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Johno du Plessis > Rugs and accessories with a whiff of Africa After spending nine years in the UK, followed by more than twenty in the US, Johno du Plessis has come home to South Africa. He openly admits that his greatest thrill these days is spending his time at his home in Caledon with his cats, his garden, his cooking, his view... and his work.

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aving spent much of his overseas years occupied with publishing and editing a trade journal for the commercial photographic industries in Europe and the United States, Johno du Plessis’ switch to the world of manufacturing products for the home and commercial interiors was quite a change. During his time in Europe, and when he first lived in the States, du Plessis had several mini-careers: waiter, model, photographic stylist, fashion-show producer, art director, set-dresser, casting agent, wardrobe-master and events organiser. He ran The Fake Club in Hollywood in the early-’80s, established The Century Hotel in Miami’s South Beach in the late-’80s, staged Susanne Bartch’s series of infamous Love Balls in New York – and


Detail of a ‘40s-style rug.

Oval cowhide ottoman with a maxiwave pattern.


244 > DESIGN IN LIVING its offshoot, the Ballade d’la Amor, in Paris – and, throughout the ’90s, travelled around over thirty destinations worldwide to compile city guides for Select Magazine. “Ostensibly I had retired upon my return to SA, but I still needed something to occupy myself in order to combat my neuroses – and preferably something that demanded a dollop of inventiveness. After all, I had spent almost my entire working-life steeped in one creative field or another and, if nothing else, wasn’t really fit to do anything but,” he explains. Prompted by his own decorating needs, he went on a self-inflicted odyssey across the South Africa, from his base in the Western Cape to Gauteng; back to Namaqualand and then to the KZN Midlands, in an attempt to find the solutions to his décor dilemmas. After visiting the studios and workshops of various potters, weavers, woodworkers, beaders and numerous décor shops, he decided to start making gameskin rugs as his contribution to the world of interior embellishment. “Amongst all the beautiful woven pots and wood-turned bowls, carved stools and beaded lampshades, it was a rudimentarily slung-together game-skin rug that caught my eye. The concept was spot on; the execution shoddy. I determined to make something like it, but far superior in its construction,” he says. “Rug design presented me with the perfect opportunity to stay creative. What I find particularly appealing about rug-making is the element of industrial design – mathematics and manufacture – over something more fine art-ish, such as painting or sculpture; I relish not just the challenges of form, but those of function as well.” The Johno du Plessis-signature rugs are constructed by stamping out leather and rubber components that are punched around their perimeters with needle-holes. These pieces are then carefully arranged into a design and stitched together into a single tapestry. The hand-stitching is executed precisely so that any of the items produced can be constructed into modern pieces, while still retaining

Cowhide rug with a mosaic ripple design, 1800 X 2600mm.

Detail of a cowhide ripple rug.

Leather bedhead with a cross design.


Cowhide hard-centre rug, 2400 X 3500mm.

Detail of a hard-centre rug.

Cowhide soft-centre rug, 2300 X 3300mm.

Organic petite croix rug, 1800 X 2600mm.


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White oak bench with a cross design in leather, 400 X 1300mm.

an earthiness, a uniqueness and a sense that is was made in a workshop rather than being massproduced in a factory. Recently, he has moved from the two-dimensional into three-dimensional furnishings and is now designing and making benches, headboards, screens and cushions – which have allowed him to move away from the rigid material constraints of rugs (in which only cowhide or saddle leathers are robust enough to be used) towards upholstery leathers and suedes and, on occasions, even cork, vellum and neoprene. “I have also just recently discovered a source of veg-tanned, hair-off leather (the only leather beside hair-on cowhide that’s truly robust enough to withstand being walked upon) that’s available in an almost unlimited range of colours. This means I am able to create carpets in hues – and in combinations of colour – far beyond those proffered by cowhides alone.”

In describing his design philosophy, du Plessis says that he finds that his best ideas have seldom come from the far reaches of the world. “For me, it’s vital that my products are redolent of their birthplace in the same way that, say, Danish or Japanese designs reflect their respective cultures. The Neo-Global look – think The Gap and IKEA – certainly has its place in the world (and is unquestionably welldesigned), but I prefer my stuff to harbour a whiff of Africa,” he proclaims. <

Recent awards: Winner, Elle Decoration magazine, Floor-coverings for 2008 Winner, Elle Decoration magazine, Floor-coverings for 2005 Nominee, VISI magazine, Designer of The Year for 2007

All images coutesy of Johno du Plessis.


