Stories of Design from Royal Malewane
Every hotel room has a story to tell, whether it’s through a unique colour scheme or unexpected piece of furniture.
Liz Biden has mastered the art of creating beautiful and relaxing spaces. She’s turned her own holiday homes into some of the most exquisite boutique hotels in the world. With no formal training, Liz has never been bound by rules and continues to push the limits of her own creativity. Her interiors are rich, colourful, eclectic and playful – always comfortable – and utterly unique.
Liz is always on the lookout for exquisite pieces of furniture and exotic fabrics during trips around the world. Although her taste varies so much, the one thing that every room has in common is an element of fun. Liz believes every room should have something old, something new and something wacky in addition to beautiful art to bring it life.
Below we take a look at some of the stories behind Liz’s cleverly crafted rooms at Royal Malewane. The plan to convert their holiday home on a private game reserve into a luxury lodge 20 years ago began on a whim. “I knew nothing about running a hotel, but I knew what I liked,” recalls Liz. “The fact that I’d never been in this industry before didn’t cause me to hesitate for a moment. It must have been a fit of madness.”
The design inspiration behind Royal Malewane’s beautifully classic and more traditional style had input from interior designer and artist Ralph Krall – one of Liz’s close friends.
Liz invited Ralph to spend time at Royal Malewane during its construction. On his trip, Ralph said to Liz that if you buy something good you can always put it next to anything else that is good. “Hence when I see something special I buy it and place it in one of the three huge storerooms that I pull from for a project,” explains Liz.
The grand entrance to the Main Lodge can be seen above. Liz made sure it was deep, spacious and open to allow a constant inflow of fresh air from the African bush during warm, sunny days. As guests approach they are greeted by two powerful, life-sized cheetah’s designed by Dylan Lewis – one of the world’s foremost sculptors of the animal form.
Liz is a genius when it comes to creating warm and inviting spaces. Spaces in which guests are transported from their quotidian environments into an environment of relaxation and enjoyment. One way in which she ensured the comfort of her guests upon arrival, especially on cold winter nights, was through the addition of a crackling fireplace. Guests love walking into this fire-lit room with their drink of choice in hand after a long day of traveling.
The Masiya Bar was built during more recent renovations, adding another dimension to Royal Malewane. This tranquil bar and outdoor lounge pays homage to the history of Royal Malewane and its Master Trackers, in particular, Wilson Masiya.
Everywhere you look there are bits and pieces bursting with colour. The red, white and black pattern seen above was designed by children from the Lalela Project. Liz took their custom designs and had them printed onto fabric to create unique and decorative cushions. Overlooking the watering hole where elephants regularly visit, the Masiya Bar is the perfect spot for guests to enjoy a G&T whilst recounting the adventures of the day.
Africa House is a three minute drive from the Main Lodge. This spacious, exclusive-use bush villa has six en-suite bedrooms either side of a central courtyard. Each bedroom is uniquely decorated with a private outside shower and deck. Antique furniture, plush silk furnishings and Persian rugs create an exotic and luxurious feel.
While traveling through Kenya, Liz came across the ornate wooden doors. Transporting such large fixtures from Kenya to Africa House in The Greater Kruger National Park was a logistical triumph.
Colour is a powerful design tool, it has the ability to alter one’s mood and emotional state. Liz has never been afraid to play with colour and loves to experiment with interesting and unexpected colour schemes to add a touch of theatre to the guest experience.
She had initially ordered custom-made four-poster beds from Mombasa, Kenya, however when they arrived she thought the untouched Teak wood looked extremely boring. And so – much to Phil’s surprise – she began painting each bed a different eye-catching colour. Her bright yellow, lime green, cherry red and sky blue four-poster beds are now fun focal points in each of the bedrooms at Africa House.
The Farmstead is a beautiful new lodge at Royal Malewane just a 12 minute drive south of the existing lodge. Liz and Phil wanted it to be different to Royal Malewane – where the Main Lodge has a more classic and traditional style, The Farmstead offers something unique with a more relaxed and contemporary feel.
The entrance is lined with dazzling chandeliers hanging from tall Silver Cluster-Leaf trees. At first the idea seemed crazy, but Liz wanted her guests to be greeted with something out of the ordinary as they arrive at night. This almost cinematic scene will become even more beautiful as the trees grow taller over time.
In the main lodge area of The Farmstead there is a vintage North African banking kiosk that was repurposed as a serving hatch for the delicious cuisine of Executive Chef Brandon Souris. When Liz first laid eyes on this interesting piece of furniture, it was in extremely poor condition.
Our chefs now enjoy serving and laying out freshly baked breads, tasty treats and fruit juices through the individual cubbyholes. On top Liz placed farm-style décor and brass and copper goodies she had collected from little town markets on her travels. One of her favourite local markets in Cape Town is the Milnerton market where she collects bric-a-brac as she goes.
The green and blue colour palette used throughout The Farmstead is a reflection of the beautiful blue skies and green vegetation found in the African bush. Greens and blues are known to have a calming effect and encourage relaxation ensuring that The Farmstead is in complete harmony with its natural surroundings.
20 years on and over 100 rooms later, Liz is now responsible for four of the most glamourous luxury boutique hotels in the world. Royal Malewane, Birkenhead House, La Residence and The Silo Hotel have attracted many of the world’s most discerning and distinguished travellers. A Perfect Stay tells the visual story of the Biden family and of The Royal Portfolio – including wonderful photography showcasing the extraordinary creativity and style of Liz Biden as well as design tips and a foreword by Sir Elton John and David Furnish.
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