Caesarstone. Credit: Hansen Kim Boje

A house only becomes a home when it starts to reflect who you are. But not all of us are capable of enhancing the value of our homes with what we put inside them. This is where an interior designer can come into play.

These three young South African interior designers are transforming homes across the country and beyond our borders. Here we gain some insight into how they improve everything inside a home, including its appeal.

The interior designers

In 2014, Donald Nxumalo (DN) was the first winner of the reality show Win A Home. The show is co-sponsored by Caesarstone, which provided luxury quartz for the competitors to use and Trevor King, the marketing director of Caesarstone, has served as a judge of the show. Nxumalo used that win to boost his career and establish himself as one of the country’s leading designers with DNX Interior Design.

Buzwe Mabuza (BM) has built a solid career with Buzwe In Décor over the last decade, and this put him in a position to establish Design Dreams International, which comprises of Design Dreams Interiors, Design Dreams Institue and Design Dreams Investments.

Mucha Mkhabela-Hoboyi (MMH) took what she learned at Design School SA and at a property development company to launch her company House of Chavi which does both interior and furniture design and event management. Her clients vary and include the ministerial homes in Pretoria.

What is your process when commissioned by a client to decorate their home?

DN: The first step is a consultation, either at the client’s home or at our studios and showroom in Kramerville. We ask lots of questions to separate what the client wants from what they think they want. From this point, we get into the process of creating mood boards, concept plans and colour schemes for what will then map a direction for the next meeting with the client for a proposal presentation.

BM: Your space is an extension of your personality and, therefore, we first get to know who the client is, their lifestyle and how they wish to experience the space. We then come up with ideas taking into consideration the functionality and aesthetics that will best capture their essence.

MMH: A consultation is done in their space to enable us to understand the client’s taste, lifestyle needs and overall vision in order to present a fully functional space. It is about reflecting their personality and creating a space that effortlessly resonates with who they are.

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What is your approach to sourcing for clients? 

MMH: We source furniture and accessories from various suppliers both locally and internationally, such as Casalgrande Padana, Giorgetti, Bredaquaranta, Rubelli, Versace Casa, Fendi Casa, and Boco Do Lobo. These can include fabric, wall coverings, contemporary motorised couches, marble tables, etc. We bring in our lighting mainly from Germany. Our rugs are a mixture of Italian, Spanish and Turkish. We can also manufacture individual, customised pieces at our local factory.

What are the latest trends in African interior design?

DN: We are proud of our roots and try to add elements of our culture in our designs. I was raised in a multicultural family and I draw inspiration from this, for example, crocheting and beading are major parts of my upbringing. In my installations, I always incorporate these. The trends in African interior design are the combination of elements from our rich African traditions and culture with modern design. 

BM: I am happy to see Africa no longer reduced to the bush, grass mats and animals. Africa’s vibrancy and energy are beginning to be displayed in the colourfulness of patterns and textures. We have blue skies and the orange sun throughout the year and this is beginning to be celebrated and embraced through art and textiles.

MMH: Eclectic African interiors are totally in with a strong focus on hues that incorporate wildlife elements, be it through objet d'art (art, collectables, accessories) or textured wallpaper (e.g. glass, copper, embossed or flocked velvet). Also, pieces like Maasai masks from Kenya fused with locally produced glass vases, decorative ornaments and ceramics add to the aesthetic.

What design factors are you seeing gaining prominence in general?

DN: Smeg has appliances that are full of character and have brought colour and style back into the kitchen. This is an achievement as, when a client is not in a position to renovate a whole space, the addition of just a few appliances in awesome bright colours almost instantly transforms the space. I also find think that consumers are looking at higher quality products and brands as opposed to mainstream lower priced products.

BM: Unfortunately, SA is still behind with regards to world trends but more people are travelling and being exposed to new trends. In addition, international brands like Giorgetti, Poliform, Roche Bobois and other leading names in furniture design are opening up showrooms here. Exposure is limited but we are getting there.

MMH: The contemporary feel – which borrows elements from various styles and has an emphasis on simplicity with comfort in mind – is still popular. Accessories like abstract, unframed paintings as well as simple furniture with clean lines also add to the contemporary design. Brands like blu_line kitchens, Fendi Casa furniture and wallpaper brands, including Christian Lacroix, Zoffany, Chivasso and Harlequin, are in demand.  

What advice would you give someone who is looking to enhance their space while increasing its value?

DN: Houses can be completely transformed by just a splash of paint. The idea is not necessarily to demolish and rebuild them, but to look at things that easily enhance a space. Two major areas are the kitchen and bathroom. In the kitchen, you can repaint cupboards, install new rails and fix the plumbing. In the bathroom, changing the tiles and updating fittings has a great effect.

BM: Designers know what they are doing. Allow them room to serve your space best and learn why some things will add value and some won’t. I’ve recently had a client spend what he thought was a horrendous amount of money for me to fix up a DIY design exercise that went pear-shaped. Within 8 months of the project completion, he had sold the property and not only got his investment back but made a good profit, because we had worked on it.

MMH: Hire an accredited designer who you feel can realise your vision. Also, accessories can create harmony and lighting has to work with the overall scheme as it can make or break the aesthetic balance.

How would you describe your style/aesthetic?

DN: Contemporary pan-African with a hint of the classic. It goes beyond being appealing to the eye. It’s practical and functional, yet results in a comfortable end product. The colours that are incorporated imbue warmth and comfort, and that, I'd say, is my style.

BM: Edgy, vibrant, warm and balanced.

MMH: Luxury modern classic. I love using minimal accents, rich textures, and layering of lavish textiles to create timelessness. In the end, each room's story must be exclusive.

How important is lighting, art and accessories, like cushions, rugs, etc?

DN: These elements bring effortless style when incorporated correctly. Depending on the space, side lamps can also transform a room. Cushions, rugs and vases have an impact from a colour and size perspective.

BM: These items bring personality and life into any space.

What mistakes do people make when they try to change their decor?

DN: The biggest mistake that people make is liking everything. Styles end up clashing and make the space look like a huge garage sale. Also, they depend on apps like Pinterest as a reference. A lot of things look great online but might not be so great for your space. Use an interior designer. The cost of fixing the problem will be higher than had the professional done it from the start.

BM: Style is timeless and will always be relevant, so people should stop chasing trends. Let your space reflect who you are!

MMH: People think they can buy anything they like and throw it all together without understanding the basic principles of the actual architectural structure you're working with. It almost always ends up in over cluttering a space and creating an imbalance.

“People think they can buy anything they like and throw it all together...” – Mucha Mkhabela-Hoboyi

“...the addition of just a few appliances in awesome bright colours almost instantly transforms the space.” – Donald Nxumalo