Author Archives: Rose McClement

5 Pioneering Women In Interiors

by Rose McClement

I heard mutterings recently about today being International Woman’s Day, but obviously I wasn’t really paying much attention. I once sat down to examine the international calendar and believe me there are many causes out there that have a day set aside for them.  That, I think, was my subconscious reaction towards this day – until this morning that is.  That is until I went onto Google this morning and took a long look at the women who were being celebrated and acknowledged for their contribution to global society as a whole!

It was then that I decided that we here at The Design Tabloid need to pay tribute to the women who have made their mark in the field of Interiors internationally.  Some of them local gals (since South Africa isn’t so behind the bush in a third world country as some may be tempted to think) and some international ladies. We salute these impressive women for making their mark in the Interiors Profession.

Elsie de Wolfe

While Elsie De Wolfe, also known as Lady Mendl, was not the first ever interior decorator – there were definitely others before her – it is she who is said to have turned it into a valid profession. From her first commission in 1905 to the 1930s, Elsie was without doubt the most well known name in the American interior design / decorating field.

Elsie was quite the interior design revolutionary – a style rebel of her time. She famously detested the Victorian style of her youth which she described as dark and ugly. Instead she opted for lighter and brighter schemes, creating softer and slightly more feminine interiors. Elsie, who preferred the late 18th century French style, also reintroduced the concept of white and light painted furniture. She hated clutter and favoured expanded open living spaces.

In 1913 Elsie authored the widely read book, The House in Good Taste, a collection of writings on interior decoration and practical decorating advice.

Annie Sloan

Annie Sloan – I almost have to say no more than that – has been a household name for decades. She can be viewed as the figurehead of the decorative painting revolution and is internationally recognised as a respected paint and colour expert. The Telegraph even named her as one of “Britain’s most influential female designers.”

Annie unwittingly changed the face of furniture painting in 1990 when she launched her own range of decorative paint. Unable to find the exact paints she desired to work with, Annie used her fine art knowledge of colour, paint, pigments and art history to develop the now renowned Chalk Paint brand. The Annie Sloan Chalk Paint product can be found in over 50 countries around the world and has influenced not only the decorative painting industry, but interior decorating as a whole.

Tricia Guild

Tricia Guild is a British designer and the founder of Designers Guild, an international home and lifestyle company. She is known for her bold and exciting use of colour and pattern.

Designers Guild had its modest birth in 1970 when Tricia was searching for new and exciting textiles to decorate with. She recoloured a collection of Indian hand-block printed textiles, which later became the company’s first collection.

In the past four decades Tricia has grown and expanded Designers Guild into a global homeware and lifestyle empire. Today their product range includes everything from fabrics and wall coverings, to furniture, homeware and even paint.

Tricia has authored 15 books and has been commissioned by the Royal Family multiple times – something which is no small feat.

In 2008 Tricia was appointed an OBE for services to interior design.

Lynn McAdam

Lynn McAdam has been involved in the field of South African interiors for must be well over thirty something years. Lynn and her sister were the founders and creatives behind the Biggie Best brand of the 80’s, a household name in South African retail interiors.

Lynn and her husband, Sibley sold Biggie Best and in 1987, they opened a retail brand, with a new and different type of interior product, namely handcrafted wooden furniture. The shop was called Block & Chisel. Naturally, driven by their passion and business skills, Block & Chisel has become a much desired interior retail store in Cape Town and has expanded to include Loft Living as well as a store in Johannesburg.

Retail interiors is a very challenging field and needs clever and dedicated navigation in order for it to remain a player in the business. Block & Chisel under the guidance of Lynn McAdam has done just that.

Pru Phufl

When Lynn and Sibley McAdam decided to explore other avenues in life, Pru Phufl bought Biggie Best and continued to expand the retail outlets via franchises throughout South Africa. Every major city had a Biggie Best shop.

Pru went on to take the brand internationally via franchises as well, with shops in Europe, Australia and Britain. Pru was awarded the coveted “Business Woman of the Year Award” in 1989 by Business Woman Association of South Africa. Being very hands on person, Pru continued to be involved in the design and development of their range of fabrics, wallpapers and furniture throughout the years.

Although many of the franchise outlets have been reduced, Biggie Best continues their retail and trade business to this day, having survived for near on forty years.  They have managed remain in touch with the flow of interior trends, while retaining their particular flavour / style of interior finishes – Contemporary Country.

