May 2024

The next era – Singita Ebony Lodge continues to pioneer with its new nature-centred design

in Design
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The next era – Singita Ebony Lodge continues to pioneer with its new nature-centred design

Singita Ebony in the Sabi Sand holds a special place in our hearts. The first of our lodges, it pioneered a standard of safari when it opened in 1993, that has been held high ever since. Bringing luxury ecotourism and conservation together in experiences that leave a lasting impact, it’s a special and significant part of our story, and also represents our vision for the future.

A big part of this story is embedded in the spaces themselves – with each lodge uniquely embodying the spirit of Singita. But as the brand evolves, so too must the spaces. The recent refocus of Ebony’s design sought to elevate and enhance its location overlooking the Sand River surrounded by ancient trees, and honour its legacy.

The changes were made respectfully and gently by the design teams, GAPP, Hesse Kleinloog and Cecile & Boyd. “As the original lodge, Ebony has such a strong sense of tradition, which people feel protective of,” says Georgie Pennington, Group Head of Creative Direction. “But we realised we needed to evolve it to make way for a new iteration of the guest experience,” she says.

An enhanced sense of flow and lighter palette lift the spirit and soothe the senses at the reimagined Ebony Lodge in Singita Sabi Sand

Light & easy – an enhanced sense of flow

In the main lodge area, where the majority of the structural changes were made, the focus was on opening up the space to improve the sense of flow, and encourage socialising, while bringing nature in closer.

One example of this is the addition of the new bar-deli – often a favourite space among guests and one where people gather for coffee, drinks and conversation. Architecturally, a stronger tented element was also brought deeper into the lodge – with the built structure giving way to canvas elements and glass and creating a greater sense of transparency. In the dining room the incorporation of a tented ‘pavilion’ – canvas cladding under thatch with big windows looking onto the garden – transforms and opens the space up to the wilderness outside.

A total overhaul of the main lodge area included the addition of a new bar/deli space and a lighter, fresher dining room

A deeper connection to nature & Africa

Historically a more ‘traditional’ lodge in terms of design, Ebony is beloved for its sense of history and its classic, understated elegance. The new incarnation retains this timelessness, while introducing more of a sense of Africa and enhancing the connection to the outdoors.

Increased landscaping merges the lodge even more intimately with the surrounding vegetation, extensive use of glass allow the gardens and view to filter in, and the play of dappled light through the foliage brings the space alive.

A conscious decision to create a Conservation Room in the heart of the lodge further emphasises this connection to the wilderness – by making our purpose a central focus, it underscores its importance. “The intention of the space is to encourage guests to engage with the information and interact with tangible artefacts and specimens in order to gain insight into important projects being worked on by our non-profit partner in the region – the Singita Lowveld Trust – while gaining a deeper understanding of where we come from,” says Georgie.

The changes made enhance the lodge's relationship to its natural surroundings, connecting guests intimately with the setting

A fresh take on tradition

Finishes too, are timeless and pay homage to the past, but have been updated for a fresher and lighter feel. The focus on natural materials again reinforces the lodge’s connection to its surroundings. Soothing to the eyes as well as the senses, latte ceilings, linen slipcovers, timber and silk are all deeply comforting and calming. The walls have been lightened, and finished in an adobe style – a nod to the continent at large.

The effect is honest and authentic, but still elegant – woven, forged and carved elements and imperfect, earthy textures are balanced by contemporary lines. “Our approach was to make the spaces layered and luxurious but steer clear of clutter and rather add detail through texture,” says Cécile & Boyd's Geordi de Sousa Costa, of the clean-lines and calm colours that contribute to the new-look Ebony she was part of creating together with partner on the project, Paul van den Berg.

A homage to the origins of safari remains in subtle details and accents (like campaign chairs instead of wingbacks) but even these have been given a fresh twist – brass is inlaid and streamlined, antiques are combined with African artefacts and art. Tones too, are an extension of the surroundings – the palette of forest green, oat, ochre and indigo deeply soothing and immersive.

Traditional design elements have been preserved but combined with African motifs for an updated take on safari
The new cellar at Ebony celebrates beautiful craftsmanship and creates a sense of occasion around our wine-tasting experience

Evolving the guest experience

The update goes beyond just the spaces themselves, and extends to how they’re used. Informing all the changes was a desire to make the lodge’s communal spaces easier to spend time and socialise in.

The wine cellar is an expertly crafted space that makes more of an occasion of our wine-tasting experience. Bottles are displayed in beautiful racks with leather straps, a stone basin looks over the river, and the cellar leads onto a dedicated tasting room through glass doors. A new informal lounge has also been added below the updated wine-tasting area as a self contained-space for children to retreat to for games or reading, and new seating hubs have been introduced on the decks to create more space to relax in groups.

In the rooms, the layouts remain the same structurally, but the interiors have been refreshed and adjustments made to make the spaces more user friendly and open. Multifunctional furniture, improved lighting, redesigned bathroom vanities, and comfortable new deck furniture all serve to enhance the sense of sanctuary Ebony’s suites have always offered.

Contemporary pieces and multifunctional furniture make the classically elegant suites feel fresher and more user friendly

Explore the fresh face of our founding lodge

Immerse yourself in the peaceful spaces of Ebony – speak to our team about planning a trip to this special retreat in the wilderness here.

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