White oak bench with a cross design in suede, 400 X 1300mm.

White oak bench with a cross design in cowhide, 400 X 1600mm.


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Island utopia By Bev Hermanson

Developed by IFA Hotels & Resorts in a joint venture with Indian Ocean Resorts Ltd, Zilwa is a chic, exclusive retreat for the rich and famous.

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ocated on the 480 acre private island, Sainte Anne, the Zilwa Marina and Island Resort is a short 10-minute boat ride or 5-minute helicopter flip from the international airport on MahĂŠ, the main island of the Seychelles archipelago. The granite composition of Sainte Anne offers a variety of building opportunities, which South African architectural firm, Stefan Antoni Olmesdahl Truen Architects (SAOTA), has exploited to the fullest. Regarded as one of a group that has contributed to setting a new standard of design

and professionalism in the top end domestic market, Stefan Antoni has made a name for himself with his sensual, yet powerful approach to design. At Zilwa, he and his partners have combined vernacular design principles with a contemporary flavour to develop a timeless design philosophy that encompasses clean lines and sculptural statements. The architects have constantly been mindful of the environment in the planning of the buildings and while the ocean front villas and marina apartments


The Zilwa Marina and Island Resort in Sainte Anne, Seychelles. Š SAOTA.


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The Zilwa Marina and Island Resort in Sainte Anne, Seychelles. Š SAOTA.


The directors of Stefan Antoni Olmesdahl Truen Architects. From left to right are Stefan Antoni, Philip Olmesdahl, Greg Truen and Lesego Balance.

have been designed to complement the marina’s ambience, the hillside villas have been designed to almost disappear into the landscape, with an emphasis on the surroundings, rather than the buildings. Views of the lush natural vegetation and the crystal blue sea are drawn into each living space. A combination of plantation-style shutters and Venetian blinds allow a play of light to add interest, while ensuring a measure of climate control. Breezeways have been incorporated to cool the living spaces with the help of fans and open door/wall expanses, to reduce the need for airconditioning. Outdoor lighting has been limited to reduce light pollution and, as water on most islands is a highly precious commodity, watersaving chromeware has been used in the bathrooms and kitchens. Textures were considered as very important throughout. Many of the finishes were chosen with the aim of creating a seamless interface between the natural island experience and the interiors. Tightly packed tumbled African limestone has been used for wall mosaics. Raw open grained timber used for some of the joinery, with white-washed oak

used for the ceilings. Unfilled sandblasted marble, distressed oak timber and solid hardwood decking grace the floors. Textured paints and sand coloured tiles bring the beach indoors. The swimming pools are infinity pools with rim flow edges and the water features are of the stainless steel letterbox type, to complete the simple minimalist effect. Due to the exposure to the salty sea air, all the exterior metalwork, including the light fittings and balustrades, has been made in a marine grade stainless steel, with some balustrades comprised of frameless glass, to maximise the views. Zilwa, the Creole word for ‘islander’, is a simple name that belies the beauty and elegance that will grace this small island once all the building has been finished. The development offers a residential mix that includes villas on the hillsides and down on the beachfront, marina apartments and luxurious penthouses. Two hotels, two private beach clubs, activity centres, a retail node and an ‘out of this world’ spa complete the elite offering. With prices ranging from £900 000 to £3-million per unit, this island retreat is set to be amongst the most sophisticated that Africa has to offer. <


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Dominique PĂŠtot > Contemporary African designer from France

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rench-born architect, furniture and interior designer, Dominique PĂŠtot sees himself as an African designer. Since 1998, he has been based in Dakar, Senegal, where he designs furniture made from cast aluminium, iron, wood and woven materials. After studying architecture in Strasbourg, he went on to do a course in industrial design in Paris and then trained as an interior designer. His first foray in the commercial sector took him into the world of international brand retailing, where he learnt the importance of using colours, fabrics and other materials and how trends influenced fashion. Moving to Dakar was an easy choice for him, as an escape from the elitist and, in his opinion, pessimistic atmosphere that one encounters in France. â&#x20AC;&#x153;Since choosing to work in Africa, I have discovered that the Senegalese way of living is not too far removed from the Parisian melting pot. I am able to use my trend knowledge, combined with local technologies, to bridge the historical styles of the 40s, 50s and 60s. Due to their African


The Méridienne chaise and magazine holder designed for the Design made in Africa exhibition. It is made from stainless steel and nylon string which is normally used for weaving fishing nets. © Dominique Pétot.

