In developing the 66-villa complex at Residence Zanzibar, the team at design firm Hirsch Bedner Associates (HBA) created more than a luxury resort. Based in Atlanta, GA, and with more than 45 years of designing for tourism under their belt, they sure were the team to call on, for this daunting, yet exhilarating project. And fail, they did not. The architects and designers managed to construct an entire world on 80 acres of a paradise island and populated it with cultural references galore, drawing from Zanzibar’s melting pot of colonialism. The interiors of the 66 villas bring together locally produced crafted items, and pieces of furniture which draw on the Swahili, Omani, British and Indian motifs present in the island’s cultural history. There is much to say about colonialism here, about how it marred entire aboriginal cultures, and about how ironic it is that it should be used here as a setting for the dallying of the rich and over-indulgent. The fact, however, remains that the team at HBA managed to create a beautiful holiday resort, with structures that are obviously inspired by local traditions, yet are also undoubtedly modern, and with interiors that blend diverse motifs and décor elements into one delightfully heterogeneous aesthetic mix.
Each villa has a “private oasis” of sorts, with a terrace and swimming pool. There are British-inspired four poster beds in the bed rooms, flanked by nightstands which are reminiscent of Indian crafts. The vanity counter in the bathroom integrates Swahili patterns. The sconces tap on Omani motifs. Photos of the Arabs’ dhow vessels adorn the walls. Local hand carved trunks beautify the lobby, while traditional vases decorate the spa. There are oversized Omani tea and coffee kettles scattered around the restaurant. There is surprise and wonder galore everywhere, and the backdrop remains simple, understated in tones of white, beige and honey.