Managing Director of Ditau Interiors, Nthabi Taukobong

What are the biggest design trends we can anticipate in 2017?

A return to more earthly, natural and purposeful living – be it in our eating habits or lifestyle choices. Growing and consuming organic food, buying locally manufactured goods or building green homes.

How has the African aesthetic changed over the past decade?

It depends on what you perceive as an African aesthetic. I believe it was previously interpreted as colourful, bold and over the top. As we’ve gotten deeper into understanding who we are and how we want to experience and live life, the African aesthetic has also adapted. We remain expressive, bold and colourful in our dress and sense of style. In our living spaces, we now tend towards minimalist yet comfortable interiors with room to breathe, natural colours and subtle finishes.

What five essential items does every interior space need? Both residential and corporate.

Once the floors, walls and ceiling finishes are done, essential to finishing off are:

  • Furniture – Buy quality furniture that will last at least four to five years.
  • Lighting – Good lighting creates immediate ambience in a room. A chandelier can define a space with its scale and proportion. A side lamp creates a soft, relaxed yet elegant mood. Lighting can make or break a room. It’s wise not to under-budget on it or leave it to the very end.
  • Artwork/photos – These are the final accents and touches. A selection of key art pieces brings personality, style and history to a space. However, be mindful of the level at which art is hung. The general rule is at eye level, to be appreciated by all.

  • Rugs – A rug is like a frame around an artwork; it brings together an entire scheme and pulls the look and feel of the space into a central point of attention. It ties together colours and themes by picking up accents and tones. It’s a great design secret – when you’ve furnished a room and want all the items to “speak to each other”, add a rug. The bigger, the better!
  • Accessories – The final essential items, not to be compromised on. Add cushions and/or throws to sofas, and chairs at the end of the bed. Well-positioned artefacts, books, decorative glass or ceramic objects, and mantle pieces are other examples. This is the “layering” phase of a space to give it a sense of character and style.

 As a designer, what kind of plants work with home spaces?

Bring in plants that are low maintenance, such as an areca palm – it adds a tropical feel to a home and can grow up to 2.1 m, if necessary. It’s perfect for a lounge or study where you have a “dead” (empty) corner that you want to bring to life. It can also bring visual height to a room where all the furniture is low, and a bit of “drama” is required. They can also be used on a covered patio, or in a reading corner behind a lounge chair.

Delicious monster leaves are always a design secret of mine. They grow in most gardens and cutting off two or three medium-sized leaves and placing them in a glass vase with fresh water can completely transform your entrance, dining room or patio table.

Small variations of aloe vera succulent plants in white or tin containers are my favourite for around the kitchen, on the shelves or on a windowsill – they love sunny indoor spaces and are easy to maintain.

 Pantone recently announced “Greenery” as the Colour of the Year for 2017. Other than plants, how else can you bring green hues into your home?

In feng shui, green represents balance and harmony. Green also means being eco-friendly, being at one with nature and good things related to the earth. Bring it into a home through plants, paint, accessories, artworks and key furniture pieces.

Green isn’t gender specific, so certain tones of green work well in certain areas of a home, and can be seen as masculine or feminine depending on the hue and tone of the colour. I’m not surprised Greenery is the Pantone colour for 2017 – it’s my all-time design colour must-have!

How does one put a personal stamp on a living space when you’re not even sure what your personal style is?

Bring in what you love and are instinctively drawn towards. The fear with decorating is thinking our choices are permanent. If you need help, ask a professional to set the tone for you, then you can shop for suitable pieces, all in good time. Your decisions don’t have to be immediate. Mix it up and make your space uniquely you. My kitchen walls are covered with my son’s schoolwork, artwork and certificates because that’s important to me. Our home is full of photos of family, friends and happy memories. I love having books everywhere and candles in almost every room.

What role do trends play in the items we see in the stores?

