Designers of Africa: creating a new look for award winning Chongwe River House

Designed by Neil Rocher and built in 2006, award winning Chongwe River House has recently enjoyed a refurbishment overseen by Gillie Lightfoot (founder of Zambian companies Tribal Textiles and Jackal and Hide) and utilizing the skills of some extremely talented designers and artisans all based in Africa.

Working with artists she’s known over the past 10 years, Gillie pulled together a small design team to give the House a new lease of life; with the focus being on “hand designed, beautifully crafted and organic interiors that were specifically inspired by the unique design of Chongwe House and its surroundings.”

One of the new design features is a gorgeous chandelier hanging above the main dining area. Sourced by Abi James of Soul Design and created by Riaan Chambers, this statement piece is a unique and innovative central feature fashioned from recycled glass and resembles a cascading waterfall. Not only does it draw the eye, but when the breeze comes through the House, the soft tinkle of glass combined with the running water from the indoor fountain make for lovely background music.

For the larger pieces such as wooden dressers and outdoor chairs, hand-made items were commissioned from Nzito Furniture which evolved 10 years ago in Tanzania and recently expanded into Zambia. Founded by Nicola Swynnerton and utilizing local carpenters, the company has now grown to thirty artisans, creating hand-made, contemporary pieces with traditional skills from recycled wood taken from old fishing boats and dhows that have finished their life at sea.

The colour scheme now incorporates greensand teal blues, creating a very unique palette in every room. One of the biggest impacts has come from the soft furnishings;Suzie Lightfoot’s Malawian based company, Katundu supplied much of the soft upgrade from hand produced and ethically traded bedspreads, cushions and lampshadesmade from glass beads, shells and natural seeds. Gillie added many touches with her unique style including combining a blend of wild wood, horn, hand painted tribal textiles, leather and metal. From embellished cushions to a 2 meter mobile wall hanging - Gillie’s creative designs ensure every corner of the house is intriguing. 

The extension of the front deck has created a functional, relaxing space that has become the focus of all activity at the House. Guests have relished the space to relax on a pool lounger or curl up on a sofa in this new lounge area, with a cold drink and a view that has made Chongwe famous. 


Contact         or April – November)


For more information on the individual artists involved: