Creative Cape Town Space: Wiid Design

PHOTOS Jan Ras PRODUCTION Sumien Brink WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo

Dark exterior walls can appear ominous, but when successfully executed, they exude mystery. In Cape Town’s Observatory we entered a newly painted black building that’s home to Wiid Design, and found beauty.

The stark black façade is the first thing you notice from outside the 645 m2 two-storey home of Wiid Design. If the roller door on the right is open, you might get a peek inside at the assembly line, the machinery, the forklift, and conclude it is a factory space. You’d be right, but that would be less than half the story.

“The building is designed so there are two parts to it. It is more industrial on the right, and the left side houses the offices, the studios and the gallery. It’s more quiet,” says Laurie Wiid van Heerden, the 27-year-old designer and owner of Wiid Design, who shares this space with designer Elsje Burger’s EB Design & Manufacturing House.

The property, which took eight months to renovate after Laurie acquired it about a year ago, is very different from the 100 m2 he had rented in Woodstock since establishing Wiid Design five years ago.

“I scouted out this building,” Laurie says. “It was never for sale, so I just kept nagging the owners until we reached a deal. The renovation was a huge challenge.”

We enter on the left side of the building, through the mirrored front door and into the clean lines of the minimalist reception area. It feels more like an upscale studio than a factory. A little further in, carefully arranged shelves featuring a selection of ceramics and furniture reinforce that image.

On the top floor there are four offices, including Laurie’s, which, like everything else behind these black walls, received the full benefit of his eye for design, “This used to be two offices, but we broke down walls and added a bathroom.” He’s referring to one of three trendy bathrooms, tiled with tiny monochromatic tiles.

And then there’s the building’s crown jewel, the gallery. Since he started using this space to display his designs, sales have increased, says Laurie. “This is where I take photos of the products and display the products for clients. Ultimately, I want to host exhibitions here, showcasing various collaborations between artists and designers.”

On display are some of Laurie’s most well-known designs, such as his benches and a particularly striking cork pendant light, as well as pieces he has created in collaboration with artists.

“This is one of an edition of five,” he says, pointing to a colourful bench. “It was painted by the artist Lionel Smit.”  In a corner is a striking carved black bench that Laurie created as a dedication to artist Wim Botha, whom he assisted for almost three years and considers his mentor.

So next time you spot the distinctive black building in Observatory, know that beyond the walls and mirrored windows lie not only a new beginning but also a complete solution for a designer driven by attention to detail.

“I don’t just pay attention to detail; I’m obsessed by it both in my own world and in the world around me.”