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Tightly knit | Mungo at home

Tightly knit | Mungo at home
Tessa and Craig Harding combine contemporary business savvy with time-honoured traditions in the running of Mungo, their family linen business.

Master weaver Stuart Holding started Mungo as a small business in Plettenberg Bay, but, because of the quality and timelessness of the product, it’s gained traction among decor lovers and linen fanatics. Over the years, Mungo has come close to being a household name for beautiful tactile textiles in fresh colourways and subtle patterns.

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Tessa and Craig Harding’s home features a mix of local and retro design. This vintage armchair was revamped and proves a great showcase for a Mungo linen cushion; Craig and Tessa’s cool, low-key home in Vredehoek is a beautiful example of an old house given a modern look; Hattie, as she is affectionately known, is more than a century old – the loom is loved like part of the family

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A limited amount of cloth is still made on this loom; Quirky details such as the spiral staircase and an original safe give the home character

After years of working as a photographer, Stuart’s daughter Tessa eventually joined the team, behind her brother Dax. A natural evolution rather than a conscious decision, it wasn’t always the plan to go into the family business. ‘While studying photography, I started shooting Mungo’s products and through that, my appreciation grew – for the process, the fabric, all of it,’ she says of the transition.

With a trained eye for design, colour and composition, she, along with her husband Craig – as well as Dax and his wife Kirsten – test Stuart’s designs for how they feel, look and wear before they are rolled out. ‘Everybody is involved in the process and shares their input. Each has their favourites for different reasons, which is great because it’s a nice way to make sure we’re offering something for everyone,’ says Tessa. As a result, there’s great variety – from elegant, finely textured pistachio dressing gowns, to more tribally inspired and colourful towels. You can even buy beautiful cloth made on-site by their 19th century loom ‘Hattie’ – even more special because it’s produced in small quantities.

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The open-plan bathroom in the master bedroom – one of the areas where the couple has cleverly modernised the old home; the couple mixes contemporary, African and local design in a lighthearted and unpretentious way

The new Hout Street store was primarily conceived as a way to expand their client base. ‘We wanted to create the Mungo experience in Cape Town for people who aren’t able to visit our HQ in the Garden Route,’ says Tessa. As a result, it has a beautiful synergy with the Plett flagship in Old Nick Village, down to the fact that both are located in a historical building, which syncs well with the traditional, craft-based nature of the business. ‘We searched for three years before finding the location. We wanted a beautiful old commercial property in Cape Town’s CBD – a needle in a haystack. Our patience paid off, though. This place has beautiful bones and character, and had been well looked after. We could see a vision for it,’ says Craig.

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The Hout Street store is a gorgeous triple-floor space – the different cloths and products are stacked in edgy open shelving, while downstairs Hattie sits as an ode to tradition

The store and micro mill is spread over two floors, with a crisp black-trimmed facade. The third floor houses the office and – in the spirit of the multipurpose properties that are becoming such a must in cramped urban locales – there is a pied- à-terre at the top. The couple rents this out on Air BnB and it functions well as a showcase for their product, the gorgeous easygoing textiles a big part of the cool urban loft aesthetic. ‘It was part of our original idea for the space: we liked the holistic idea of this work/sleep area. We also wanted it to be available for employees visiting Cape Town,’ says Tessa of the airy Scandi-inspired top floor.

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In the store, a bathroom vignette designed by Tessa’s brother Dax is a beautiful way to showcase the products in context

Their own home in Vredehoek, not far from the store, echoes this same feel. Also an old house, it’s been slickly but subtly renovated (not to the extent that it’s lost its soul) and is filled with plants, beautiful light and an eclectic mix of vintage furniture, artwork and plenty of Mungo textiles. Craig is an avid gardener: box planters outside are filled with veggies while the front veranda is a profusion of succulents in all shades, shapes and sizes. It, like the store, and even the business, effortlessly straddles the divide between old and new.

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The kitchen’s wood panelling and open rafters are an earthy contrast to industrial bar stools and slick countertops; the front veranda is packed with potted succulents, one area where you can see Craig’s love of plants. Theodore, commonly know as Ted, goes everywhere with the couple; old cogs (and wooden shuttles on another wall) are a graphic reminder of the craft at the heart of the business; the loft apartment on the top floor of the Hout Street HQ is rented out on Air BnB

Text Julia Freemantle
Production Karl Rogers and Tessa Harding

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