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Taking interior design to the next level at Abelana River Lodge


Our brand-new Abelana River Lodge has been impressing everyone who’s seen it since opening its doors at the end of February, thanks to its stunning interior design and décor and effortless blend of contemporary and African influences. Inspired by the wilderness that surrounds the lodge and the ever-present Selati River that it overlooks, the job of creating the look and feel of the lodge fell to top Johannesburg design company dsgn.

“As the appointed interior designer, dsgn envisaged the creation of an interior that was relevant to the landscape in terms of colours, tones, textures and finishes,” says dsgn’s Sarah Forman. “We worked on the concept of a ‘blank canvas’, interpreted as the white-painted walls of the interiors, set against a black and white graphic feel that relates to traditional African mud-cloth patterns, encapsulating the rustic, yet still current atmosphere of the lodge,” she adds.

This concept was extended from the communal areas to the guest suites, adds Sarah. “The intention for the guest suites was to form a canvas of calm and tranquillity which we believe was successfully achieved and has allowed the sights and sounds of the bush and the river to take centre stage,” she says.

When it comes to the furniture pieces and joinery items in the lodge, many were constructed using sustainable leadwood pieces found on the reserve site, such as the reception desk, the outside bar, bedside tables in the guest suites and vanity bases in the guest bathrooms.

“The interior bar area has a number of pieces that stand out for us here at dsgn, and speak about the location of the lodge,” says Sarah. “We commissioned a local South African artist – Damien Grivas – for the feature pebble wall behind the bar. The concept for the feature wall came from dsgn’s lead designer Atsushi Hirata and was inspired by the circular ripples emanating from a pebble dropped into the water. Damien lovingly interpreted the concept and considers the time he spent at Abelana River Lodge working on the piece as one of his most memorable installations, thanks to the energy and peacefulness of the location,” adds Sarah.

Other innovative features include the light fixture above the bar that was inspired by a woven African fish trap and was custom-designed and manufactured by a local Johannesburg artisan. “The various décor touches add to the authentic atmosphere,” says Sarah. “Especially the humane interpretation of timber Nguni cattle heads hung on the wall in the bar area, which were sourced from Vogel Design in Cape Town,” she says.

Local artists and artisans were also used in the interior design process, including well-known South African furniture and product designer Thabisa Mjo of Mash T Design Studio who beautifully interpreted dsgn’s concept for the decorative lighting in the guest suites and bathrooms.

The overall result achieved by dsgn is simply breathtaking and gives Abelana River Lodge a unique personality that positions it beautifully within its landscape, allowing it to become part of it, immersing guests in the spirit of the African bush while enveloping them in supreme levels of luxury and comfort. It has to be seen to be believed!



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