The Ibiscus armchair , made from stainless steel and nylon string. © Dominique Pétot.

Ibiscus armchairs, Haricot table and Markus lamp exhibited at Expo Dakar 2005. © Dominique Pétot.

Décor item designed for the 2004 Messe Frankfurt. © Dominique Pétot.

Boldy decorated plywood décor items designed for the Swiss market. © Dominique Pétot.


254 > DESIGN IN LIVING origins, many of my Senegalese designs have tiny imperfections that give warmth and a unique touch that makes these African designs instantly friendly,” says Pétot. Proud to have been adopted as a Senegalese designer, Pétot nevertheless confesses that he is not a fan of afro-centric theories. “One should not be afraid to identify and use materials that feature in designs from other countries or the shapes and styles from other time lines, to achieve a more exotic result,” he says. “A creative, open-minded spirit coupled with curiosity and a complex view of the world through past, present and future results in designs that are easily recognisable all over the world.” <

Restaurant seats made from kitchen utensils. © Dominique Pétot.

Malian-inspired décor items made from ebony and buffalo bone. © Dominique Pétot.

Fauteuil merci . © Dominique Pétot.


Lamp designed for the 2006 Dakar Biennale, made from steel and nylon fishing string. © Dominique Pétot.

Dominique Pétot’s rich eclecticism and love for pattern and colour comes to the fore in this selection of table boards using a traditional Senegalese under-glass painting technique. © Dominique Pétot.

Spanish tables designed for a hotel in Saint Louis, Senegal. © Dominique Pétot.

Stackable shelving combining wood and aluminium. © Dominique Pétot.


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STREETWIRES> Awesome art from beads and wires

Streetwiresâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; exhibition at Design Indaba 2008.


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Beaded Hoopoe.

fledgling operation was taken by the scruff of its neck and turned into a driving force in the informal crafts industry. Streetwires now has over 120 artists employed in two studios, one in Cape Town and the other in Johannesburg.

Madiba sculpture. Photo by Mark Wessels.

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hey started working from a room in a house. The year was 2000, the turn of the millennium and Patrick Schofield, Winston Rangwane and Anthony Ressel decided it was time to develop a business that could provide sustainable employment to a cross section of unemployed people from diverse backgrounds. Eight years later, Patrick Schofield was elected as the winner of the Ernst & Young / FNB / Schwab Foundation ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year, South Africa’ for 2008. The Schwab Foundation collaborates with various partners and the media in several countries to find the most accomplished social entrepreneurs each year. From the finalists, the ‘Social Entrepreneur of the Year’, the ‘Best Entrepreneur’ and the ‘Emerging Entrepreneur’ are chosen by a carefully-selected jury. The main criteria for selection are: innovation, sustainability and direct social impact. This award cannot be taken lightly. It is testimony to the commitment and passion with which this

“The empowerment of individuals through dignified meaningful work is an essential part of our vision of job creation,” says Schofield. “Entrepreneurship is core to our organisation. Social development defines how we operate.” Further testimony to the viability of the undertaking is the fact that several companies have donated their time and resources to the project – amongst them: Ripe Design, The Pick n’ Pay Foundation, The City of Cape Town and The World Bank/International Finance Corporation.

Training In addition to the permanent artists, Streetwires has 60 learners enrolled, that are being taught the basics of the craft, starting from the very first shaping of wire with a pair of pliers. Their aim is to nurture artists and get them to have an understanding beyond the details of the craft itself. Working with the learners, they try to identify the areas into which they have the potential to grow and try to find ways of developing opportunities for them in these areas. In terms of ownership, Patrick Schofield (Strategy), Winston Rangwani (Design Studio & Development


258 > DESIGN IN LIVING Manager) and Riaan Hanekom (Production Manager) are now the three partners at Streetwires. Currently the management team is comprised of 50% previously disadvantaged individuals and of the 120 permanent employees and 60 artists in training, 93% come from a previously disadvantaged background and nearly 60% are women. In the Cape Town factory and showroom, located at No.77 Shortmarket Street, visitors are able to interact with the artists and see them in action working their craft. There are fully guided tours and workshops held in the studio where people can learn more about the history of wire-art and the skills required to work in this medium.

