On the day Suzi Hellens received a call asking her to quote on the Dragonfly Conference Centre project, she was on Pinterest. “I was looking at a photograph of a dragonfly captioned ‘dragonflies are kisses from heaven’,” her pale blue eyes light up. “I took that as a sign that I had to be involved!”
Suzi met with General Manager, Malcolm Samuel, who gave her a concise brief: “he said he wanted something unique, that nobody had seen before. That’s my speciality, so I was excited to get started.” The space was a blank canvas: after Simbithi purchased the building from Thumbtribe a few years ago, the ‘industrial’ look and feel was still prevalent.
Interestingly, Suzi was inspired by a familiar collection of beaded ‘bowls’, which had hung on the Fig Tree Restaurant’s entrance wall for years before they were removed. “I thought it might be a good idea to incorporate this little piece of Simbithi history into the new design.”
In keeping with Simbithi’s ‘eco’ ethos, Suzi recycled, and up-cycled, the room’s existing furniture. “I focused on the feel of the room, rather than the bones of the room,” she smiles. “There were a few sofas and chairs that I covered with two or three different kinds of high-end fabric, and coffee tables that I redesigned and decoupaged.” There are several
personal touches, too, like the striking pendant lights that Suzi handmade: she hand-dyed raffia and knotted them into what she calls the “jewellery of the room”. Also, a bespoke checkered table made by Suzi’s 80-year-old mother. “It reminds me of backgammon,” Suzi winks.
Throughout the project, Suzi worked with local entrepreneurs. “It’s the cornerstone of every project I take on. I like to give back to those who really appreciate the business.” The upholstery was done by a small, Stanger-based business and the exquisite beadwork on some of the pieces was done by a HIV-upliftment group based in Pietermaritzburg.
The result is what Suzi calls ‘organoglam’. “It’s a space that stays true to Simbithi’s nature-inspired identity, with a touch of luxury. It was great to work with Malcolm on this project: I appreciated his trust in me, and his open-mindedness during the process.”