To me the secret of their success was to remain an affordable brand – bringing interiors to the middle class people. Making it attainable at a time when interior decorating was a luxury only the privileged of the upper class could afford it, just outside of the reach of the middle class. Oh how times have changed – thank you Pru Phufl for your contribution.

Creative SA: Miche Watkins

Last year we introduced a new blog series, Creative SA. In this series we will regularly feature South African makers.

by Rose McClement

In the spirit of moving forward with this series, I would like to introduce you to another South African artist, Miche Watkins.  Miche and I met online – how that came about I just simply can’t remember.  But you know the story, if you knock around a few online portals long and often enough, you find one another.

Creative SA: Artist Miche Watkins

Since that first time a few years ago we have kept pace with each other via Facebook largely, until Miche visited Cape Town last year, when we had the opportunity of catching up eyeball to eyeball. Although Miche relocated to the UK a few years ago to be close to her family, she lived in Cape Town for a long time. That I think was the glue that formed the bond early in our friendship, the fact that I used to post images of beautiful Mother City and she would respond with great yearning.

I’m not much of an art “knower” or a “knower of art”, but this I do know about myself… I know what art appeals to me. Over the past few years I have exposed myself to more and more artists and in doing so I have come to understand that which appeals to me and that which just goes over my head.

The question then is what is it that appeals to me about the body of work that Miche brings to the world?  It is her particular style of Pop Art-ish line drawings – she only introduces a hint of red or colour that I am simply taken with.  They are funky, contemporary, youthful and more often than not, faceless images.

Creative SA: Artist Miche Watkins

As a decorator finding something that is appealing yet not specific in terms of its image, is a very big draw. Her art can be installed into offices, hotels and residences alike – any space that can indulge a bit of contemporary funk. I see Miche’s art hanging on the walls of some trendy millennial’s apartment or in the room of an edgy teen.

She has recently introduced another element into these clean lined paintings – that of Street Art.  It’s the combination of the street art and line drawings that work for me. Take a look for yourself and you decide if this art appeals to you or not.

Creative SA: Artist Miche Watkins

In closing let me add that I have great admiration for artists who put out their work for the public to scrutinise – possibly appreciate, or possibly criticise.  They are such a brave crowd of creatives. Plus having to market their work in an already overcrowded arena and run it like a business – that takes extra commitment to the cause.

Futher, I know that Miche puts her heart and soul into her paintings as well as her business.  Hats off to her!

Creative SA: Artist Miche Watkins

Her work can be seen and purchased on the online art portal, State of the Art, as well as the bricks and mortar State of The Art Gallery in Bree Street, Cape Town – the heart of our buzzing city.

You can also follow Miche on FacebookInstagramTwitter.

Château de Gudanes – Timeless Love Story

By Rose McClement

Okay – who of you reading this right now can recall the movie Love Story from way back in 1970? (Oh my word, I feel “timeless” just recalling it. Timeless in this case being a kind word for “old”).  It starred Ali McGraw and handsome Ryan O’Neill and was the tearjerker of the decade. At the time, it was meant to be the love story to top all love stories!  Just to give you an indication of how bad-ass sad this move was, I was warned beforehand to take my tissues with me to the movie house.  But the love story I am about to share with you, actually tops the forgotten 70’s tearjerker. It’s real and authentic.

Love Story (1970) Ali McGraw GIF

Ali McGraw spouting that famous line – “love means never having to say you’re sorry” – in Love Story (1970).

It was sometime back that I somehow connected with the Château de Gudanes.  Exactly how that happened I can’t recall.  As I cast my mind back now, I vaguely recall that one of my friends was following their blog and thought it might interest me from an interiors point of view.

Well, it sure did.  I was intrigued by the Château and its owners from the first blog article I read and have followed their progress over the last few years.  The newsletter updates aren’t that frequent, but when they drop into my inbox I can’t wait to catch up.  With each passing newsletter, my intrigue and fascination is deepened, as is my desire to eventually visit this Beauty in French Countryside.

