First published on http://www.visi.co.za in August 2012
It’s the magical musky smell of leather that first hits you when you walk into the Dark Horse store and studio on Kloof Nek Road. And although the scent continues to linger, your other senses are quickly aroused too.
Sight in particular; there’s so much to see, and it’s not just the furniture, fashion and decor pieces on sale. The owners and product designers, Lise du Plessis and Jarred Nelson, have created a space that really shows off their handiwork. Concocting clever texture and colour contradictions between the actual space and the items on sale, the products scream “Buy me!” and the walls and resident ginger cat Biscuit invite you to move in.
Unusual choices, like a wall covered in recycled tyres, pay items like the newly designed powder coated steel vases their due. Dark navy blue walls allow the bright threads in the strap cushions to pop, while another wall in the store made from leftover wood chips and logs, further enhances the cozy interior. The authenticity of the apparel on sale in the store is manifested in the studio by the sound of singing sewing machines hidden behind curtains, while mounds of leather and canvas all speak of new designs which are soon to grace the walls and shelves of the store.
We sat down with Lise and Jarred, a trained interior designer and architect respectively, to find out more about their designs and the space that houses them.
How long have you been in business?
We started Dark Horse when we moved back to Cape Town from England last year. We needed furniture for our apartment but couldn’t find anything that we liked within our price range. We started making furniture and apparel pieces in our apartment until we moved into this space in May last year.
Did you design the space yourself?
Yes, everything was designed and created by us.
Was the shop’s interior inspired by anything in particular?
The space was inspired by the products we design and sell. We wanted to keep it quite dark and neutral so that it would contrast with the brightness of some of our designs.
In your opinion, what are the key design considerations for a shop space or studio?
It has to be inviting. The atmosphere is key (and so is the coffee). Customers need to interact with the space and feel at home. We have customers who have become part of the Dark Horse family and I think the space we have created has a lot to do with that.
And for a home space?
A home has to have personality but also be functional. We like to keep things open in our home, exposing things in the cupboard, ‘showing off’ what we have.
Where did you source the decor and furniture items in your shop/space?
We laid everything in the shop ourselves, we repurposed a lot of things like the tyre and timber and then did all the sanding and staining ourselves… ja we remember those days well.
How does this environment encapsulate or enhance the wares you sell?
The space and products work together to create a homely feeling rather than a retail shop. The studio in the back also allows people to see how our products are made, they can see the process, which helps them understand just how local Dark Horse furniture and apparel really is. For us design is something that is considered, and the functionality of the space shows that off.
And lastly, what do you think Cape Town’s title of World Design Capital 2014 will bring to the city?
We’re hoping it will create greater public awareness about design and help create a shared understanding of what design is. It’ll really shine a light on Cape Town, exposing local design to people overseas.
Find out more at www.dark-horse.co.za