Category Archives: Interviews & Features

Creative SA: Block & Chisel

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

by Marica Fick

The South African creatives we want to share with you today are very special indeed. Block & Chisel is celebrating an extraordinary milestone this year. 2017 marks the furniture and homeware company’s 30th anniversary – which is no small achievement for any business. They are one of the few local creatives who have built their business into a powerful, recognised local brand. One might even call them a furniture and decor dynasty.

We here at Design Monarchy hold Block & Chisel and their founders, Lynn & Sibley McAdam, in very high regard. The way in which they have developed and grown their product range over the decades is admirable.

The husband and wife team first began this journey after Lynn sold Biggie Best. With Lynn’s eye for beautiful pieces together with Sibley’s passion for restoring antiques and crafting fine furniture, Block & Chisel was born. The past 15 years has seen Block & Chisel welcome the McAdams’s son and daughter into the fold.

I, as a relatively “green” designer, love when Rose, who has been in the South African decorating industry for decades, enlightens me on the history of certain creatives and local design-related businesses. Block & Chisel is such a business – Rose can distinctly remember when they first opened their doors in 1987. Now 30 years later they own multiple successful shops.

Block & Chisel fills a very distinctive niche in the furniture and decorative accessories market. Their flavour is distinctly upmarket. They manage to create this delicious mix of eclectic, luxury, traditional but also contemporary, trendy yet timeless, oh-so-chic elements.

While Block & Chisel has their fingers firmly on the global interior trend pulse, they stay rooted in the company’s slightly colonial foundation which is evident in their classic French and English Country ranges.

Sibley first introduced these designs in the early years and to this day, it still forms the backbone of the Block & Chisel product range. In recent years more contemporary designs have been added. Lynn expertly accents these locally manufactured pieces with carefully chosen treasures to create an overall eclectic flair.

It is always such a treat and sensory experience to visit Block & Chisel in Diep River where we often shop and source for our clients. Not only does the showroom smell amazing, it is also filled with layer upon layer of the most beautiful furniture and decorative accessories. The showroom layout and various room settings tell such a wonderful decorative “story”.

We believe the key to Block & Chisel’s success (other than their visionary and talented owners) is longevity. Longevity, not only in their product ranges, but also in their business model. They keep evolving and reinventing to cater to their chosen market. And that is what we appreciate most about Block & Chisel.

Be sure to check out the Block & Chisel to see their full range of furniture & decorative accessories.

You can also follow Block & Chisel on FacebookInstagram, Twitter & Pinterest.

Creative SA: Lulasclan

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

by Marica Fick

Today we would like to introduce you to the bright and bold creations of Lulasclan Design Studio.

Lulasclan (or Lula’s Clan) is the brainchild of Bonolo Helen Chepape, a Joburg based creative with a background in graphic design. While the Lulasclan style is steeped in Bonolo’s African heritage, it undeniably has a strong contemporary appeal. Bonolo refers to this style as “New African” – a fresh and chic interpretation on African design.

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Following her passion, Bonolo left her 9-to-5 last November striking out on her own to form Lulasclan. It is in fact amazing to see how far she has come in such a short period of time – a true testament that one should heed Passion’s call.

Lulasclan recently launched a collection of scatter cushions titled “AfricanWest”. True to its name, the designs feature a marriage of African and “Western” motifs. Finding inspiration in the leaded lines of stained glass windows often found in Roman Cathedrals, Bonolo fused it with the shapes and bold colours of the traditional patterns of the Nguni people.

I am however even more taken with funky designs of Lulasclan’s previous scatter cushion range. The “Meet the Other Side of Africa” collection was launched end last year and features the retro-tastic portraits of several modish African ladies.

The series is said to celebrate Women. Each cushion, each woman, has her own inspiring story and individual characteristics. These scatters have a distinct Pop Art flavour and the use of pattern and colour within the designs are quite striking.

I think what appeals to me most about Lulasclan is the masterful fusion of two worlds and cultures. Her chic designs perfectly illustrate how African aesthetics can find a voice and global appeal in the contemporary design market.

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Be sure to check out the Lulasclan website to see their full range of scatters.

You can also follow Lulasclan on FacebookInstagramTwitter.

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.

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