Monday, 19 September 2011

Featured designer: BoxLiving

box living furniture boxliving design inspirationBoxLiving's furniture and designs just oozes with contemporary, classic and modern elegance that really defines a space. I got a great opportunity to ask them a couple of pertinent questions about thier products, their brand and the future of design in Cape Town...

How would you describe your furniture's style? How has this style developed over time?

"Our style is an unexpected but successful fusion of contemporary, classical & traditional with distinct African & Asian influences. In this sense it stands very much apart from the crowd. In the beginning, Box Living had quite a Zen-like simplicity with strong African, Asian & Oriental references. Over time, our collections have gone in two opposite directions at the same time - we've developed signature items with simple, contemporary & clean lines and at the same time other pieces have become far more decorative and intricate. I think this reflects an ever increasing confidence in our design ability as well as a much better understanding of the materials we use."

What has inspired/inspires/influences your design style?

box living furniture boxliving design inspiration
"We are a truly original brand which draws inspiration from many current or past design & cultural influences. Our latest 'Bloom' collection has more than a casual nod to the flower power look and feel of the sixties, but is interpreted in a modern and sophisticated way that lends itself to the way we live today. Our previous collection 'Nipis' referenced both Giacometti's lightweight style as well as the domestic culture of Indonesia, in particular a coffee table that was based on a traditional rice table bowl. Past collections, such as the award-winning 'Generation' series, have been much more slick and contemporary. So it's fair to say that we draw influence from a truly global source of styles, but execute everything in a unique Box Living aesthetic, so that each successive collection can hang effortlessly together with the last."

What comes first - the materials or the design idea?

"The design comes first - always bearing in mind the primary materials that we work with. This is why it's not always possible to tell from a picture what material some of our pieces of made of. While we have a good understanding of our core materials, we do bring in new materials with each collection and these are dictated largely by style and design - for instance, in our Galeri 'Travellers Edition' we introduced copper for the first time as it's much softer and easier to form into the intricate shapes we required for several of the lighting pieces."

What are you most proud of professionally?

"I am proud that we have managed to build a brand that sits very much apart from every other, but which has been embraced by many arbiters of interior design - from all of the leading SA interior magazines who regularly feature us, through to almost every major local decorator. I am proud when I see how our product has been used in homes and hotels not just in SA but in many exotic locations around the world - and that our pieces always stand out from the rest as being Box Living."

What is your design mantra/motto?

"Unique, distinctive and timeless. We have 2 sides to our business - we produce a broad collection for use in homes & hotels which needs to be both special and price sensitive, and then we design an exclusive annual range using only the finest materials - our GALERI collection - where price is no object and each piece is designed purely on aesthetics. The fact that they're developed simultaneously means that they both benefit each other."

What is the one thing that people don't know about Box Living?

box living furniture boxliving design inspiration"I'm not always sure that people realise how much care and effort and time goes into each and every piece of ours. Sometimes up to five prototypes are created for each item and before we even get to the prototype stage we make up styrofoam versions. That's how we manage to turn such distinct shapes and forms into workable, practical furniture - and we do this with almost 200 new products each year! This is the less obvious thing - the more obvious thing that people only discover once they start working with us, is that we value our relationships with our clients above all else. Our service is as personal and attentive as possible, and we often go way beyond the call of duty to satisfy clients."

Which color and textures do you wish to see regain popularity in the South Africa and global market and why? Which textures and colors do you see becoming popular in 2012? Which of these trends, in your opinion, will continue on from 2011?

"We like to think we're slightly ahead of the pack. In 2011 we introduced a new 'brushed' surface on our timber items available in place of the more traditional smooth surface - this enhances the handcrafted appeal and references a far more traditional process of manufacturing furniture. To this we've added what we call a 'weathered' surface - designed to replicate the distressed nature of historic furniture pieces. We regularly introduce new timber stains to complement the ever popular mid-browns - this year it was 'tobacco' and walnut' among others. Recently we've seen a big shift towards paint effected surfaces such as our 'Alto' (white) which can act as a foil to darker furniture placed in the same room. Our latest release is 'almond' (a cool cream colour) and we've also just introduced an antique steel effect which replicates metal - this promises to be popular, it has the effect of changing the perception of the timber material."

Why handcrafted as opposed to machine mass produced pieces?

box living furniture boxliving design inspiration"Each of our furniture items is unique - no two pieces are identical. It's very important to us to retain the invaluable appearance and feel of a handcrafted item of furniture. Although machines are involved in some of our components, the carving, weaving and assembling of our furniture is all done by hand. That is something that sets Box Living apart from others as a luxury furniture brand. I am disappointed when I see row upon row of identical machine made products in stores - even though they're well priced they are mostly far from special."


What lesson(s) do you think the design industry, in the global sense, could teach South Africa? And vice versa what do you think the South African design industry could teach the world?

"I think South Africans are very switched on to what is happening around the world - they may take lessons but they certainly don't need to be taught a lesson. I love the way successful South African designers are able to simultaneously reference a multitude of global styles, from ethnic to contemporary, but apply a very African take to them. Perhaps the lesson they can give to the world is not to be afraid to hang several periods and styles together in the same scheme - and always to put comfort first."

Which furniture design trends to you wish to see regain popularity in the South Africa and global market and why? Which trends do you see becoming popular in 2012? Which of these trends, in your opinion, will continue on from 2011?

"Locally, I would like to see a move away from mass market products - either those that are crudely & carelessly handmade or soullessly machine made. There are some wonderful home-grown and home designed products that are featured by the magazines but ignored by the stores - a real shame. I do see a shift happening in that people are trying to break with their conservative style roots - let's hope that in 2012 they develop more confidence and experiment a little more. Perhaps the best shift we can hope for is that people start to express more individuality."

What do you think it would mean to Cape Town's creative industry if it was awarded the title of Design Capital?

"I don't think it would change the way we are - I think it would just be a wonderful recognition of the immense creativity that lies within Cape Town and of all the wonderful, passionate and talented people that are based here. It would be a great accolade, just to tell people that what they're doing is both interesting and appreciated by a global audience."

What sets yourselves apart from the rest of the crowd? What makes your designs unique? What is the secret behind or biggest contributor towards your success?

"We are not afraid to experiment with a wide variety of new products and we produce at least 2 stand-alone collections annually - no mean feat for a relatively small business. While we are aware of what others are doing we have never been guilty of imitation - rather we concentrate on producing iconic and beautiful collections of furniture that are fashionable, timeless and practical. Our products are big, bold and distinctly Box Living."


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