Imagine Nation launches Neon & Ball

WORDS: Remy Raitt


Adam Levin of Imagine Nation at 44 Stanley in Joburg recently launched his fanciful range of bespoke furniture, aptly named Ball & Neon.

The eye-catching range of revamped ball-and-claw furniture was developed after Adam was asked to design something for the Grand Theatre at Grand Designs Live.

“For a while now, I’ve been excited about upcycling but I wasn’t sure where to go with it. One day, Alex Albertyn (a creative partner in my business) and I decided to take a look at some vintage stores. I’d also been sharing ideas with Colin O’Mara Davis at St. Leger & Viney. The idea just evolved organically from there, and it’s now much more interesting and layered than we’d initially imagined.”

VISI spoke to Adam to find out more about the Ball & Neon range that “delights in exquisite anarchy”, as described in the invitation to the launch in June.

Why neon?

I spend a lot of time in Asia, especially in Bangkok, and I’m always energised by the sense of colour there. I also felt that the rave culture had been gone for long enough to warrant a revisit. But we chose the colours carefully: apple rather than lime green, violet, orange, electric blue and hot pink.

Why ball and claw?

It’s a style that hasn’t had the same attention as the other Mid-century Modern styles but, more importantly, it has a really strong resonance for South Africans. Those heavy imbuia pieces of our parents or grandparents’ homes are buried in our most intimate memories, so it’s especially thrilling to see them reinvented.

Because of the South African heritage and the freshness of the range, I’m excited to see international responses to it.

How does the juxtaposition between the neon colours and the old-style furniture pieces work?

Once the collaboration with St. Leger & Viney grew, Colin brought lots of other ideas to the party in terms of textiles, and the amazing Elitis range really challenged me to think further. Eventually I conceptualised a five-pointed star of elements to play with: period, ethnicity, decorative style, scale and a wild card.

In a world where anything is available to anyone at pretty much any price point, we asked ourselves: “What is really special?” The answer is a bespoke piece such as you’d find in this growing collection, custom-designed by someone with a good eye who knows how to balance the elements of the star.

The Queen Anne Wingback Chair, for instance, combines an Uzbekistan vintage textile with a wild card of hot pink feet. The Disco Biscuit Coffee Table has Cape Dutch-style turned legs, but their scale is way out and the top seems too slim. These unlikely juxtapositions capture the essence of what we’re doing, and I haven’t seen it done in this way anywhere else.

Why did you choose to work with the Suzani fabric?

Suzani is a hand-embroidered textile from Uzbekistan that I fell in love with a few years ago in Istanbul. I love its amazing motifs and sense of colour.

I’m working on another amazing project that I conceived with Michal Silver from Christopher Farr Cloth in London. The Endangered Textiles Co-operative (ETC) aims to save some of the world’s endangered textiles by gearing up hand producers for commercial runs of 50 metres and introducing the cloths on the roll in Farr’s showrooms. The Suzani is very close to my heart, so Michal and I hope to make a trip to Uzbekistan later this year to assess the production capacity and see what existing co-operatives would be best to work with.

What are the prices like?

The prices vary according to the cost of fabric. The Hot Seats (piano stools) sell for R1,800 to R2,200 and the Electric Baby goes for R5,900. The Disco Biscuit goes for R9,500.

However, we can, to some degree, work within clients’ budgets. I have quite a lot of Suzani, Thai Hill Tribes textiles and dyed Springbok skins in stock, so we continue to play. The amazing lampshades St. Leger made up in the Elitis range would normally be really expensive but we’re able to offer them at a special price, as they’re showroom samples.

Are the products only sold locally?

Not at all. I think this range has great legs internationally. I sell a lot of Suzani pillows overseas via my website, so I’ll approach a couple of my fun clients in Spain and New Zealand. A London-based magazine for the Saxon Hotel has already grabbed the Hot Seats from our site. But it’s early days….

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