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Seven interior designers’ habits to adopt

Seven interior designers’ habits to adopt

We asked seven of South Africa’s go-to interior designers to share those signature tricks that give them their star quality.

Spilling the Interior Design Beans

How often do you wish that you knew just a few of those interior design tricks that appear to come so naturally to the professionals – and could give your space a look that is unique and certain to be admired? Whether it’s how to place furniture effectively, arrange lighting for a moody result, or work with colour in a clever fashion, there’s definitely something to be said for asking a trained eye to get things just right. We asked some of our favourite interior designers to share the insider secrets…


Klaudia Weixelbaumer uses hand-painted elements to give her clients a unique space


‘Use big pieces of furniture to give a room stature’– Tessa Proudfoot

Tessa Proudfoot believes firmly that creating a balance of proportions can make or break any space. For example, a tall, heavy antique armoire at one end of a space should be balanced by a sculpture or a grouping of art pieces that take up a similar spatial volume on an opposite wall. ‘I love to stretch boundaries in my interiors and do this most often by playing with scale,’ she says. Tessa likes to have a least one – if not more – theoretically ‘too big’ pieces in a room as this gives a sense of presence and stature. Even in small rooms, larger sofas, chairs and tables look better. Getting the size right should be instinctive, but if you’re not sure, just go as big as you can go and build from there, she advises.


Bold furniture makes a statement in this entrance hall by Tessa Proudfoot


‘Use art as a departure point for your living areas’ – Sam Lurie

Sam Lurie and her partner at Sprout Design, Peter Gordon, use their clients’ taste in art as their compass when it comes to charting a design direction for a new space. ‘And if they don’t own any art, we help our clients to acquire a collection of their own.’ Younger clients can be nervous when it comes to buying art so Sam and Peter help them through the process and introduce them to the artists they believe suit the clients’ style. ‘We are currently working with young artists like Kurt Pio and Michaela Rinaldi. We love Kurt’s black-and-white charcoal pieces, and Michaela is an excellent and undiscovered colourist.’ Once a room has good art on the walls, everything else falls into place. Sam says living rooms also ‘get the most respect’ if they have good art in them.


Good art is at the heart of Sam Lurie’s stylish schemes



‘Create seating arrangements that encourage conversation’– Mlondolozi Hempe

One of the most striking elements of Mlo’s installation at the recent 12 Rooms Exhibition in Cape Town was his semi-circular sofa. It immediately softened the four corners of his ‘room’ and demonstrated an integral part of his design philosophy. ‘The idea behind the sofa was to create an intimate but engaging seating environment that forces eye contact and communication between visitor and home owner. It’s something everyone needs to think about when selecting seating and arranging it in their homes,’ he says. Mlo says every aspect of an interior design project has to be aimed at achieving the mood and experience to which the home owner aspires, and he spends an inordinate amount of time drawing that information out of his clients before coming up with any design ideas.


Mlondolozi Hempe designed this distinctive sofa for the 12 Rooms Exhibition to encourage good conversation


‘Personalise an interior with bold and colourful customised paint effects’– Klaudia Weixelbaumer

Klaudia Weixelbaumer’s signature design feature is to introduce a hand-painted element in her clients’ space, thereby guaranteeing a finished look that can never be replicated. It’s her way of ensuring every client has a unique space at the end of the project. ‘Sometimes our clients need some convincing to go this route because if you order off the shelf you know what you’re getting. But it always works and by the end of the process, our clients are over the moon.’ Klaudia works closely with African Sketchbook fine art fabric design and Conscious Colour paint effects to create the customised looks. ‘We like to be bold. Whether it’s hand-painting children’s images or family crests onto cushions, creating chalkboard dining room tables or creating a block of colour on the wall – we always leave our clients with something that was created just for them.’ Klaudia says there is a constant running race between wallpaper and paint for the most popular wall treatments but she believes there is nothing quite as authentic as a hand-painted wall effect.