Built in the mid 1700’s, Château de Gudanes, a timeless and forgotten Stately Home in the French Country side, despite being sorely neglected, cast aside, pretty much abandoned and forgotten with the passing of time, still stands proudly in the south of France in the small village of Château-Verdun. It stands on the foothills of lush fertile French country surrounded by mountains and nearby French country villages. In the midst of it neglected state, the Château managed to hold its head up high enough to catch the attention of  Australian couple, who were looking to set themselves up in that neck of the woods.  What more could Craig and Karina Waters with a very big vision want for? If I recall, it was to create a new country home for their family while sharing it with as a guesthouse with all who wished to do so.  The Château it seems called their name. They in their turn hearkened it calls, despite the numerous restoration challenges that they must have known would face them.  Were it me, I might have run for the hills!  It was to be a mammoth task, something that could only be supported within the context of a brave and determined vision.

Want to hear my fantasy around the call of the Château to its new owners? Here goes – in my mind’s eye they saw its outward, regal, stately and romantic appeal at first – standing there wooing them to its heart.  Like any other romantic call, the outward appearance draws one in.  Then once inside – they were faced with the harsh realities of the ravaging effects that neglect and “careless-ness” had on its once beautiful interior features!  Did that put them off?  By all accounts it didn’t.  In fact I assume they admitted to the reality of it forgotten state, but looked beyond that to it hidden beauty, a beauty that they could unearth, unpack and once again restore.  And that is why they committed to this long term relationship with the Château. What an experience of a lifetime, which they took hold of and made it their own.

That’s my take on their initial and early day encounters with the Château (only because I can’t find the account that I read years ago, which means I am left with the little recall I have).  But it works for me. I don’t really want to spoil my own romantic notion of their encounter by spending time trawling their website for the facts.  I mean, this is the month of LUV, not facts!

Because ultimately, that is really what Love is all about. We are drawn to each other, attracted to each other by some magical yet inexplicable force (which we can explain if we want to be spoilsports). Then when we step in closer to each other, we are faced with certain realities of neglect and careless-ness.  But despite that – we stay with each other, work with each other and then reap the rewards. That’s Love for me. It’s not always romantic, but it’s true.

Now, looking at this latest video that has been produced, something so romantic has once again been given back to the Château by those brave, tenacious, creative, determined and love filled owners, who have loved the Château despite the odds often being stacked against them.  Plus they have allowed others to show love to its restoration as well, by including many people into the volunteer work force.  It’s a long story indeed and one that you are more than welcome to dip into by jumping over to their website, to trawl through their amazing recorded stories.

I want to salute the owners Craig and Karina Waters for their big vision, determined courage, steadfastness and for all they have achieved thus far. I am equally determined to visit the Château in the not too distant future as a fulfilment of my dream.  Either to assist in the restoration for a while as a volunteer or as a guest in their home. I dream of waking up in one of those boudoirs that pulsate with that timeless authenticity that has been restored with so much fastidious love and care. To breath in the fresh country air and to explore the depth of the house as well. But mostly to pop my laptop onto the French antique desk that stands in front of the window with a mountain view that is to die for – to write.  TOTAL BLISS!

Misty morning at the Chateâu…..☁️ 📷: @nina_van_ewijk

A post shared by France (@chateaugudanes) on

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Be sure to check the Château de Gudanes‘s Instagram account: here, for more stunning pictures of the Château.

Block & Chisel: Behind the Scenes

When you walk into a retail decorating outlet such as Block & Chisel (in our case Cape Town) or any other shop that sells quality furniture, I have to wonder how many of us stop to appreciate the “behind the scenes” activities that has gone into each piece of furniture on that shop floor.

Generally, we only deal with what we see in front of us and mostly we remain unaware of the journey that some pieces have taken, from conception of the design, through production, to what you see in front of you.  I guess shopping for anything rarely requires such awareness, be it a fashion item, household item or anything for that matter. We may well be more appreciative of price points, if we did in fact shop with more awareness.

Today however, I want to share with you via this video of Block & Chisel – what happens behind the scenes in a furniture manufacturing company. Over the course of my long career in this trade, while working for furniture manufacturers, I have often been privileged to spend time on the factory floor. There is a scene in the video of a craftsman running his hands over the wooden piece.  It took me right back to my short lived term of working for Pierre Cronje. I recall standing watching him and those craftsmen ply their trade with such tender passion for wood, and the craft.  I hope you pick up on the beauty of these craftsman’s applied skills – all respect to those who work their craft behind the scenes.

“Live Life Beautifully” – add something special into your space.

P.S. Just a quick FYI… This is not a sponsored post. In fact none of our posts are sponsored. We share this and others because they add value to our appreciation of interior elements.

 

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