Revitalisation for andBeyond’s Phinda Forest Lodge

Fox Browne Creative to lead sustainable renovation of acclaimed eco-lodge

andBeyond’s Phinda Forest Lodge in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa is set for a massive overhaul. Situated in andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve, the property — lauded as one of the first true eco-lodges at the time of its construction — will be reimagined within the context of the contemporary luxury safari, while retaining subtle references to its original ‘Zulu-zen’ décor with a new elegant and minimalist interior design.

Originally built in the early 1990s, the lodge’s innovative and progressive design made a huge statement on sustainability” at the time, said Kevin Pretorius, andBeyond Managing Director for South Africa Lodges. “It was sensitively constructed within the ancient sand forest with minimum impact at the heart of the project,” he explained.

Guest sitting area, Phinda Forest Lodge

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Interior designers Fox Browne Creative, who have previously worked on the refurbishments of the other five lodges on the reserve, are partnering with architectural designer Jack Alexander to reimagine and bring to life the new Phinda Forest Lodge.

Nestled inside the 2,471 acres of Africa’s last remaining dry sand forest in the north of andBeyond Phinda, the lodge embodies a commitment to minimise the impact on the environment. Its rooms were built in harmony with the existing flow of the forest and their design has stood the test of time. As such, the existing room structures will be used to redefine the new lodge in a way that will continue the legacy with which it was originally built.

“The sand forest is one of Phinda’s most distinctive and delicate habitats. It occurs on deep sands, the leftover fossilised dunes of an earlier coastline,” explains Pretorius. Many of the plant species encountered in sand forest can be found nowhere else on earth. Normally shy mammals such as the red duiker, suni and Tonga red squirrel are often encountered in sand forest, and the area is also rich in birds, with several species restricted solely to this habitat.

Due to the sensitivity of the habitat, the lodge refurbishment will utilise existing lodge and room structures to minimise impact associated with an entire rebuild, while also updating the architectural design and taking care not to detract from the essence of the lodge design and its original ‘Zulu-zen’ concept. Throughout the rooms and main guest areas, the interiors will be reimagined with new fixtures and finishes drawing inspiration from the surrounding sand forest, blending aspects of Japanese minimalism with an ode to local culture.

Guest Suite, Phinda Forest Lodge

Elements of the natural forest and Zulu culture will be brought into the room through the use of tactile textures and natural materials such as woven matting, textured grasscloth wallpaper, and hardwood floors, with natural stone tiling in the bathrooms. The intention is to reconfigure the room within the existing structure, creating a more comfortable layout that better utilises the existing space, while maximising the connection to the forest through wide open views.

Phinda Forest Lodge has always provided andBeyond guests with an exclusive, private experience immersed in the sand forest, and this will be enhanced through the redirection and reduction of pathways to and from the rooms.

Major structural additions include a family suite, a library and lounge, a walkway with central fire pit linking the main area to the library, a newly reshaped and tiered pool, and significant upgrades to the main dining and bar areas. In keeping with the other lodges in andBeyond’s portfolio, the family suite will comprise a contemporary designed and decorated standard suite linked to a newly built second bedroom, which can be accessed privately or through an additional linked passageway.

Phinda Forest Lodge Bar

A new purpose-built building will contain the library and sitting room, centred around a reading table and double-sided fireplace with surrounding areas for guests to relax. Timber sliding doors will lead to an outdoor deck with its own shaded spaces, nestled among the trees with views of patches of forest and the wetland areas.

The interior of the library and sitting room will combine elements of traditional Zulu culture with cosy minimalist elegance. A wooden walkway will seamlessly connect the library to a new pool area, which will include a reshaped and tiered swimming pool designed to maximise the scenic setting and timeless beauty of the sand forest. An all-new massage sala will also be constructed next to the pool.

Pool area, Phinda Forest Lodge

Other innovative additions will include a central fire pit that will be located between the library and main area, cast out toward the wetland and offering guests the opportunity to indulge in a fireside chat before and after dinner.

“We are excited about the refurbishment of one of our most loved lodges, and we hope to welcome guests back to Phinda Forest Lodge as of 1 December 2023,” adds Pretorius.

With such a wealth and diversity of unique offerings, combined with the newly refurbished Phinda Forest Lodge, andBeyond are excited to continue bringing its guests experiences that go beyond the expectation of average luxury to leave our world a better place.

Lead image: Guest area, Phinda Forest Lodge

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