Attention to design: Sandalwood Lodge

When the current owners of Sandalwood Lodge were looking for a suitable property to establish upmarket boutique accommodation they saw and fell in love with the house at 11 Quorn Avenue in Mount Pleasant. They could immediately see the potential to develop the property into something quite extraordinary. They made an offer which was at first rejected but a year or two later in 2011 they were able to purchase the house and begin to develop it into the lodge. It was a Mediterranean style house with high tongue and groove ceilings that followed the pitch of the roof and big windows overlooking a well established garden with a tropical feel. The original house had four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a kitchen and separate lounge and dining rooms, a study, and a large verandah overlooking the landscaped gardens.

The original hand drawn landscape plans for the garden still exist, although somewhat faded and yellowed with age. Each tree on the plan – including the two sandalwood trees that give the lodge its current name – is numbered with a corresponding key at the bottom, so it was almost like a botanical showcase. The house was designed by local architect Anthony Wales Smith and built in the 1970s. Wales Smith was regarded as one of the first architects in Zimbabwe to design houses that take into account local conditions rather than copying European style bungalows. (See: Culture and Customs of Zimbabwe by Oyekan Owomoyela, Greenwood Press, 2002.) Abed Khalatbari had already designed some other residential properties as well as the Avondale Cafe Nush, so he had very clear ideas in mind for re-designing the Quorn Avenue to transform it into the luxurious guest lodge which is today. (After completing Sandalwood Lodge, Khalatbari went on to design the new Cafe Nush at Borrowdale Village Walk featured in Structure and Design volume 6.)

With the assistance of local design gurus Galleria Celso – design consultants and interior architects – it took around three months to draw up the final AutoCAD plans for the new transformation. Planning approval and permission for change of use from City of Harare took a while longer and work finally started in 2012. The demolition of some of the interior walls, the new built additions and renovations, and the final interior decor details took a relatively quick 18 months, and the new Sandalwood Lodge was opened in 2013. Anthony Wales Smith was able to view the new renovations and gave his whole-hearted stamp of approval for Khalatbari’s design.

The new lodge is relatively small with a total of nine rooms, all en suite. There’s the exceptional Executive Suite as well as two other luxury suites contained within the main house. All three rooms are decorated with simple, understated, modern elegance with outstanding fixtures and finishes. Most of the furniture and fittings, like the headboards, bedside units, wardrobes and desks, were designed and custom built by Khalatbari to ensure that their look is perfectly attuned to the overall interior design scheme. Texture rather than colour defines the look, so the headboards are padded with leather and the linens and fabrics are of exceptionally good quality. The floors in the bedrooms, as in the main reception rooms of the lodge, are 15mm industrial wood laminate, which is both durable and beautiful, and adds a very warm, luxurious feel. The high ceilings that follow the sloped pitch of the roof have been retained, and extra windows have been added to rooms. Each room has a private deck overlooking the garden, so the rooms feel spacious, light and airy.

There are two self catering suites with ultra-modern, state of the art kitchenettes. The ground floor selfcatering unit was converted from the old garage and a second suite was added on top making a double-storey structure to the left of the reception area. These suites also have wood laminate floors and high ceilings and plenty of windows. The ground floor suite has large French doors that open onto the garden courtyard and be opened up fully when working in the kitchen. They have modern, high spec en suite bathrooms with a both a shower and a bath tub to relax in and soak away your cares. The kitchenette areas have an induction cooking plate that has specially formulated cooking utensils which work together with the plate to ensure safety and convenience. They also have extractors over the cooking area to whisk away any unwanted cooking odours so the rooms always stay fresh, a microwave, and a large fridge.

A clever design idea which shows Khalatbari’s attention to detail is the small niches either side of the double bed. The space was too small to accommodate conventional bedside tables and the pillars on either side of the bed are structural and couldn’t be removed. The ingenious solutions – cut niches out of the pillars, add a built in table tops big enough for a bedside lamp, a book and a coffee mug, and turn the entire wall between the pillars into a headboard.

Across the garden courtyard are four more double rooms with en suite bathrooms and the outstanding attention to design details incorporated in all the other rooms. The courtyard has a unique water feature which consists of water falling across a clear sheet of glass. Behind the glass are wooden logs and a small motor blows up paper flames in orange, red and yellow so that at night it looks as if there are flames behind the glass.

All the rooms have Egyptian cotton linen and top quality bath towels, as well as DStv, Wi-Fi, universal power points and air conditioning. The rooms are also sound proofed so guests can enjoy a restful night’s sleep.

In the lodge’s main reception areas there is a formal dining room which steps down to the main lounge with a fireplace for cooler evenings. The lounge has big folding wooden doors opening onto a large decked area where more relaxed meals can be enjoyed. Behind the lounge is seating for the breakfast area as well an honesty bar where guest can help themselves. There’s a large outdoor verandah lounge area, part of which is covered with a translucent Perspex roof. When it’s too sunny white fabric drapes can be swathed under the Perspex to control the sun. The other part of the verandah is underneath the conference centre and has open arch ways on two sides with large stone clad pillars that enhance the Mediterranean atmosphere.

The upstairs conference venue has large windows overlooking the garden. The windows can be blacked out for video or power point presentations and there are facilities for video conferencing. The venue can accommodate 18 delegates around a boardroom style table or up to 30 delegates in cinema style seating.

Just beside the arched verandah are a fully equipped gym and a sauna for guests to enjoy. There are even weekly yoga sessions held here and guests are free to join in if they wish. It’s conveniently close to the swimming pool so guests can enjoy a swim after a workout or a sauna session.

The footprint of the main house has remained largely unchanged, although the interior arrangements of the rooms have been substantially altered. With the addition of the new rooms and the gym and conference centre the area has more than doubled from around 300 square metres to around 700 square metres. And all of this has been accomplished without encroaching on the extraordinary gardens and still maintaining a cool, uncluttered Mediterranean atmosphere, adapted to our African conditions. Khalatbari had the initial vision to transform the old house and also acted as project manager and interior decorator. It’s a tribute to his design aesthetic, attention to detail, and his ability to imagine the house’s potential.

For more information contact: or visit their website: www.

Photos Courtesy Of Sandalwood Lodge

Plan And Elevation Courtesy Of Galleria Celso

Text By Michael Nott


















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