Polyhedra Modular Coffee Table
Haldane Martin is a Cape Town based iconic furniture and interior design company founded in 2002 by designer and director Haldane Martin. With both function and form at the heart of its design aesthetic Haldane Martin links sustainability and elegance to create furniture and interiors that exude contemporary South African style, by making use of indigenous craft, cultural identity and biomimicry geometry. The Songololo sofa and Zulu Mama chairs are only a few examples of the creative workmanship that has made Haldane Martin sought after by local and international design collectors and connoisseurs. We spoke to the designer about his eponymous label.
What led you to pursue a career in design?
Ever since I was a child, I have really enjoyed making things. As a teenager, I built skateboards, sailboards and surfboards. This lead to me studying industrial design at what was then called Cape Technikon – Now Cape Peninsula University of Technology.
What have been some of the trials and triumphs since Haldane Martin was established in 2002?
As it is for most creative businesses, money has been a challenge in the past. Continuing to learn new skills and push creative boundaries keeps us motivated and doing good work. I am currently learning to use Grasshopper – a generative design tool. And my partner and work colleague, Alison Thomson is doing her interior architecture honours degree part time.
Describe your aesthetic and tell us what it’s influenced by.
For Haldane Martin branded furniture design I would describe my aesthetic as contemporary South African. When it comes to commercial interior design, we develop an aesthetic and style to suit the context of the project we are working on. Usually this is about expressing the essence of our client’s identity.
How would you describe your creative process?
We are pretty systematic and follow a well-defined workflow, which results in consistently high creative results. In a nut shell, we look for an iconic concept that captures a project’s unique identity and then work damn hard to actualise it as best as possible within the limitations of the projects context.
Zulu Mama Chair
Source Wire Chair
What materials do you enjoy working with? And how do you go about choosing materials for a specific project?
Materials are very project specific and are chosen based on a combination of the following criteria: Concept, aesthetics, function, budget, durability, availability and sustainability. I personally like materials that wear well like timber, raw steel and leather. I also like using bright colourful, inexpensive and unexpected materials like the orange and pink string for Glam 5. But it really depends on the project.
Please tell us about your most recent work for Glam5?
Glam5 is a beauty salon in The Palms, Woodstock, which also offers a members’ club and photographic studio. Haldane Martin designed its interior with an underlying style of cutting-edge classic contemporary to reinforce the brand’s identity of glamour, luxury and comfort. A plush, deep-buttoned reception desk upholstered in coral fabric welcomes clients into the salon. Graphic black and white floral wallpaper and geometric pattern tiles contrasts with the coral upholstery, feature wall and a string installation centrepiece.
To create this innovative centrepiece, strings were hung from the roof and niche archways cut into it by hand – much like a haircut. The coral string is highlighted with lighting recessed into the bulkhead. The main salon space is ordered symmetrically, with nail stations on the left, hair styling on the right and basins at the end. Faux design classics accent each station. Tulip chairs and Componibili round storage cupboards intersperse individual full-length mirrors casually leaning against the right-hand wall. Coral string installations frame each hair-cutting station.
Along the left, sets of Piña chairs provide comfortable seating for nail artistry. A circular mirror surrounded with mini LED lights is embedded into a makeup table – a final touch of Hollywood glamour.
As an industrial designer you have great technical skill. Where do precision engineering, design excellence and human comfort meet?
It has been said that both God and the devil are in the details. And even though I am an atheist, we spend a huge amount of time detailing our designs in 3D on the computer for our manufacturers. This makes a big difference in the final execution of the design. We also check our ergonomics in the 3D model by dropping in an ergonomically accurate mannequin into the model, and make it sit on chairs etc.. 3D computer modeling has really revolutionised design, enabling us to create and build more effectively.
Is there a particular piece you’ve made that stands out as a personal favourite? Or one that has a memorable story attached to it?
I really enjoy hanging out at Truth Coffee on Buitenkant Street in Cape Town, which was our first large commercial interior. It has gathered a huge cult following and has been a massive success for our client. It was named the best coffee shop in the world by MSN Travel in 2013. I feel good knowing that my work contributes to the success of my fellow South African entrepreneurs.
Has the act of designing furniture and interiors changed the way you view and experience them in general?
Yes it has made me far more sensitive to the subtle things, like the height of a bench, light levels, airflow, program and acoustics which makes a space comfortable or not. My partner and I also constantly evaluate and discuss the spaces that we find ourselves in. We have even been known to avoid a restaurant because we don’t like the upholstery on their dining chairs! (Much to her child’s dismay…)
Are you currently working towards any new projects, or adding to any ongoing ones? And what else can we look forward to from you this year?
Yes, 2 new furniture designs have emerged out of an office interior that we are busy with for Environ Skin Care. One is the Pebble Sofa system which Leon @ CCXIX will be manufacturing for Haldane Martin under license. The other design is called the beautiful Soft Desk system which Ergoform will be manufacturing under license.