John Vogel –
Master Furniture Maker

12 August 2015 | Safari Style |

Meet the very talented furniture maker John Vogel and hear about how he met Annemarie's very specific brief and then managed to get 277 pieces of beautifully made furniture all the way from Cape Town to the Mara

The designers who created Angama Mara’s interiors: #1 John Vogel

‘My beds have the best view in the world’ announced John Vogel on walking into a guest tent for the first time. And we couldn’t agree more. And I suppose that has to go for the writing table and chair, the bedside tables and the armchair with matching footstool. The screen is so drop dead handsome that it deserves a story all of its own – coming soon.

Vogel Screen

When Annemarie Meintjes, the creative force behind Angama Mara’s interiors, decided that ‘the look’ had to resonate with two things: firstly all the furniture had to float off the floor (to angama-fy is the perfect verb but I am constantly reprimanded by my colleagues for making up new words regardless of the language being used… pah). And secondly our furniture had to hark back to 1930 when DFH* took the Prince of Wales on safari across East Africa. It had to have that pioneer, pack-up-and-go feel to it (by the way our beds weigh 400kg each – DFH would have sweated some squashing those into the back of his truck).

Vogel Workshop

There was only one furniture maker who we knew could fulfill this brief. So off to Cape Town we flew to meet the great John Vogel. Naturally his workshop is in the cool precinct of Woodstock tucked between a coffee roaster and a brass foundry. John gave us the once over and the bubble above his head read: ‘I am not so sure about this lot’ but he graciously agreed to make us 250 pieces of his beautiful furniture for our tents, a further 27 for our guest areas, and ship them all halfway across Africa. If that wasn’t enough he also had to come to the lodge and put everything together. The bubble by now was reading ‘Do I really need this in my lovely quiet Cape Town life?’

Vogel Beds

Back ’n forth zoomed the emails, up ’n down flew the project team and side-to- side went John’s head as he shook it in constant disbelief. But the day came when it was all ready to be shipped and off flew 277 pieces of furniture. The chaps in Customs at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport were so astounded by the beauty of this furniture that they decided to keep it an extra two weeks so they could admire it just a little longer. Once again there was a last minute scramble as John flew in, Customs relented and the trucks slipped and slid through the mud and rain from Nairobi to the Mara. And it all came together. Perfectly.

Vogel Truck

John didn’t seem to mind a bit staying in a staff room with an outside loo and cold shower (the water is now hot I hasten to add) and eating meals in the merry staff canteen. In between assembling his furniture, he taught 4 Maasai ladies how to wrap the cord around our lovely tent front door handles. Skills were transferred and the mamas were smitten needless to say. As we all were. And what we love about John, over and above his furniture, is that when he was five he wanted to be a bird vet; he loves mountain biking downhill; surfs up a storm; and pledges the planting of trees through Greenpop.

Weaving at Angama Mara

For more information on John Vogel please visit his website.

*Ed’s note: because we consider Denys Finch Hatton one of the great inspirations behind our story and we mention him so often, he is affectionately now known simply as DFH (anyway the spelling of his first name is so confusing it’s easier to skip that part all together). In 1930 DFH played host to the Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII, on a safari that switched from big game hunting to wildlife photography – another reason why we admire him so.

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ABOUT: Nicky Fitzgerald

After more than 30 years in hospitality, starting with a small hotel at the foot of Africa and followed by a further couple of Cape hotels, most notably The Bay, and sixty plus safari lodges across Africa and India, Nicky has served more meals, puffed more cushions, filled more beds, trained more staff and opened more properties than she cares to remember. Her driving force is ‘will our guests love this?’ She has come full circle and is happily puffing, cooking, training and filling to her heart’s content high up on the edge of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley at Angama Mara.

COMMENTS (1)
An interview with Nicky and Steve Fitzgerald, Angama Mara - Heathfield & Co
November 27, 2015

[…] in South Africa – beautiful red and royal blue tartan (Maasai colours) but fringed (1920’s). John Vogel’s handsome woven furniture harks back to the ancient craft of African weaving but in a very modern […]

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