Art at your feet

We explore designer ‘art rugs’ and a new look by designers Hesse Kleinloog at the luxurious Molori private villas in Madikwe

Known for its boldly eclectic aesthetic, Molori Safari chose the dynamic South African design team at Hesse Kleinloog to take a fresh look at its interiors. Known for their creative thinking from concept development to finishing touches, Megan Hesse and Andrea Kleinloog began to put together the new direction in the second quarter of 2020.

Very quickly, the talented interiors team realised that the organic floor spaces would be the place to start as many of the walls were curved and ideally suited to colourful rugs that would complement the lodge’s bold new artwork. But as everyone in the industry knows, the choice of circular designer rugs is woefully limited in South Africa – and in the height of the pandemic, no ships were arriving anytime soon. Admirably undeterred, Kleinloog’s team undertook a heart-warming interior design journey.

Molori Presidential Metsi main lounge featuring a Maja Marx rug

It all began when Kleinloog asked designer, Koos Groenewald of creative studio Jana+Koos: ‘Can you make a rug? Actually, can you make art and rugs?’ An artist in his own right, he jumped at the challenge. It started with just one rug, but as he began talking to other globally acclaimed, local artists about creating contemporary artworks to weave into large and colourful floor rugs, the excitement was palpable.

It was soon dubbed ‘the rug project’ and they began to look at rug manufacturers who could help realise their vision. In the end, they discovered the highly professional team of skilled craftspeople at Brabetz Carpet Mill in Durban. It was high-risk – there were no colour charts, no one was able to visit the mill during lockdown, and everything was done over video and phone. A collaborative force of trust, indeed!

“We collaborated with some of South Africa’s most provocative contemporary artists who agreed to have their artworks interpreted and woven into these magnificent rugs,” says Molori’s owner, Ivor Ichikowitz. The artists are Athi-Patra Ruga, Cameron Platter, Jody Paulsen, Maja Marx, Nabeeha Mohamed and Koos Groenewald.

Molori’s Ngwedi lounge featuring a Cameron Platter rug

Jana+Koos applied their graphic design ability and worked with Brabetz to skillfully interpret the artworks into digitized patterns, enabling South African weavers to produce these grand creations. Speaking of the rugs: ‘They really are artworks in their own right,’ enthuse Jana+Koos.

Each suite features one of the artist’s rugs and the main lodge area features the unexpected ‘Eat Me (Bananas)’ artwork by Paulsen. The artist hopes that his contribution invokes ‘a feeling of joy and happiness’. That it does. All the rugs do, in fact.

‘Eat Me (Bananas)’ artwork by Jody Paulsen

There is no doubt that the new Molori interiors invite an immersive, high-fashion experience, one that is unexpected in the African bush. Astonishing and fresh, it celebrates the country’s vibrant cultures and love of colour, while pushing creative boundaries and raising the bar, proving that even in the heart of a pandemic, South Africans are particularly good at ‘making a plan’!

Editing and production: J-P de la Chaumette
Photography: Supplied with hero image rug featuring artwork by Athi-Patra Ruga