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The CIRCLE of LIFE…

When mFulaWozi developers Barry and Sonya Theunissen contacted award-winning Ballito interior designer Michele Throssell, they didn’t know it would lead to a serendipitous meeting of minds and families and the redesign of this exquisite, circle-of-life-inspired destination.

“It was as if the universe brought us together and I knew this project was meant to be.”
As the niece of one of the world’s most dedicated and outstanding conservationists, the late Dr Ian Player, and daughter of internationally-acclaimed golfer Gary Player, conservation has a special place in interior designer Michele’s heart. Which is why it was incredible that she was contacted by the Theunissens when they were looking for someone to breathe new life into their five-star Mthembu Lodge.

The rooms are magnificent and every detail has been given careful thought.

The safari lodge is built in a wilderness area that carries the footsteps of not only King Shaka Zulu, but also the late Dr Player, who launched Operation Rhino there, consequently saving the Southern White Rhino from the brink of extinction.

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“They didn’t realise who I was and had no idea about my connection to this part of the world through my uncle when we first spoke,” says Michele.

A true labour of love, mFulaWozi is the result of an incredible ‘meeting of minds’ between the developers and multiple Zulu chiefs who agreed to unlock 16 000 hectares of bushveld, expanding the footprint of the existing Hluhluwe/iMfolozi park. Both Mthembu Lodge and the other lodge on the reserve, Biyela Lodge, were entirely built by members of the surrounding communities.

“When I walked around the lodge, I could feel my uncle’s spirit there. There was no question about me being involved in this project,” she says, her voice breaking slightly with emotion. “The concept came to me so quickly and we managed to complete it in just three and a half months. It usually takes six months for a project like this.”

Everything, from the furniture to the wall hangings and even floor mats, was inspired by the circular design of the lodge.

Nestled on the banks of the White iMfolozi River, Mthembu Lodge is built in a symbolic, circular configuration.

Michele knew from the beginning that she wanted to celebrate the circular architecture of the lodge. The circle is often used in design to represent unity, commitment, love or community. “It was fitting that the architecture of this lodge – built by a couple so connected and committed to the good of the community and environment – was so strongly informed by this shape.”

Michele abandoned the more traditional rectilinear furniture and spatial planning in favour of soft curves and configurations more circular in nature. Everything, from the round tables and semi-circle headboards, to circular grass mats and baskets adorning the walls, was inspired by this beautiful shape. Drawing inspiration from the landscape, Michele looked at the wheaty, rusty colours of the surrounding grasses and the dark charcoal and grey blue of the river water.

“The circle tends to be viewed as feminine, which is why our colour palette, also inspired by the natural stone and sand surrounding the lodge, is a delicate yet rich blend of bone, sand, terracotta, dirty pink and chocolate. These colours are also very ‘happening’ in the design world at the moment.”

Staying true to the ethos and vision of the owners, Michele sourced as much of the décor and furniture as locally as possible. They visited the Zamimpilo community market in Zululand to source handmade Zulu ceramics, grass mats and baskets and chose locally-manufactured fabric and furniture pieces.

Michele and her team specialise in the design of lodges and high-end residential projects and their services also include helping on the operational side, often closing the gap between the design of a beautiful, five-star lodge and the execution in terms of guest experience. They can assist with training staff, stocking the kitchen with cutlery and crockery and even fine-tuning the gardens. This project, however, has much more of an emotional connection for Michele than most.
“Circles have no beginning and no end. They represent life and the life cycle – the delicate balance in nature, timelessness, connectivity and eternity. It felt so poignant that the owners approached me to help them breathe new life into their lodge when this specific area of land was so important to my dear, late uncle. It was ‘kismet’ … meant to be.”

Details:
Michele Throssell: www.michelethrossell.co.za, [email protected], @michelethrossellinteriors / mFulaWozi: www.mfulawoziwilderness.com,
087 057 5966, IG: @mfulawozi_wilderness, FB: @mfulawoziwilderness

Text: Leah Shone

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