Each issue we quiz a South African interior designer about their past as well as the future of their profession. This month we spoke to Floris Marais of Suttie & Marais Designs
Q What is your background?
I was born in Alberton, Gauteng and went to school there. I have no formal education in interior design. The other member of Suttie & Marais Designs, Neill Suttie, was born and schooled in Durban. He studied at the Inchbald School of Interior Design in London.
Q What sparked your interest in interior design?
From a very young age I started doing work for family and friends. This involved painting and I was always working with furniture and art.
Q What would you say is your signature design style?
We do not have a signature style – for us it all depends on the architecture of the house, the client’s needs and personality. We love working in both a classical and very contemporary style. We love the mix of old and new, and our own homes are a meeting of contemporary and classical influences. We love either very modern architecture set off with antique pieces or an old building with more modern pieces.
Q There is the debate about a South African style of architecture, but is there a South African style of interior design?
South African interiors do not have a definite style. As the world has become very small, particularly with the internet, this has influenced our styles and allowed us to borrow styles and concepts within our work. This applies to designers worldwide, an example being the introduction of animal prints and objects from Africa into foreign interiors. Architecture has also been greatly influenced by European designs, such as all the Tuscan and French villas around. Still, there are some architects who have created more of an ‘African’ feel in their work by creating more contemporary ideas to suit our climate and lifestyle.
Q Describe your ultimate client.
My ultimate client is a client who knows what he or she wants, who is committed to creating a definite lifestyle, and then gives us free rein to create it.
Q What are you currently working on?
We are currently working on a large domestic project in Johannesburg which just involves decorating, but with a good budget – it covers everything from introducing new tiles to the sheets on the bed. Then we are busy renovating a house for a client, as well as building two new houses for clients in Johannesburg and Hermanus. We are helping a client renovate a fantastic 1906 building in Simon’s Town, which will then be decorated as a holiday home for the family. We’re also doing a decorating job in Sydney, Australia.
Q How would you rate the standard of education in the field?
I find that education in the decorating field is lacking in the area of practicality. With our work, one learns on a daily basis, and the only way to keep up with this is to be in the field. It’s about practicality, about understanding what it is that you are working on on a daily basis. Any person can apply to do the courses available, but it’s more about having ‘it’ within you. It’s about a talent and then the drive to want to create. Just as one cannot learn to be a Picasso, one cannot just ‘learn’ to be a decorator.
Q Can you name one trend which you think is worth keeping an eye on?
I think the current trend is to use colour – this includes monotones within a colour, like red on red, or white on white, or solid colours with patterns which are all in the same colour palette. Gold is also very big. Since Dolce & Gabbana did their ‘Gold Bar’, the colour gold has been given a new and very trendy reawakening.
* What is your background (where you were born, grew up, educated)?
I was born in Johannesburg and grew up on the west rand.
I studied Interior Design at Wits Tech from 1990 to 1993. (now The University of Johannesburg)
* What sparked your interest in interior design?
After finishing school I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to study but was interested in photography, graphic design, architecture and furniture design.
I visited a number of institutions and after narrowing it down to Industrial or Interior Design I finally decided to go with Interior design because it had a bit of all the above.
* What would you say is your signature design style?
My business partner, Philippe, and myself have always been interested in designing furniture that has a high level of craft, using traditional construction techniques but always exploring new materials, also, using interesting or unusual combinations of traditional materials.
This level of detail and craft is followed through into the interiors we design.
* There is the debate about a South Africa style of architecture, but is there a South African style of interior design?
We are constantly influenced by the enviroment we work and live in however we do not work within the constaints of a South African style.
* Describe your ultimate client?
Well travelled, well informed, willing to take chances.
* What are you currently working on?
We are lucky in that we have quite a diverse cliental, we are busy working on a number of residential projects, the British Airways lounges at JHB, CT and DBN airports, a night club in Sandton, a private gym etc.
We also design and manufacture furniture. We launch two new ranges a year. These are shown in Parktown North Showroom and on our website. www.tonicdesign.co.za
* How would you rate the standard of education in the field?
On the whole quite strong, however I think there is room for improvement.
* Can you name one trend which you think is worth keeping an eye on?
No. My advise would be not to follow trends, rather invest in well designed furniture and architecture.