Contemporary African Luxury
Go to Imbewu Design’s Instagram page and you’ll see their core design ethic: “Imbewu strives to create interiors that exude the opulence and elegance of contemporary African luxury design.”
So when Home Improver asked Imbewu Design co-founder Nkuli Nhleko to expand on the trends for winter 2021, we weren’t expecting pared-down minimalism. Just the opposite, in fact. Nhleko, who works with architect Enrico Daffonchio of Daffonchio & Associates Architects, says the design world is nostalgic for a mid-to-late 20th-century feel.
“Design of the mid-70s is being celebrated. Lots of rich jewel tones... add a level of opulence. Think velvets, suede, plush fabrics, everything indulgent. In past winters, the feel was more minimalistic but today it’s a case of more is more.”
Chunky furniture is the next big thing. “Not so long ago, sofas and chairs had dainty legs. Now furniture is full-bodied. An example is tub chairs which are cosy.
“And they’ll be upholstered in wool or textured fabric in quiet, neutral colours such as off-white, grey or charcoal. You could add an accent touch picking up on the softer hues in the space. “So while everything else is opulent, the furniture isn’t loud. Once the surroundings were the backdrop for the furniture, now the furniture is the backdrop to showcase the interior.”
Light the way
For lighting, there is a huge leaning towards the art deco look: giant bulbs and brass or even black pendants. Nhleko says walls are textured and paint techniques can achieve this.
The trend is towards a rough, concrete look which adds a contemporary edge, a sharp, clean feel. “But I don’t mean it should look industrial. This look can be achieved with paint effects. And just because it’s a concrete look it doesn’t have to be grey – at the Bank Hotel we painted the foyer a soft green – it’s more about texture than colour.”
Other trendy paint effects include a roughed-up, wornleather look. Some walls are being textured using vertical timber slats which can be directly lit or backlit. Another trend for walls is wainscotting or panelling painted the same colour as the wall.
Or you could add texture and colour with stone and marble. “For some years people wanted black marble with veins of white, or white marble with black veins, but you can get wonderful colours such as maroon or burgundy. “Calacatta gold looks fabulous on bathroom vanities or kitchen islands, and there is also a forest green marble, and marble with touches of blue.”
A new angle on floors
In line with the nostalgic theme, timber floors are back. “But the floorboards are not laid straight. The trend is towards herringbone or what is known as the Versailles design.
“Until recently people were looking for pale woods such as white oak, now they’re choosing rich chocolatey shades such as American walnut, veering towards darker mahogany hues. Dark wood is great for winter; it feels cosier.”
Demand for wall-to-wall carpeting has barely changed and the preferred colours are still greys and beiges but area rugs are different. Instead of edgy, modern designs, people are harking back: “People want an older look such as a slightly worn Persian, a rug that has a history and offers a bit of narrative. These rugs have rich patterns and jewel colours.”
But she doesn’t reject tiles completely. “You can get porcelain tiles printed with marble patterns. These give floors a high-end luxury feel, yet they’re still just porcelain tile. “I’ve used them on fireplace mantelpieces, kitchen islands and bathroom vanity tops. They’re practical and durable.”
Hung, drawn and sorted
Curtains should not be loud – we’re talking neutral, plain, elegant and understated. They should ideally be the same colour as the wall so that they disappear and become just part of the backdrop.
“We’re back to old-world charm here, so they should be made of heavy fabric and puddle slightly on the floor. And the most popular pleat is a wave pleat which stacks when the curtain is drawn back,” says Nhleko.
A tall order
Even ceilings are changing. “Ceilings are often ignored, but now they’re getting their place in the sun. “With the design world feeding into old-world charm, people are going back to cornicing and central medallions from which a pendant light fitting hangs.”
But Nhleko has a word of warning. “You need to plan in advance – once a ceiling is in it is very difficult to change, what with the electrical casings and so on. Once it’s done you can’t really play around with it, or you’ll end up replacing the whole thing.”
Many of us may want to be on trend this winter but aren’t likely to be pulling up floors or replacing ceilings. What does Nhleko suggest to give a living room a makeover that won’t cost a fortune? “Get some pastel scatters to add a bit of colour. Colour is back.
“Nothing beats a beautiful coffee table which is the heart of any living room. Brass is good - or at least a touch of brass, “And lastly add a standing lamp or table lamp that has a mid-century feel and look.”