Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kevin Mackintosh

Recently I came across this beautiful shot in SA Elle Deco, and took a closer look at the artwork on the wall...

It's a photograph by South African Kevin Mackintosh. According to his bio online, Kevin was a photojournalist before heading to London to study theatre and film...and continued to take photos. You can see the theatrical narrative in his work, as well as the artists (using that loosely here!) he cites as inspiration: Picasso, Freud, Fellini, and others. Here is some more of his work...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Kitchen Inspiration

This kitchen in someone's house in Johannesburg reminds me what decorating should be: good pieces, but pieces with soul.

(my apologies if you feel seasick looking at the image... let's just say scanning images from magazines you are not willing to destroy is not easy. Thank you Elle Decor SA.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

All Over the Empire

Thanks to Spray Glue, I discovered The Empire Collective. I really enjoy visiting Christopher's site... lots of interesting finds, as well as his own work. Nice to be a voyeur on another graphic design student's work.
This poster is part of a public awareness campaign for animal rights in Christopher's home town of Durban.

You can do some shopping while you're checking out the site... gotta love the custom sneakers!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Happy Heritage Day

Or, otherwise known as Braai day. For those non-South Africans reading, a braai is a barbecue... except we braai boerewors (sausage) and sometimes steak, or chicken, or maybe even some veggies. For a good laugh, or some initiation, take at look at this fun video on youtube.

PS: For the record, last weekend my husband was at cricket all day and I wanted a braai for supper... so I braaied. By myself. No men needed, thank you very much.

PPS: I realise this is totally not related to design, but what the hey.

Friday, September 21, 2007


Just to add to my previous post! I had to show a pic of Kirstenbosch... this from flickr.

Speaking of Gardens

Thanks to the inspiration from that gorgeous garden Freshly Found featured, I've been thinking about gardens and I thought I'd sure some of my favorite landscape designers with you. He's not actually from anywhere in southern Africa, but what the hey.

His name is Piet Oudolf, and his landscapes are filled with grasses and other rather unusual plants. I have read about him here and there (his house is just to die for) and more recently on the House and Garden website. This is a slideshow of a house in England where the owners decided to add a twist to the usual English country garden.

Oudolf is actually Dutch (so distantly related to some South Africans :) and originally studied architecture. He was instrumental in starting New Wave planting, which uses grasses as an almost architectural feature in a garden, but also almost as a swash of paint in a painting (as you see above). I think that's why I like his work, he uses his knowledge from all areas of design in his craft, and it just looks gorgeous.

Of course I can't go to all this trouble without mentioning some lovely garden in southern Africa, so I'll share a little something I recently came across. There is a secret garden in my home town of Johannesburg that I didn't even know existed. It's 45 acres in the middle of the city that most people don't even know is there... it's owned by the Oppenheimer family, and they employ 45 gardeners to keep in looking wonderful. The head gardener is from Kirstenbosch (one of my favourite places) and only uses natural gardening methods, so he's okay in my book.

Strilli Oppenheimer seems to be the person behind the gardens, and has other gardens in England, for which she has a website. On it she says, this:
"I am a gardener of place, who seeks to work with the nature of the place, adapting and evolving the planting to its ecology rather than producing a decorated garden. Natural gardening is all about your relationship with the garden, and its evolution, using your knowledge of plant systems and families. We are staunch believers in all aspects of organic husbandry and in the holistic management of the estate. We seek to combine forces with nature, rather than fight against it, and to explore the boundaries between garden and nature. In doing so, we have created a haven to an abundance of insect and animal life, fungi and indigenous flora. This is our legacy, our investment in the future."

I couldn't agree more. One of the major reasons that I'm sorry I haven't visited this garden before is because it has an indigenous grass garden (you may perhaps be picking up a pattern ;). I think something like this is huge in SA because we are a country with so few water resources... here's what the article said about that:

"Then a garden containing a bright green circle of grass, around which indigenous grasses grow profusely, which, says Klopper [the head gardner], is "always unpredictable" as "one year one species of bulbs appear, then isn't seen again for a number of years, and then another one appears the following year, depending on conditions like quantity of rain". This garden also relies entirely on rain water."

I just wish there was a picture.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Look what I found!

You may have noticed a comment from another blogger a couple posts back... it was from Freshly Found. I love her blog and the photos she takes.

This post particularly caught my eye. I love gardens and the atmospheres they can create... from ornate, formal Italian gardens to ramshackle English gardens. My favourites are gardens filled with hardy succulents and grasses. More about that another time. Here's another shot from Freshly...

In other news you may have noticed I'm not posting as much as usual. Thing is, as some of you know, I'm studying at night and classes just started up again... I promise that I'll be posting, just maybe not as much as before, so keep checking back!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Monday, September 17, 2007

A Wrap-Around Porch and Schweppes Granadilla

Alrighty people, watch out! I am getting my dammit-I'm-South-African-and-proud-of-it boots on!

On my most recent trip home, which was waaaay too long ago, I spent some time in the lovely town of Notting Hill, in the Natal Midlands (anyone who loves arts and crafts and who visits SA should take a leisurely spin along the Midlands Meander, you will only be grateful). It's a lovely little place. Along the way I came across this new construction.

