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Travel Blog

Adventure in Design: The Award-Winning Zambezi House Back
Adventure in Design: The Award-Winning Zambezi House
17 July, 2018

Zambezi House recently made Conde Nast’s “most beautiful restaurants in the world” list, thanks to the creative and inspirational team behind the brand, Amatuli.

The shell of Zambezi House was constructed with a combination of 20 and 40-foot containers. Elize van der Merwe was tasked to come up with a conceptual design for their interiors. Having in the past been involved with the revamp of Emily Moon River Lodge, and the design details of Razor Charlie, Sir James van der Merwe, and Katy’s Palace Bar - this posed a new challenge.  Moulding cold, hard steel into the beautiful riverine forest on the banks of this magnificent river; the results speaking for themselves.

Trying to avoid a corporate work-life, Elize joined the team 14 years ago and fell in love with the magic that is Amatuli. Five years later she bought shares in the company, and today she manages the businesses, which include a retail warehouse, restaurants, and event spaces.

While product sourcing for Amatuli and her own travels through South and Central America, Elize developed a passion for architecture and interior design. Feeling how “vanilla” South African interiors were compared to the bright and bold designs in South America, she wanted to create spaces that told a story through the use of colour and design elements, allowing any user of the space to be transported into a different world. 

The Inspiration Behind Zambezi House

Upon Elize and Mark’s first visit, Zambezi House was merely another vacant plot of land. Beks Ndlovu, Mark’s restaurant partner and exterior conceptualist, wanted to use containers to build the space’s exterior; movable objects with minimal permanent impact.  This would be the very first time Victoria Falls would see an industrial-feel building on her banks.

Elize says the biggest challenge in making the Zambezi House dream tangible, was incorporating the shipping containers in their chosen location; marrying cold metal with the breath-taking natural beauty of the river banks.

Her solution? “To bring as much of the outside view into the interior space”, which inspired the botanical wallpaper in the lounge and to utilise local architecture of aerated Zimbabwean breeze block walls.

“The artwork on the back of the bar wall was a fortuitous meeting with a charcoal artist in a tourist hub in Victoria Falls named Lemmington. Although he was mostly selling charcoal nudes at the time, his talent was undeniable, and we commissioned him to do a rendition of the famous Victoria Falls painting by Thomas Bains.  We felt that this was the perfect way of bringing the falls further up river and into Zambezi House.”

The team were all in agreement, the colour palette of the restaurant was the most natural choice. Inspired by the greens from the beautiful foliage on their front door; the pink hues of the sunsets on the banks of the Zambezi; and copper, the deposits that the surrounding area is famous for. It was a given that the interior décor of natural wood and metal would complement the blank canvas of the containers.

In their effort to disrupt as little as possible of the surrounding environment, one of Zambezi House’s most charming elements are the trees that grow freely through the deck in the middle of the restaurant. To hide an outstanding harshness felt from the containers, the interiors are lined with plants, and earthy and organic décor.

Step inside and explore this industrial-chic wonderland, with every space transformed into a living work of art. Incorporating all of the magic that is the Amatuli brand, each surface is adorned with something uniquely African, from Nguni hides, mud and Kuba cloths, to David Ballam prints.  All the tables, as well as the bars, where made by the Amatuli workshop.

If any of the items used at Zambezi House piqued your interest, please let us know as they might be available at the Amatuli warehouse.

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