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The Palazzo Interior Design Team “palatial tuscan design comes to life”

Undoubtedly one the most remarkable hallmarks of the Palazzo is its design – something that is both timeless and unforgettable. This is not just another hotel; it’s a landmark by virtue of the architecture that’s become part of the landscape of Gauteng. Now, 14 years after its opening, many of the members of the original development team returned to give the hotel a fresh new look, while still retaining the theming for which the hotel is so revered.

Under the direction of Development Manager Beverley Wallace and Development Specialist Robyn Campbell, and with Lo-Ann Abernethy of David Muirhead & Associates undertaking the interior, the refurbishment of the Palazzo has seen the transformation of 202 rooms and the construction of a beautiful new dining venue.

“The brief was clear: we needed to keep the essence of the design intent that was created back in 2000. A few trials in mock-up rooms and we quickly realised that a contemporary look wasn’t going to work, so we went back to the drawing board to create a design that would have a distinctly Tuscan feel, retaining the Palazzo’s stylish, authentic look. The theming is part of the DNA of the hotel; it’s what gives it character and ensures the timelessness of the property. David and Lo-Ann interpreted and executed the brief perfectly, with a design, textures, fabrics and colours that complement what we envisaged,” says Beverley. Lo-Ann Abernethy, Interior Designer at David Muirhead & Associates, was responsible for the execution of David’s designs: “We were inspired by the gardens and the buildings of the property, which we absolutely love, and they formed the starting point. We wanted to bring through that same essence into the interiors; the same authenticity that make it true to the Italian spirit, while being innately stylish, elegant and luxurious.” “The décor in the three room types – the standard room, executive room and suite – feature different colour schemes but with the same gold palette, complementing each other and bringing through the sumptuousness and textured fabrics. We used a lot of rich colours, especially in the standard room, which we cocooned in an opulent, gold wallpaper to create warmth, luxury and a romantic feel. In the corridors and suites, guests will find a collection of hand-picked antique pieces that are true works of art,” says Lo-Ann.

Much of the existing furniture was retained and either modified, reupholstered or re-coloured, and the bathrooms, which have kept the theme of the property, were not touched. “We are fortunate that the hotel has aged very well because the décor doesn’t date,” says Beverley. Moving onto Rosa, which is named for its proximity to the Palazzo’s rose garden, Robyn Campbell says, “The design of Rosa complements the Tuscan architecture and theme of the hotel and is located adjacent to the walkway that leads guests out of the hotel into Montecasino. The back wall of Rosa is an existing stone boundary wall that’s spectacularly clad in ivy, lending it a garden feel, with stacking doors opening out onto the garden and tables and chairs in the walkway in typical European café style.” Lo-Ann describes the interior of Rosa as being airy and Italian, yet slightly Provençal. “The design integrates with the garden, while the exposed ceilings feature timber beams from which chandeliers and fans are suspended, co-ordinating perfectly with the timber frame glass doors and timber floors. We’ve used a deep, rich wallpaper with a striking red flower running through it and extended the red to the new show kitchen and to the linen on the tables. The chairs are a combination of exquisite formal, deep button-back upholstered dining chairs and casual black-and-white outdoor wicker café style chairs.”

Recalling the early days of Montecasino’s construction in the late 90’s, Urania Despotidis, Development Finance Manager, describes how the Palazzo was one of the first design projects that was dominated by women, with female painters adorning the walls with specialised paint techniques and finishes to bring the Tuscan theme to life. Urania and Millicent Zwane (Account Assistant) are the women in the engine room who ensure that this and all the projects being undertaken by the Development team run smoothly from an accounting point of view. “Finance is a vital component of our close-knit team,” comments Beverley. “The Palazzo refurbishment hasn’t just been an upgrade. It’s been a journey and we’ve had an incredible team, from builders to suppliers to designers, who have given their very best to the project. For all of us, the greatest fulfilment comes from watching a project grow and seeing the end product. It’s worth all the frustrations, tight deadlines and unexpected eventualities. But even more gratifying than seeing a project come together is working with our amazing Tsogo Sun Development people, headed up by Kevin Page, who is a great supporter and mentor. Collectively, we have more than 100 years of experience and a wealth of knowledge between us. We love working together and we’re more like a family than colleagues.” If passion translates into beauty, then the Palazzo is quite simply this, in living colour.

Reference: Talking Tsogo | Issue 7 Spring 2014

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