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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.

Most Beautiful Object in South Africa 2017 Finalists!

MBOISA 2016

It’s our pleasure to present the much-anticipated Most Beautiful Object in South Africa (MBOISA) 2017 finalists. Featuring a mixed bag of finalists including film, fashion and art, the MBOISA finalists were nominated by ten local celebrity influencers and tastemakers. Beauty is so subjective and sometimes the chosen objects can seem so arbitrary and unconventional. Fortunately, a short video was made of each finalist to better explain why the object has been nominated and what makes it beautiful.

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“Every year Design Indaba invites the public to engage with the question of what constitutes beauty through the MBOISA award. More than just an object of visual delight, MBOISA encourage a wider definition of beauty – one that encapsulates attributes such as social significance, economic impact, usability, sustainability and even humour.” – Design Indaba

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This year the various Most Beautiful Object in South Africa nominations will be exhibited at the Artscape in Cape Town as part of the annual Design Indaba Festival in next month. While Design Indaba Conference and Simulcast-goers can view the exhibition throughout  course of the Festival, the exhibition will be open to the public as part of the Design Indaba Nightscape programme at the Artscape Theatre each day from 1 to 3 March from 17:30, or enjoy a free visit on Saturday 4 March from 10:30 until 16:00.

{The winners will be announced the 3 of March 2017. Go to the Design Indaba website (here) for a full description of each finalist’s design and to VOTE!}

View the 10 Most Beautiful Object in South Africa nominations below:

BUTTERFLY WALL INSTALLATION: by Mark Rautenbach

Taking inspiration from the 19th-century practice of collecting butterflies for display, Mark Rautenbach designed this vast installation using a material that is traditionally thought to be disposable – burnt paper. He wanted to create something that is both delicate (fragile wings suspended by thread) and banal (destructed pieces of paper) in nature.


GQAMA NTYATYAMBO: by Loyiso Mkize

Gqama Ntyatyambo is a painting by fine artist Loyiso Mkize that was spotted by Alinah Seloane on social media. It captivated her instantly as she saw a reflection of her own life in the artwork’s depictions of female stoicism. Various statuesque scenes are portrayed in minute detail around the face of the main subject that represent the various social dynamics that women face in a modern South African context.


INDALO BACKPACK: by Inga Gubeka

Gubeka’s backpack design, ‘Umthwalo’ (meaning ‘baggage’), is simple and detailed. Using basic woodcraft and surface-finishing techniques, he creates wooden backpacks that are ready for the real world of wear and tear. The form consists of a sturdy wooden box as a base, hand-dyed leather straps and a lid mechanism made of wooden bands.


JOE SLOVO WEST COMMUNITY PROJECT: by Kevin Kimwelle

The Joe Slovo West Community Project, a haven for small children on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth, was nominated by SA filmmaker Hanneke Schutte. The small school’s design was managed by Kevin Kimwelle, an architect with an affection for alternative building methods and sustainable design. The project was a total renovation of a previous nursery that had become too small to host the growing number of toddlers that relied the nursery on a regular basis. A local non-profit organisation, Love Story, stepped in and drafted the help of a number of architects to revamp the space.


KARIBA TRAILER: by Blue Forest Collective

“Kariba is a film project in the making that originally started as a graphic novel by Cape Town-based Blue Forest Collective. It tells the story of the Zambezi river and the mythical spirit that guides its waters. The plot is driven by the construction of the Kariba dam wall, a barrier that causes disturbance in the natural surroundings where the rules are bent by magic.”


MOROCCAN MAGIC DRESS: by Nandi Mngoma

The Moroccan Magic Dress is the culmination of the collaborative effort between two young South African fashion designers, Nandi Mngoma and Inga Madyibi. Taking inspiration from the architecture of Morocco and the country’s vibrant approach to colour, the fashion duo created a range that would express the ethos of a new Africa.


SCULPTURE FROM LEFA LA NTATE INSTALLATION: by Mohau Modisakeng

In an effort to solidify photographic imagery in material form, South African visual artist Mohau Modisakeng cast his own likeness in resin and bronze. It forms part of a larger travelling exhibition known as Lefa La Ntate. It was the unsettling attention to detail in the artwork that caught the eye of musician Nakhane Toure: the facial texture, expression and life-like form of the bronze figure that moved Toure. As he puts it, ‘I like my beauty to be a little bit more… rough.'”


THE HAWKERS ROCKING CHAIR: by Thebe Magugu

The Hawker’s Rocking Chair is a product of cooperation between fashion designer Thebe Magugu and craftsman Emile Millward. These disparate designers each brought their expertise and sense of style to the creative process – an odd relationship that culminated in the unique rocking chair. Magugu derived inspiration from powerful and distinct women for this project, exploring both masculinity and femininity, quirky textiles and the relationship between metallic textures and hues of green.


THE ROCKPOOL COFFEE TABLE: by Caroline Vieira

The RockPool Table is a natural seawater scene enshrined in ceramics. It is an affinity for the Earth and professional craft that drew Roger Ballen to this design by ceramics-guru Caroline Vieira. Passionate about organic development, Vieira describes the fact that some of the RockPool surfaces broke during creation, resulting in flaws that she would keep as part of their new design as small tables with help from her husband.


THE SANKARA RUG: by Nkuli Mlangeni

“The Sankara Rug by textile designer Nkuli Mlangeni is an expression of southern Africa’s modernity as well as its rich history of craft, according to interior designer Bielle Bellingham. She was drawn to the work of Mlangeni and her artisan team, not only for their high level of weaving skill but also the cultural research and historic imagery that informs Mlangeni’s designs.”

So what do you think, see something you like? Who is going to get your vote?

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.

Season’s Greetings From Design Monarchy

Season's Greetings From Design Monarchy

Wishing all our readers and friends a Merry Christmas and a joyous festive season!

We loved sharing our passion for design, décor and pretty things with you this past year!

Our studio will be closed for business from today, the 15th of December 2016, to Monday the 16th of January 2017. Keep your eyes peeled – next year brings BIG and exciting things!

Have a good one, guys and gals! Design Monarchy out!

Love, Rose & Marica  x x x

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