyan tailor, has worked on multiple projects with Fox Browne, and his world-class product range speaks for itself. During the rebuilds, Maurice actually takes up residence on-site with his trusted old-school Singer sewing machine and, supplied with locally sourced fabrics, he effortlessly adds his local flair and precision to create stylish cushion covers and loose furniture covers for the camp. “Maurice travels all over Kenya with his sewing machine,” Chris explains. “A simple man with extreme raw talent, he can make anything you want, and his designs look like they could have been made in the finest fashion houses of Milan. They’re truly world-class.”
No space that we design comes alive without the incredible staff who take care of it and the conscious guests who stay there. Fox Browne’s sustainable design ethos always starts with the guest in mind; how they will feel and what they will experience when staying in these beautiful places and it extends through to the every touch point of the guest experience. It’s all about merging beautiful spaces with gracious hospitality and delightful service.