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A Stylish Wand

Liz Biden has always had an eye for the unusual. She has a unique gift for creating beautiful spaces that are at once both stylish and comfortable. On her travels around the world she is always on the lookout for exquisite pieces of furniture and exotic fabrics.

Liz loves to share beautiful things. She works tirelessly and meticulously to design every nook of every room in The Royal Portfolio. She is a genius with colour combinations creating warm, inviting and inspiring spaces. Spaces in which guests are transported from their quotidian environments into an environment of relaxation and enjoyment.

Liz also loves to match things worn with things new and sees potential in even the most tattered of relics. Salvaging and repurposing furniture is second nature to Liz who rarely lets anything go to waste.

The success of The Royal Portfolio is in no small part due to Liz’s hands on approach, whether it be on the roof of The Silo Hotel tinkering with plans or negotiating over a piece of fabric in a Moroccan souk, her attention to detail and tireless dedication to the guest experience is a constant inspiration to The Royal Portfolio team.

An Eclectic Career

Liz began her career as a teacher, before running a medical debt-collecting business, when her children were young. She held no fewer than five jobs in university, ranging from making lampshades and designing jewelry, to working with Phil at a travelling disco. Liz and Phil first experienced commercial success as key players in the South African fashion house Jenni Button. Liz sold her share of the fashion business turning her hand instead to luxury travel.

The plan to convert their holiday home on a private game reserve into a luxury lodge began on a whim.

“I knew nothing about running a hotel, but I knew what I liked” recalls Liz. However, “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.”

Liz and Phil charged full-steam ahead, rebuilding the property, laying down roads, and bringing both power and water to a secluded area of bush. Nine months later, Royal Malewane opened for business.

Q&A with Liz Biden

Many guests, industry colleagues, designers and the press often ask about Liz Biden, so we collated a little Q&A with the owner of The Royal Portfolio.

What are your biggest design inspirations?

I love to take inspiration from my travels around the world. There is nothing more inspiring than visiting a wonderful new hotel or a historic building. And from magazines – I love magazines.

Do you draw inspiration from the local culture where your hotel is located or do you design something unique?

Absolutely. I love travelling internationally, but I travel a lot within South Africa as well and I definitely draw inspiration from our local cultures. There is so much vibrance, colour and energy in Africa. And I love to adapt things to suit a certain space. Where possible I like to support local designers and manufacturers.

What are the most unique features of your hotels? Can you comment on any specific features?

Each hotel is unique with a very different feel and energy. But more than that, each room and space is unique. I spend a lot of time at each hotel. Everything is chosen and put together by me, so I hope that guests will find something interesting and delightful around every corner.

Can you give a brief description of your design process?

Well, I start with the premise that each room must be different. But in terms of a process, it’s more a case of me finding inspiration in something and going from there. It might be a certain painting that sets me off. Other times it might be a carpet or an interesting piece of fabric.

Does architecture play a role in the design process? If so, how?

Until now, my husband Phil and I have designed and built the properties ourselves – adapting them from the original holiday homes.

But The Silo is different. The Silo is an original structure – a historic building built in 1921 that has been re-imagined by industrial designer Thomas Heatherwick of Heatherwick Studio in London. It’s a modern, stark and industrial space which will certainly require a different style to the other Royal Portfolio properties.

Is there something you include in all of your properties, no matter the theme?

Always wonderful art. But The Silo will take our art experience to a new level. The Silo will be located above Zeitz MOCAA in the grain elevator portion of the grain silo building. Zeitz MOCAA will be a modern art museum to rival the likes of MoMA in New York, the Tate Modern in London and the Prado museum in Madrid.