We chat to furniture and interior designer Justin van Breda
On time travel, supporting local and the chair that “should be on every veranda in the world.”
That he flew the coop and went to live in London was almost the end of our friendship, but lucky for SA born Justin van Breda, his skills in the design department (and his affable nature) have spared him that eventuality. Having famously worked his way up to Creative Director for celebrity interior designer Nicky Haslam, this furniture and interior designer is passionate about heritage and traditional craft methods and has a way with wood and metal inlay pieces.
His approach to the spaces and the items he creates is to honour the timeless elegance of English classics, while giving them an approachable, contemporary flavour that brings them into the here and now. Truth be told, the whole Lifestyling team is still waiting for their invitations to his 18th century summer home in the Cotswolds… flick through his Instagram feed and you’ll see why.
You design furniture because?
I love the detailing and mixing of materials that goes into designing furniture. I also love the proportions of classical design and use them to create something that is familiar, yet new.
You design interiors because?
Influencing the way that people live in their homes and helping them create happy calm environments is very satisfying.
Your private jet is fueled and you’re off to visit a few designer friends across the globe. Your itinerary includes North America, Africa, Asia and Europe, so who’s on your list to drop in on and why?
North America: I have a lot of designer friends in the US, but if I had one stop, it would be Atlanta, as the design community there is amazingly supportive and embracing.
Africa: Cape Town for sure. Tea at the Mount Nelson with design inspirations Greg Mellor and Jean-Pierre de la Chaumette, a whizz past the Cécile and Boyd showroom and finally, dinner at the Silo with my BFF’s.
Asia: I’d skip Asia and pop over to Sydney instead. I think they have a great design scene there; I’d want to check out the new atelier of my friend and fellow designer Marni Burger.
Europe: It would have to be January in Paris for Deco Off, because I would get to see so many of my friends at this great show.
Tell us about your Cape Weaver Collection.
Inspired to work with communities and Africa; the collection brings international designers’ eyes to local craft. The approach feeds the crafters’ wonderful abilities and skillsets into the international design community, thereby supporting and creating ongoing work.
Tell us about your new philanthropic approach to design.
I like a story (or two) and I like working with small workshops. Most of them support their community in some way. Working internationally with Africa is challenging and so, knowing the work has meaningful feedback is really rewarding. Community is particularly important to me and I like to see where the money is going. I have used massive commercial workshops before and that’s a bridge I would prefer to not cross again.
What is your favourite piece of furniture you’ve ever designed?
That’s so hard because they are all like children. The stand-outs though, (the ones who went to Ivy League) are the Bow Chair in rattan (should be on every veranda in the world); the Matthew desk and Monty Sideboard both from my wood furniture collection; my octagon rattan cabinet and my collection of bathroom vanities.
Are you a hat or gloves kind of guy?
No hats for me, but I am partial to winter gloves. I should probably get white cotton driving gloves for sunspots in summer!
Who wore it best: The Duchess of Sussex or The Duchess of Cambridge?
Who? There is only one Duchess, and that’s Catherine of Cambridge.
Sunday mornings are for?
Tea in bed.
What of your South African heritage do you bring to your design process?
Scale, and a play on tensions – masculine and feminine; dark and light; old and new.
Based purely on design, which period would you like to time travel to?
1792… I would love to see my partner Alastair and my house in the Cotswolds when it was being built.