How does one transform a presidential home into a unique accomodation site for guests with a taste for the bespoke stay? We chatted to Ehrardt Nieuwoudt, owner of kim h nieu, about his transformational vision come to life and what guests can expect when visiting Sanctuary Mandela.
What is your full name and position at Kim H?
I am the owner of kim h nieu, a high-end interior design company. The design on Sanctuary Mandela is elegant and stately.What was your inspiration for this?
We were briefed to design a space of reflection that tells the story of Nelson Mandela without feeling like a museum. It had to feel like a hotel, but also like a home. I designed the space to incorporate various items that bring out an element of structure. We had to demolish sections and keep certain elements of the original structure. This is emphasized by many of the furniture and finishing items that shows or hints at its structure.
How did Madiba himself influence your design choices?
I included some patterns and materials that subtly hints at Madiba’s heritage. Throughout the space you will see elements that tell a story of his life or the original home. I almost hid these elements so you have to look for it. The influences of Sanctuary Mandela are simplicity, quality and masculinity.
What are a few signature and special touches you would like guests to pay particular attention to?
Upon entering you are greeted by a sculpture of Mandela reading a paper. This is based on a photo that was taken of him on the exact porch outside of the house. When you enter the house you are met by the reception counter. I wanted to do something different to greet and prepare guests for the experience, and be a nod to the past house, but had no idea what to do. After months of design attempts I remembered I kept a few of the original bricks during demolition and…problem solved! We incorporated this design concept into the reception counter. The two boardrooms are largely situated where his study was. There was a curved thatched addition we had to demolish. To honor this structure we showed the footprint of the structure through an exposed section of its foundation under glass and picked up on the curve in the swimming pool with its steps. Other areas are also the three bedrooms we managed to keep, including the original main bedroom.
How big was your team who worked on the decor for Sanctuary Mandela?
We were a two-man team, with my junior interior designer Sam Alexander Jnr working alongside me.
Do you have a favourite room at Sanctuary Mandela and why?
Basically everything! This was a challenging project. Partly due to its specific importance, but also as we had to work with a very different and conflicting brief. There was more than one client involved. We were working with a space that had to be new while retaining as much as possible. The whole experience, though, was very exciting and yet humbling. I feel honored to have been able to work on this iconic, international landmark. I absolutely love the feeling of the double volume space that opens up with its skylight as you walk in. The bar and restaurant are statement spaces as it is reflective of Nelson Mandela the man instead of Nelson Mandela as a politician, although it is difficult to separate the two.