Haldane Martin reveals more about his Design Joburg 2017 launch

We get behind the scenes with one of South Africa's top furniture designers, Haldane Martin, who's more recently gaining acclaim as a commercial interior designer (examples include Truth Coffee HQ in Cape Town and Mad Giant's brewery and restaurant in Johannesburg). We're very excited because he is launching a new range of furniture at Design Joburg 2017. We chat to him about his work and the upcoming unveiling...


1. What have you become known for or what defines what you do?

My early work as a furniture designer put my design company Haldane Martin Iconic Design on the map. Iconic pieces like the Songololo Sofa, the Zulu Mama chair collection and the Polyhedra Coffee Table, and later on the Source range and Hex tables, became internationally sought-after collector’s items for their combination of indigenous craft, biomimicry, cultural identity and geometric digital design. Our evolution into an interior design studio – with an emphasis on highly conceptual commercial interiors with custom-designed furniture and fittings – saw our brand reach new heights through the creation of award-winning spaces such as Truth Coffee in Cape Town (which has been twice named best coffee shop in the world). Our interior design is differentiated by an ability to tap into the essence of a brand’s identity and manifest this in an iconic, three-dimensional space.

2. What will you be unveiling at Design Joburg’s Darlings feature?  

We are unveiling a new line of furniture  at Design Joburg 2017 –  Haldane Martin Endless Forms Most Beautiful – which is a marked departure from our earlier work. We’re launching it with a range called the Sim-ply chair collection that will allow us to offer high-quality, environmentally conscious hospitality and residential furniture at an affordable price point. While our previous furniture pieces sought to create groundbreaking revolutionary designs, Endless Forms Most Beautiful is about taking existing design typologies and manufacturing techniques and evolving them to create beautiful, well-made, economical, on-trend, locally manufactured furniture designs available in customer-specific finish options. The line is named after a quote by evolutionist Charles Darwin:


“Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.”

The Origin of Species


3. Is there a design movement or style that informs your creations?

For interiors I am quite “pluralistic” – whatever is right for the client and context – but always iconic. Bringing the client’s brand identity into the design is as important, if not more so, than embedding our design studio’s signature into the space, and so these two principles come into play.


For my own furniture collection I tend to express my Scandinavian and African heritage – crafting a contemporary blend of Scandinavian modern and bold African form, colour and concepts.


4. Which other Darlings creations do you covet and why?

I am looking forward to see what artist and paper architect Elonah O’Neil comes up with. I think it is great that a purely aesthetic paper installation will be created for this exhibition – I’m hoping it will take it beyond being just another trade show and give SA Darlings some conceptual depth.


5. Anything else you’d like to share with the world about what you do, what excites you about SA design etc?

My early furniture design work has been about asking, Who are we as “new South Africans” in a post-Apartheid landscape as my career beginnings coincided with this positive turning point in our country’s history. Pieces like the Songololo, Zulu Mama chair and Fiela Feather lights were my attempts to provide an answer by expressing our unique multicultural identity through physical objects as a way of understanding ourselves and anchoring ourselves to this new context.


The more recent political climate since Zuma’s administration has seen this naivety evaporate. Our idealism has been replaced with pragmatism, in the form of my desire to make a positive impact to South Africa’s economy through commercial interior design. Essentially we help businesses deepen their own sense of identity through objects and spaces, creating new icons in the marketplace that put both their brands and South Africa on the map.

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