&Beyond Tengile River Lodge
Sabi Sands

Photographed by Elsa Young

When Michele Throssell Interiors was brought on-board as the interior consultants for & Beyond’s newest game lodge, Tengile River Lodge in the Sabi Sands Reserve, it was a huge scoop to say the least. The reason being is that the world’s most prestigious luxury accommodation brands, & Beyond, already have their own in-house design team that works on all their projects. But with this one, their pièce de résistance of African big game lodges, they felt compelled to galvanize a specialist team, which comprised of acclaimed architect Nick Plewman and the MTI team.

The site chosen was a quiet enclave along a curve of Mpumamlanga’s Sand River in what has become renowned as Southern Africa’s big game reserve, Sabi Sands, home to other exclusive lodges of the Singita and Londolozi brands. Plewman’s expertise in eco-sensible yet luxurious design is exemplary here at Tengile River Lodge where all nine chalets at roughly 180m2 each, are hardly noticeable from a distance.

‘The way the site was chosen and the way Nick set the buildings into the landscape right on the river are definitely what makes this lodge special, it hasn’t aesthetically disrupted the landscape,’ according to Michele Throssell. It was from here that her and her team took their reference to create an escape that is sensitive to its surrounds and reflects the nuanced details of the idyllic location. They chose very dark earthy tones to aid in its blending in as well as keeping the lighting low and subtle at night so it doesn’t look like a city in the bush.

When it came to the actual interiors the MTI team again took their cue from nature and incorporated distressed wood wrapped along the walls and right up onto the ceilings. Aside from big game, the site is home to a plethora of indigenous trees like the the Tamboti’s and Jackkalberry’s all of which look like they’re straight out of an African fairytale. ‘I walked around and collected the other-worldly bark and leaves as inspiration for the colour palettes,’ says Michele.

Even the custom-made furnishings made by a host of South Africa’s crème-de-la-crème of design talent like African Sketchbook, Egg Designs, Ngwenya Glass, and Houtlander, to name a few, incorporated this scene of Southern Africa into their work.

‘We used local designers African Sketchbook who handpainted a lot of the fabrics for the bedrooms and lounges and who were inspired by the dappled light of the trees. Local artists were commissioned to do stitch detail reflecting mud and leaves,’ says Michele.

But with all projects undertaken by MTI, the element of the unexpected has become somewhat of a trademark, and here at Tengile River Lodge it is the thoughtful inclusion of an industrial element within the design aesthetic. ‘We took a lot of steel and stone from the old Selati railway line which we repurposed into a terrazzo. The thin steel windows link to the railway history of the area but also create that indoor-outdoor flow in a sophisticated contemporary way,’ says Michele.

If nature is the overall inspiration, the use of industrial practicalities and features really makes the luxe interiors come alive and distinguish Tengile River Lodge from other game lodges of the same 5-star calibre.