Material girls

Material girls

Meet six of the dynamic women who form the new guard of interior design in South Africa.

Adri van Zyl, Atelier Interiors


What’s the most rewarding aspect of designing spaces?

Definitely seeing your drawings come to life.

Domestic or commercial jobs: Which do you prefer?

I like both, actually – commercial has a quicker turnaround time, which keeps you on your toes, plus it’s rewarding, while domestic projects tend to be more personal and because of that, special.

Who in the industry do you admire?

Trevyn and Julian McGowan – I’m a huge fan of how they’re constantly pushing the boundaries of South African design and endorsing local collaboration while at the same time being the country’s biggest design advocate abroad. They really are a showcase for how to be approachable, inclusive and highly successful within an industry that’s too often about individuals.

What’s the most enjoyable project you’ve worked on?

I’m really loving one of my current Cape Town ventures. It’s a hotel called the Gorgeous George, situated on Greenmarket Square. George has a bit of an eccentric side!

Which object/space do you wish you’d designed?

Sketch restaurant and art gallery in London – the entire place is dusty pink and completely bourgeois.

Kelly Adami, Copperleaf Studio


What prompted the change in career direction for you?

I loved working in décor journalism because it gave me the opportunity to meet so many talented people in the industry. But I’m quite a practical person so just being an observer of all this creativity always made me want to dive in and be part of it. I trained as an interior designer so it was a natural progression for me to move back into the field.

Who has been your single biggest inspiration?

The former editor of Condé Nast House & Garden Liz Morris. I worked with her for three years and she is always one step ahead of the trends. She taught me that taking creative risks almost always pays off. 26 MAY 2016

How would you describe your aesthetic?

I strive to create spaces that are elegant and sophisticated yet livable, because ultimately, to feel comfortable in a space, it has to have a certain level of practicality. I like to juxtapose clean lines and simple shapes with rich, luxe textures.

What is the most challenging aspect of what you do?

You have to rely on suppliers to complete some elements of the job, which can be frustrating – I believe that when you’re offering a service, you’re only as good as the work you deliver, so it can be difficult to manage.

Which object/space do you wish you’d designed?

I always come back to the classics. The 606 Universal Shelving System by Dieter Rams, designed in 1960, is so timeless. For me the things that are most beautiful are those that fulfil a function, too.

Camilla Fraser, Camilla Fraser Design


What is the most challenging aspect of what you do?

That I clearly understand my client’s brief and execute it to their expectations while challenging them on certain design decisions.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known from the beginning?

Time and finance management, because it always takes longer and costs more than expected.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

Neo Traditionalist, with a love for the handmade, the unusual and objects or materials that are made from natural fibre. I also favour classic over faddish. We consume so much throughout our lives and quality over quantity should inform our design decisions. And lastly I’m very pro local and support South African talent, such as African Sketchbook, My Tile ceramic tiles and Mungo linen.

Who in the industry do you admire?

Binky Newman of Design Afrika: she has sourced and developed handmade products for more than 20 years in Africa. All her pieces have design integrity and help sustain rural craft. Plus, I am a basket addict.

Tell me about the most enjoyable project you’ve worked on?

Collaborating with my client Abigail Bisogno, who gives me creative freedom, is not afraid of taking risks and shares my love of leopard print!

What would be your dream commission?

An old building with beautiful proportions, a creative client with an extensive collection of Eastern ceramics and African textiles, and an experimental nature.

Nicola Orpen and Hayley Turner, Bone Design


What is the most challenging aspect of what you do?

Working with unskilled labour, industry constraints and tight budgets while trying to achieve an international standard of work.

What’s the one thing you wish you’d known from the beginning?

Project management is always a large component of our work, even if you have a dedicated PM. If you want your designs to be executed as you’ve envisioned, you need to nurture them throughout the process – factors change throughout, from site conditions to budget constraints, so a design is ever changing from concept through to completion. You need to keep a close eye on the details.

Who has been the single greatest visual inspiration?

We draw inspiration from all over: following artistic blogs, travelling (design fairs and our local surrounds) as well as industry trends. International designers, specifically Diane von Furstenberg, who’s also a strong female creative business icon, give us energy to do great things.

Who in the industry do you admire?

Beatty Vermeiren Architects. Their symbiotic approach complements exterior and interior beautifully. Tracy Lee Lynch is a creative punch in the face. Her dynamic style and ability to balance an African aesthetic at a European level is exciting and inspiring.

Which object/piece of furniture/space do you wish you’d designed?

Hayley: Coming from a textile background, the Climbing Leopard rug by DVF for The Rug Company. Nicola: The Juicy Salif lemon squeezer by Philippe Starck for Alessi who said ‘It’s not meant to squeeze lemons, it is meant to start conversations.’ I wish I had his bravado.

What would be your dream commission?

A contemporary face-lift to the classic old lady that is the fictional Grand Budapest Hotel.

Londiwe Mbhele, LSZ Primelux


What prompted the change in career direction for you?

While I’m still involved in fashion journalism, I see interiors as more of an inevitable progression and expansion of my love of creativity – I was introduced to interior design in my early teens where we learnt the basics, such as colour, balance and proportion, and I was sold. Maybe I have returned to a true love.

How would you describe your aesthetic?

It’s a juxtaposition of the old and new or the bygone and contemporary. I enjoy designing something layered, which is an extension of us as humans – we are complex. And because I dabble in product design, mainly in ceramics, I can say it is contemporary.

Who in the industry do you admire?

Philippe Starck, simply because of his longstanding career and that he’s really pushed boundaries in design and has made incredible and unforgettable objects.

What would be your dream commission?

I love food and there’s something about coming together and breaking bread in a convivial atmosphere, so designing a restaurant would be great – the Social Kitchen & Bar is a good example. It merges things l love, which are food and books, in an industrial, contemporary space.
Contact LSZ Primelux at

Text and production Julia Freemantle
Photographs Karl Rogers


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