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A charmer of yesteryear

The style of interior designer David Muirhead beckons an age when things were built to last.

I LOVE personal, one-on-one service relationships that belong to another era – an era of handwritten letters, tailored suits and fine art. Although these things have almost become extinct, our souls yearn for the charm of yesteryear.

For me, it’s a new idea of luxury. We’re so overrun by technology that we need to discipline ourselves to slow down, to go back and learn from a period when we took our time to do things properly and items were made to last.

A few weeks ago, while I was on site at the new boutique hotel, 54 on Bath, for which I was commissioned to recreate the interiors, I paid for a coffee and left my wallet on the table. I went into the mall to a shop where I buy my scarves, chose one and then realised I couldn’t pay for it.

I rushed back to the hotel and, much to my surprise, found that the wallet was waiting for me behind the reception desk, where it had been handed in. This doesn’t happen very often in Johannesburg.

Later, the shopkeeper who’ sold me the scarf said he would try to source another one in which I was interested. I didn’t think about it again. Then a few days later, he phoned to say he had found it.

It is this personal attention that we need to recreate in our spaces and our commercial relationships. We need to bring back village life in Johannesburg to balance out the big commercial nodes.

That’s why I’m so excited about Rosebank. It’s a suburb designed with tree-lined avenues. It is multicultural, representative and full of the energy of street life. There’s a great synergy between the personal and the commercial.

I had this in mind when I designed the hotel. ~ wanted to create the sense of a bygone era and more beautiful age. I sought out interiors that would reflect this, while still maintaining a modern edge. Antique stands share space with angular perspex tables, lush velvets mix with reflective mirror surfaces, the old oil artworks of stately heritage homes are juxtaposed with modern photographs of both industry and nature.

I was respectful of the old by retaining the things that give us a sense of our history, but brought in new things that are fresh and invigorating. The hotel is a tribute to Johannesburg, old and new.

The hotel was bought lock, stock and barrel with all the furniture and artwork. We kept a lot of the original pieces and reimagined them. Then I went on a shopping spree to all the antique shops and second-hand book shops in the area to give the space the feel of a luxurious home away from home with a sense of history. It was a wonderful opportunity to support the local stores in Parkhurst and Rosebank, giving their treasured finds a home in a place where they could be appreciated by travellers from all over the world.


Favourite and least favourite

Shopping experience ever?

It’s always a pleasure working with Avryl from Radford Antiques in Parkhurst. I was horrified when told at the iStore that they don’t offer iPad repairs. I was told to purchase another. The I Fix Store repaired my iPad for R150

Favourite city to shop in?

Paris and Cape Town

Best coffee/tea shop?

Life at Hyde Park

Where do you buy bread and milk?

Woolworths and Fournos Bakery -Andrea Nagel

Reference: The Times – 26 July 2012

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