Wednesday 14 April 2021
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Women unleashed

Situated 68 kilometres north of Mowe Bay, between the Hoarusib and Hoanib Rivers in the Skeleton Coast amidst heaps of sand dunes, this is where the majestic Shipwreck Lodge can be found. The lodge which opened its doors to the public on 6 June and is the only shipwreck inspired designed lodge of its kind in Namibia.

Those who are interested in visiting the lodge can surely expect to be welcomed by a pleasant scenery of great architectural work, design and exquisite décor.

The Lounge met up with the team behind the interior décor and design of the lodge. This was solely done in order to get an insight of the whole thought process that went into creating the mind blowing magic with in the lodge.

Melanie Van der Merwe is the owner of Women Unleashed. Joined by her team, this bold young Namibian interior design and manufacturing company has 17 people currently employed and they landed the opportunity to work on the lodge’s décor and design elements.

She described the experience as having been one that was rather difficult, but enjoyable as well..

Van der Merwe who prefers to describe herself as an interior artist, highlighted that the conceptualisation stage took a lot of time because the company wanted to make sure that everything about the lodge and within the lodge was 100 percent Namibian.

“We wanted to procure and manufacture as much as we could locally; that is why all the furniture with in the lodge is locally made. However there is a small fraction of other elements which are not Namibian such as carpets.  That was so because it was done out of necessity.

We also wanted to keep money within the country and we are happy to note that we managed to keep the money in Namibia because 90 percent of furniture used were all manufactured here”.

She explained that having worked on a shoe string budget for the lodge, Women Unleashed had to be very creative, innovative and original by making the best of what they were given to work with.

“It’s unfortunate that people usually spend a lot of money on the building itself and forget to invest in décor and design. Interior design usually takes up 10 to 20 percent of a budget allocated to certain projects. And we as a company have worked out methods as to how we use that 20 percent and to turn it into something of value.

For instance, the lodge has small circular windows and instead of buying material to make curtains we instead propped wood into those windows and carved African designs onto them which was cost efficient”.

Creating elements that people have not made use of before such as painting the head boards of beds is one of the company’s steps where they thought out of the box and they believe, this makes them special.

Furthermore, local craft makers from Omba gallery and various other potters work were also used for the design aspect of the lodge. This was done in order to give visitors a feel of the kind of talent the local community has to offer.

Having spent two weeks camping outside of the lodge just to bring the entire Namibian look and feel to it, Van der Merwe further highlighted a few of the challenges that they experienced.

“We went with a staff of 10 people, and although we managed to pull it off one must note that it was challenging. We battled with elements of nature, it was foggy, wet and cold. The mist ran down our tents daily and we now know the lodge is called Shipwreck, because of the extremity of that area”.

She however noted that one night after all the work was done and dusted, the team sat among each other while glazing at the sky filled with stars and realised that being there was pure magic.

In terms of expectation, Van der Merwe revealed that the lodge is extremely unique and those seeking to visit it can expect an experience of a life time because of its concept.

The concept allows people to go back in time and to just wallow in the silence and solitude that comes with the idea of a shipwreck. At the same time it allows for people to reflect and absorb life in general. This is the true essence of Shipwreck.

Van der Merwe is positive that Women Unleashed will become a well-known household name in Namibia. She also believes that the company will go beyond the borders of Namibia.  Apart from the Shipwreck Lodge, the company is also working on four other lodges as well as a house boat.

“The future of the company looks bright, Shipwreck was a project that has pushed us to even want to do better in the décor and design industry. We will now also look into moving towards offering lodges with a turnkey approach.

This means that we will not only do décor and design but will also start training staff from various lodges because we want to give a service that is all inclusive. This is inclusive of lodge operations such as how to do sets ups, how to place certain elements in certain places, branding as well as help with sourcing food and wine lists of lodges”.

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