Mentoring “Using wire for form and beads to add the colour, our artists design ranges for boutique stores and top end artworks for galleries. Our simple motto is, ‘Anything you can dream of, we can make’ and yes, we’ve even made a wire and bead version of the International Space Station presented by the South African Government to NASA!” Schofield continues. “Our success translates into the empowerment of every member in the Streetwires team. It means every artist has his or her own bank account, access to regular training, learnerships and development courses and opportunities for travelling around the world to attend trade shows or participate in exhibitions and workshops.” The Streetwires business model has been a source of inspiration to many other start-up businesses and the instigators have made themselves available to mentor many of them to help them through their ‘teething problems’. With many of their ranges selling in upmarket stores and boutiques, not only in South Africa but around the world, the Streetwise venture is a shining example of how African talent can be harnessed and developed to its fullest extent. <

Vuyokazi Matafeni with one of her Nguni cows.

Beaded zebra.

The Nguni cow art pieces were brought to life through a year-long collaboration between talented Streetwires designer Michaela Howse and principal artist Elias Kahari.


Jabulani Dzungu working with wire.

Hip Hop Horns designed for the Hip Hop labelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Cape Town Fashion Week 2007 collection.

Lion in the long grass.

Kuda Majuta with one of his fully functional wire radios.

Love sign made from wire, beads and soft drink cans.

All images courtesy of Streetwires.


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Cool solution to the heaT

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ommissioned in 1984, the Al Makkiyah residential villa, inhabited by the architect, Sami Angawi and his family, took 13 years to design and build. Standing on a 1725 sq m site, the building’s footprint covers only 715 sq m, although the total area achieved, through building up, rather than out, is 1625 sq m. Taking the excessively hot climate into account, this proves to be an effective response to the environmental conditions. There is a subtle spiritual undertone to the overall design, which was prompted by Angawi’s concern over the loss of cultural and spiritual significance of the new buildings springing up in and around Jeddah. He has successfully blended modern techniques with traditional treatments to achieve optimum efficiency of energy and water usage. The building faces inwards and the various levels all look into a central courtyard that has a swimming pool and a jacuzzi. Interior plantscaping cools and softens the atmosphere. By using local materials, such as coral sea stone, desert sandstone and granite, which all have excellent insulation properties, coupled with natural ventilation techniques, the need for air-conditioning has been minimised. Electronically-controlled irrigation and a water re-cycling system are used to feed the plants in the roof gardens and the courtyard, saving immensely on the family’s water usage. From the internal courtyard, the rooms lead outwards into progressively private areas. Some

This villa in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is an interesting example of land use and responsibility towards the environment. of the areas are defined through split levels and a differentiation of the furnishings. Marble has been used for the flooring of the high traffic areas, while in others, wood has been laid in patterns, to create a carpet-like effect. Through the use of Turkish mosaic and Moroccan zilege, the floor of the swimming pool has been crafted into the image of a Persian carpet. Rawasheen bay windows and intricately carved wooden screens cover the external openings to achieve the Islamic practice of ‘sitr’ – privacy for the inhabitants as well as the neighbours. The screens allow natural light to filter in from the outside and, coupled with extensive window treatments, using a combination of hijazi and Egyptian windows, above the courtyard, the need for artifical lighting has been dramatically reduced. Due to its height, the building’s structure was reinforced through the use of concrete beams and columns, but where possible, the more traditional archways and domes were incorporated, using oldfashioned building techniques. Angawi has always striven to achieve equilibrium (al-Mizan) in his buildings and here, he has taken into account the environmental factors of the wind and the sun and balanced them, mindful of the family’s traditional and spiritual needs, through the use of natural materials and modern technology. <


Western elevation of the Al Makkiyah residential villa.

Roshans capture the north and west winds.

Main entrance.

Courtyard flooded with natural light.

Combining solid and void.

Entrance hall.

The courtyardâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s decorative ceiling.


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The swimming pool is the central feature of the spectacular courtyard with its hanging garden.

A view showing the master bedroom balcony.

All photographs by Amar Angawi.

A view of the courtyard dome.


An Egyptian Mashrabya in the guest room.

A view of the roof garden.

The floor of the office is made of a mixture of zellige and wood.

Natural light in the haramlik.

The office windows combine wood, gypsum work and coloured glass.

Moroccan gypsum work decorates some of the balconies.



DESIGN> in living (edition 3, 2009)