WORDS Biddi Rorke IMAGES David Ross
A west-facing Namibian lodge soaks up the best views of sunset drenched dunes – and lends a touch of whimsy to the brutal landscape.
It’s like Wes Anderson meets Retro Miami film set in the heart of the desert: a 24-suite boutique on the border of the Namib Naukluft National Park that’s punctuated with unexpected shades of pink. Undeniably cheeky it may be, but Desert Grace – the latest addition to the Gondwana Collection suite of offerings – doesn’t scrimp on comfort or ignore eco-sensitivities. Bags filled with Namib desert sand were used to build the exterior walls, while the walkways that snake out from the central entrance/bar/dining hub were created from a mix of concrete and recycled glass.
Inside, think terrazzo tiles, neon signs, pink umbrella stands, popcorn, pink drinks and feathers in varying shades of rose to acid pink. The message is clear: this sliver of Hollywood glamour takes itself seriously when it comes to ensuring guests have a playful desert experience.
“When we were choosing the colour palette, we drew inspiration from the surrounding minerals – such as rose quartz and agate – and the colour of the dunes at sunset,” says Chris Browne, co-founder of Fox Browne Creative, who designed the interiors. “The buildings, with their tensile shade cloths, are essentially simple structures, and provided a clean slate for our vision.” The bar is definitely the hero of the main buildings, and its backlit stained-glass counters feature animals found in the area, including ostrich, gemsbok and jackal. “At night these counters glow, giving the room a lovely homely feel and encouraging lots of socialising.”
To minimise light pollution, the Fox Browne design team relied on very few focused downlighters. “We only have two decorative pendant feature lights in the entire lodge,” Chris explains. “However, the retro neon bar sign casts a gentle pink glow across the communal areas, tempting guests to make the most of ‘one night in Namibia’.”
In the generous guest suites, complete with private splash pools, floor-to-ceiling doors celebrate the vibrant vistas beyond. Window dressings mimic lavish stage curtains that guests have to draw closed with a flourish against the night-time desert chill.
Chris says the little tented changing room in the arrival/reception/shop building is the ultimate nod to American film writer-director Wes Anderson, known for his idiosyncratic visual style. “It anchors the room – but it also inspires all sorts of extrovert guest behaviour!” Just a dusty 50km trip away from one of the country’s most famous landmarks, Sossusvlei, Desert Grace is a winsome space. As you check in, you’re hard-pressed not to check your worldly troubles at the door. Pink gin, anyone?