(Note: it is now September 27 and my friend Skinny has pointed out that the town is Nottingham Road, not Notting Hill. Thanks Skinny! Sorry, it was a while back that I was there.)

You know what I love about it? Instead of looking like a Tuscan villa, which a lot of architecture in SA is sadly often misguided of inspiring to, it looked like it was SOUTH AFRICAN. Hmm, you'd think that would be obvious, right? Well, I think for too long we, probably along with other peoples, looked abroad to what was the "right" thing, the most "advanced" thing and so on, without thinking about what works in our environments, what our forefathers had done before us and why, and how, it could make our lives in our coutries make more sense.

Here is an older building in town, probably one that has been there since the town was first settled, or shortly thereafter. You can see where the inspiration comes from... the roof, stoep, pillars, chimney...

Another really super example of this is the Sibaya casino in the same province, but closer to the ocean, in Umdloti. It is modeled on a traditional Zulu village and just looks fantastic. I wish I had a photograph of when you intially see the casino as you round the corner as you drive up the coast from Durban, the "village" emerging out of the jungle, a proud establishment. But I don't :) Here is the pic I do have, hope it suffices.

Alright, tirade over... all I wish for now is a granadilla shweppes and a great South African stoep* to sit on.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Thanks Skinny!

A rather belated thank you to Skinny LaMinx for the lovely parcel in the post (uh, I just can't get my head around the yucky digital camera I have, so things have to wait while I get photos printed...)

I also got a monkey tshirt, but gave it away to its little owner before I got a photo...

PS: Thanks to Lou for posing so nicely with the cushion cover!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

An Invitation

One of my favourite things about reading blogs is that I can get to see inside some pretty cool homes. I would like to now return the favour (though my place doesn't quite reach the standards of some of the stuff I've seen), and share a little of my New England-meets-Africa home...

Above (left) is my bookshelf in my "office", with that lovely "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster. Next to that a poster of an old travel advert that my hubby and I found at Target (if you look, there are some treasures!), and bottom right is the corner of floor cushions we use for spare seating, and they're on the wonderful rug we got from Flor. Lastly is the door stop my mom-in-law got us, there is a gecko on it. Uh, yes, I do like stripes :)

I'm quite lucky because I live in a beautiful old home with a lot of period detail.

Here is a shot of a candle (one at the back), also a gift from South Africa, next to an semi-transparent lamp that I love, from Pier1. Another great place for finding treasures... and then a pic of the odd kink in the wall in my bathroom. My husband is a huge Edward Hopper fan, so I used the small spot to hang a print of "Ground Swell". Along with some shells next to the mirror, they bring the beach into the bathroom.


Ah, Maine was good.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

SA Design in the News

I picked up the most recent issue of Australian Vogue Living, one of my favourite indulgences, and found Alexander Lotersztain. He is an artist born in Buenos Aires, but now living in Oz and he creates furniture, lighting and other homeware design.

He's based in this Victorian home in Brisbane that's totally worth buying the issue for, but I digress. Why I'm sharing this talented artist with you is that one of Al's projects is furniture design in collaboration with the In Africa Community Foundation. Along with artisans from Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Swaziland as well as those in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumulanga in my beloved South Africa, he creates furniture that most of us would die for.

Of his time and work in Africa, he says, "Working in Africa keeps me humble. I get rid of all the fancy fashion labels and work with amazing people who teach me so much about their crafts and cultures. Our perceptions about Third World countries are often misguided. I've always been drawn to these places in my travels; they give you a dose of reality. With this project you see progress in the villages. I can't wait to get back there."

The In African Community Foundation website is lovely, you should take a surf over there... I can't wait for their online shop to open, and I can get my excellent online shopping skills to work. Here are some of the products, with Alexander's Iscicolo chairs in the middle right.

Very inspiring stuff.

I am off for the weekend, and will only be back sometime next week... see you soon!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


When I dream about going home to South Africa, I have a couple ideas of what I'd like... maybe be back in Durban, feeling the heat, swimming in the waves, eating some mangos!

My other idea is to be in Cape Town. I try not to think about April, with the rain and the wind, but rather I think about its old-world charms and modern African delights. Skinny recently was involved in a neighborhood market, and this makes me want to move to Cape Town.

You can buy Skinny's lovely textiles, magnets, and other goodies (that's her work on the bottom left) on To enjoy more of Cape Town, visit the city's website, or jump on a plane!

(photo from, gesmith_za)

Monday, September 3, 2007

The World is Full...

...of well designed objects of striking beauty or ingenius functionality.

So starts an article on design team Artenica in the new issue of Good magazine (it is good, you should pick it up if you're interested in design, especially this issue, #006). It goes on to say that this team, Enrico Bressan and Tahmineh Javanbakht, strive for design that goes even beyond that.

"Over the years, we've become more and more interested in sustainability in everything we do. For us, the matter of sustainability is not just the question of the environment, but also of the humans living in the environment". Hallelujah, I say.

What they've done is got some of the best design talent out into areas where local people have a particular skill, worked with those people, and created something that will they can produce using that skill. They sent New York-based Stephen Burks out to South Africa to work with wire-weavers, and they produced the TaTu table and chairs.

Lovely stuff. The tables and stool work as baskets, side tables, all sorts of multi-purpose functions, and elegantly brings urbane and traditional together. You can do some shopping here...
or go to the Artenica website.