Trends influence buyers who, in turn, influence shoppers. But you’re free to choose trends that work for your space. I prefer style instead of trend. Trends are hot items for now, but you don’t want to make costly investments, only to change them soon thereafter. Not all things need to be of a certain style or trend. Keep your basics timeless, then accessorise with trendy items like vases, glassware, cushions or throws. A trendy paint colour makes for a strong accent in a dull passage. Trends can be tastefully added to a home. Select wisely.

Who’s in your top Instagram follow-list for design?

I love @zuri_home for its natural, organic, tribal, clean-living and raw designs. Perfectly imperfect. That’s what life and design are all about.

A home is not a home without…

LOVE. No amount of furniture can turn a house into a home.

Give us a brief history of Ditau Interiors…

I’ve been an interior designer since 1996, and started my consultancy in 2005. I once dreamed of simply owning a beautiful office, but now am working on growing a luxury African lifestyle brand made in SA, and inspired by Africa and other tribes around the world! I used to think the aim of interior design was only to create opulent interiors with glamorous furniture and expensive accessories. But after 20 years in this demanding industry, I needed to dig deeper, strip myself of the glitzy, over-the-top glamour and seek authenticity in my design process and what I was bringing to a space.

Ditau Interiors specialises in luxury homes and leisure projects such as hotels, guesthouses, game lodges and spas throughout the continent. Our scope is vast – homes in Johannesburg; holiday homes and homes for royalty; villas for presidents during the AU summit; state houses in Ethiopia, Ghana and Rwanda; hotels all over South Africa; and corporate interiors for top business executives.

Ditau Interiors is about more than just interior design; we create liveable spaces for everyday life with a distinct focus on comfort and effortless luxury, which also incorporates the hearts and souls of local artists. Our product offering even extends to an exclusive home fragrance range – called TAU by Nthabi Taukobong – which includes candles, ceramic burners and diffusers, all made and packaged locally.

Your biggest lesson so far?

Four years ago, while on a summer course in Florence, Italy, a lecturer stood in front of us – students from all around the world – and told us that the aim of the course was to share the secret and passion of the Italians, of all that is uniquely theirs, and help us return and do the same with our own country’s artisans. What an awakening… a skilled professional telling us to be proud of our own heritage! I’d travelled all that way to be told to go home and turn my own unique African heritage into gold.

 INSTAGRAM: @ditauinteriors


 Nthabi’s top tips for using green:

In interior spaces

I love deep, dark, masculine green – it gives the sense of being grounded, safe and nurtured.

In children’s bedrooms or play areas

A fresh, bright green wall makes children feel happy and adds a sense of playfulness and cheer.

On patios

Cushions with beautiful tropical plant leaf prints are wonderful and make your patio feel like tropical paradise all year round.

On wallpaper

Leafy, tropical plants and exotic animals are my favourite in guest toilets and reading rooms.

In artwork

A touch of green (be it a direct plant translation or a black and white abstract with a splash of masculine green) is great in a lounge area.

On a velvet sofa

My all-time classic and personal favourite is a bottle green, deep-buttoned sofa. I have had one in my home office for almost 10 years. It’s my go-to chill spot – the deep green combination with my black-and-white Andrew Martin oversized zebra cushions relax me completely.


Green vases with gold accents are great on a coffee table grouped in varying sizes on a bamboo tray.

Design do’s and don’ts

  • DO ask for professional advice.
  • DON’T clutter. Less is more. Invest in good art; it’s a lifetime investment.
  • DON’T take decorating too seriously.
  • DO take measurements. Never have curtains that are too short.
  • DON’T buy it just because it’s expensive; buy it because it speaks to your soul.

 Paint the town green!

Inspired by Pantone’s Colour of the Year – Greenery – Plascon offers a similar shade, called Green Heart. It suggests five great ways to use this hue:

  • A front door painted in green adds a pop of colour to a neutral exterior and complements the greenery in a garden.
  • Bedroom walls painted in Green Heart will create a calming space.
  • The right shade of green can turn your bathroom into a soothing sanctuary.
  • Shades of green contrast beautifully against a monochrome background.
  • Green is a stress-relieving and balancing colour. If your decorating scheme isn't working, try adding plants to balance it.