‘Only add drama to a space if you can take it away quite easily’– Fergus Armstrong

Fergus Armstrong from Generation Design is known for his glamorous spaces using some of the world’s leading design brands. However, he stresses that good glamour is not created by layering drama upon drama. ‘Creating drama in interiors is exactly the same as in fashion. In fashion you’d wear a good suit and then set it off with a marvellous tie. In interiors, you need to start with a basic, timeless palette and then add the drama with a lamp or cushions.’ It’s also easier to stick to a modest budget when creating the basic palette, thereby allowing you to splurge a bit on the statement pieces like lamps, vases and cushions that may cost a little more. Drama should always be kinetic, Fergus adds. A big fan of metallics, he says they create movement in a room through their reflective quality. ‘We have just imported a range of lamps from France by Creativ Gallant. They are not cheap but one single lamp can transform a room.’


Copper pendant lights by Anatomy Design add drama above this dining table


‘Plan your lighting according to your decor and your lifestyle – don’t simply flood the whole room’– Andrea Kleinloog

Andrea Kleinloog’s Lab Light won the Design Indaba’s Most Beautiful Object in South Africa award a few years ago, and since then the designer has produced many more signature lights, including dramatic copper shades. Although she believes there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to lighting, she recommends placing downlights strategically to illuminate specific art or objets, rather than playing it safe with ‘four downlights for a square room’. She regrets the prohibitive cost of installing dimming switches on low-energy bulbs in South Africa but prefers this option if possible. ‘For a moody atmosphere, standing or table lamps should give you light where you need it and the downlights should dimmed.’ Andrea’s lamp of the moment is the Tab Light by Barber Osgerby for Flos, where the dimmer switch is fitted into the shade and the user simply tips the shade to dim the light.


‘You can never create a chic, minimalist space by using only commercial décor products’– Salome Gunter

Known for her pared-down beach-house aesthetic, where mood and warmth are created by texture and what’s not there, Salome Gunter says the secret is in collecting and layering pieces that are not always commercially available. She is constantly shopping and looking out for interesting pieces. Antiques and vintage pieces are the difference between sterile and stylish minimalist decor, says Salome. On a recent project, for example, Salome’s joiner manufactured kitchen cupboards using scaffolding planks that he’d bought from builders. ‘That’s how you achieve character and mood,’ she explains. Salome says her signature is to do two or three layers of styling to a space – but you also need to know when to stop. ‘Live in a room, get to know where the sun falls, then you add the final layer.’



Salome Gunter achieves warmth and character by introducing vintage pieces and layering textures

Meet the seven interior designers…

Tessa Proudfoot

Ever since she hit the headlines for her exhibition of Victorian curiosities at the Everard Read Gallery a few years ago, Tessa has become known for her ability to mix modern décor with antiques and eclectic objets.


Sam Lurie

Recently arrived in Cape Town from the Garden Route, Sam and her studio, Sprout Design, is in the Designer Spotlight at Decorex Joburg from 6 to 12 August 2014.



Mlondolozi Hempe

Mlondolozi is one of the stars of the 12 Rooms Exhibition at Leon CCXIX in Cape Town where we’re loving his contemporary African designs.


Klaudia Weixelbaumer

Also known as one half of the charming jewellery brand Black Betty, Klaudia works with her mother Kathrin at one of Cape Town’s leading interior consultancies.


Fergus Armstrong

A former magazine stylist, Fergus is now one of Joburg’s most celebrated design gurus, working with Julia Day at Generation in Hyde Park Corner.


Andrea Kleinloog

Also famous for designing the awardwinning Lab Light, Andrea is known for her pared-down, elegant glamour.


Salome Gunter

Understated Scandinavian chic is the watchword for this Cape-based designer who has made laid-back style her own.


Contacts Details


Text: Jacquie Myburgh Chemaly
Photographs: Lar Leslie, Elsa Young, Henrique Wilding/House and Leisure, supplied


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