Always Welcome in Hyde Park

WORDS Robyn Alexander

An experiment examining the idea of a South African aesthetic by the Always Welcome store and Hyde Park House creates an exciting new direction for local design – and retail.

It’s been almost a year since local design cooperative Always Welcome opened its doors at Hyde Park Corner shopping centre in Johannesburg – during a tumultuous time in the local design industry’s history. Trade shows have all but ceased, and budgets have tightened everywhere.

Fortunately, Always Welcome’s membership-based model has thrived; it offers a game-changing platform where 24 of the country’s leading design studios have come together to create a shared marketplace.

Always Welcome members Dokter and Misses believe that it’s helping design businesses overcome hurdles they once faced themselves. “When we began Dokter and Misses in 2007, in order for us to reach customers and establish a brand, we needed to open brick-and-mortar stores,” says Katy Taplin, one half of the design duo. “I’m envious of how easily a new brand can connect with the market through social media these days – but having done it, we understand the value that a physical space brings to the design experience.”

To explore this next phase of South African design, Always Welcome wanted to understand what an interior space could be if created exclusively using designs by its members. And so, designers from around the country brought their offerings to Johannesburg to furnish a three-bedroom home, pairing up with the recently completed Hyde Park House development – designed by architect Enrico Daffonchio – to create a “showhouse” of southern African design.

“We wanted to represent a complete vision of local design; and Always Welcome provided the perfect platform for this,” says Hyde Park House’s head of development Richard Berold.

Always Welcome’s in-house design team, led by Alan Hayward and Garreth van Niekerk of Coraltree Projects, worked in partnership with Hyde Park House, with input from Always Welcome members. The cooperative also enlisted the design eye of performance artist Manthe Ribane (who features in the images here) to realise the overall feeling of the space.

Always Welcome in Hyde Park

Much like the store itself, the Hyde Park House project makes room for well-known pieces by Houtlander, Monn Carpets and Joe Paine to live alongside statement pieces by Dokter and Misses, Mash.T Studio, Indigenus, TheUrbanative and Inland Collective, as well as new work by Studio Stirling, Arrange Studio and the Bookward Bound Bindery.

A sense of warmth comes from softer items by designers such as Skinny laMinx, Wanderland Collective and Something Good Studio, and linen from Cape Town’s T-Shirt Bed Company in the bedrooms. Sculpture, craft and artworks enliven the space too, with handmade ceramics by Vorster & Braye, editioned prints by artist Trevor Stuurman, kinetic sculpture by Wessel Snyman, and wall hangings from the Swaziland-based weaving collective Gone Rural. Smaller details by Kirsten Goss Abode, Ngwenya Glass and House of Gozdawa bring final touches of interest.

This mixing of brands is key to the project. “Always Welcome has changed the idea of being in opposition with other designers to one of being in a symbiotic relationship with one another, where it is clear that we are stronger as a collective,” says Houtlander’s Phillip Hollander.

The showhouse can be viewed by appointment. The space also serves as a precursor to the upcoming launch of Always Welcome’s new online store, where the designers’ ranges will be available to purchase under “one roof”. Always Welcome’s online message, “Welcome To Your Own”, celebrates this new phase of local design, creating a platform where designers can be supported from your armchair – a chair that’s hopefully designed, and made, by your own favourite.

Looking for more on local decor and design? Take a look at Wiid Design’s new Spektrum collection.