Eco chic in Africa
Tanzania’s Oyster Bay Lodge is a perfect setting for eco-conscious decor
Words Tracy Lynn Chemaly Photographs Merwelene van der Merwe
A transit luxury boutique hotel in Tanzania naturally demands inspired thought in terms of its decor. An essential requirement for the Oyster Bay in Dar es Salaam is that it should offer a smooth transition to guests travelling to and from a luxurious game reserve or island holiday.
Known to travel around the world in search of beautiful furniture and bespoke decor items, Chris Weylandt and Kim Smith were the perfect couple to tackle this Tanzanian task as both are highly aware of the need for people to feel at home when they’re far away from theirs. Partners in the 10-year-old furniture enterprise, Weylandts, Chris and Kim managed to turn the completely refurbished Oyster Bay into a contemporary African chic space by sourcing interesting pieces one might choose for your own home. Selected from around the world, these items reflect the aesthetic of well-travelled guests who appreciate an African take on interiors. ‘It’s important to create our own identity,’ says Kim, ‘but at the same time we must not limit ourselves to only sourcing products in this country or on the African continent. We need to reflect that South Africa is part of the world.’
Left: The bathrooms of all eight luxury suites are decorated with a fascinating Chinese window above the bath, a solid piece of wood carved into an organic stool, and a bamboo ladder for the towels. Right: A coconut-shell chandelier brings natural elegance to the room.
The luxurious Oyster Bay is filled with wooden objects and a very neutral palette – in line with Weylandts’ eco-conscious approach to decor. Their eco philosophy means that sustainable products are always sought. Drift-wood tables are lit by silkworm-cocoon lights in their exciting showrooms, while at Oyster Bay, coconut-shell chandeliers illuminate woven carpets and deep, comfortable, Weylandts-manufactured sofas on cool screed floors leading out to the beach.
‘Being eco-conscious is not just about the responsible use of material,’ says Chris. ‘You also have to take the method of manufacturing into account. We like to source our products from places where labour skills are mixed with technology and a strong design ethos.’ The couple prefer hand finishes and advocate the use of skilled crafters, such as can be seen in Kim’s favourite piece, titled the Floating World – an enormous lamp that took a patient craftsman a full week to wind 14.5kg of rattan into its spectacular organic form.
Above: Old African currencies stand above the cabinet and on the Chinese weaving table. Antique medicine bottles add to the old-world appeal of this lounge area
‘You may pay more for eco-conscious items, but you’ll be paying for their longevity and their individuality, and you’ll feel good about your social conscience,’ says Kim, adding that Weylandts doesn’t follow seasonal trends. ‘It’s irresponsible to have disposable decor. I mean, where does it all end up?’
Chris adds that consumers are becoming more familiar with this approach. ‘There’s been a shift in consciousness and people are asking more questions about our products.’ Kim likens this new take on decorating to the organic food revolution: ‘In the same way that people are more conscious of what they put into their bodies, they’re becoming more aware of the things they surround themselves with.’
Left: The Classic chair is synonymous with Weylandts’ sense of style. Right: The teak root behind Chris Weylandt and Kim Smith is an example of how this design and decor duo turn reclaimed materials into works of art
CHRIS AND KIM’S ECO-DECORATING TIPS
• Only use plantation timber and non-toxic finishes.
• Use fallen or dead tree trunks as coffee tables or side tables.
• When adding colour to a neutral palette, pull colours from nature and use natural or vegetable dyes.
• When all your decor is in a natural tone, make it come alive with various textures.
• Purposely roughen timber and contrast it with sleek stainless steel – this juxtaposition will prevent wood from becoming boring.
• Don’t overfurnish – less clutter means you can have interesting pieces that one can actually see.
• Don’t close your house up in drapes and curtains. Indoor-outdoor flow is critical, especially in a country with such a lovely climate as South Africa, where we actually have an outdoors.