Double act

Double act

Gleaming metallics and simple openwork designs are making their mark in interiors
right now. By Tess Paterson


The more things change, the more they stay the same – an adage that’s particularly true of both fashion and interiors. Take metallics, for instance. Although rendered unspeakably cool by current designers such as Tom Dixon, these materials really go way back to the Bronze Age, around 3000 BCE. As we begin to question our throwaway culture and turn more and more towards things that last, accessories in copper, brass and stainless steel are becoming real must-haves.

Ditto openwork designs. You probably first noticed this intriguing form of decoration on something such as a riempie bench, or perhaps a beautifully hand-embroidered tablecloth with immaculate cut-outs in the fabric. This concept of seeing beyond the material itself has been around for centuries. Looking to France, the 16th-century spire on Chartres Cathedral is all lacy, look-through stonemasonry; and the Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art extension is a triumph of perforated concrete screens.


Recently, I had a bit of a style crisis. My mother, who has an infallible eye and truly understands quality, was turfing out some household things. She handed over two circular objects – one a flat metal tray of sorts; the other a shallow dish, probably the size of a large serving plate. In fairness, they had been in the garage and were thoroughly tarnished, so my first reaction was to put them on my own donation pile, along with some overpoweringly fragranced candles.

Fortunately something made me hesitate and haul out the polish. Needless to say, the results were a delight. The brass tray made a beautiful base for a trio of orchids and the restored copper bowl revealed a subtly beaten surface with an exquisite rosy sheen. It now lives on a chest of drawers in my front entrance, and I believe it says a great deal about simple, timeless design.


‘I am really loving the current move towards rose-gold accessories,’ enthuses Joburg-based Tiggs Crozet of Indigo Interior Design. ‘Metallic details are a great way to introduce an element of glamour and needn’t be at all extravagant.’

Side tables are a good way to do this, and they are available in all manner of shapes and finishes. Faceted sides add an edgy allure, catching the light and echoing the geometric designs still so prevalent in fabrics.

‘Don’t be afraid to combine tones such as silver and gold,’ adds Crozet, ‘it makes things more interesting. As does mixing old and new, such as a beautiful tarnished metal bowl with a high-gloss modern chair.’


Tableware has undergone a similar revival, with flatware now available in beautifully refined styles – all the more modern for their simplicity. Personally, I’m totally smitten by Rosenthal’s H-Art cutlery in PVD gold. The look is all handcrafted elegance and – paired with a charcoal linen cloth – quietly exquisite. Crozet says, ‘I definitely think metallic tableware is for a special occasion. It’s celebratory, and it needs lots of candlelight to enhance the gleaming effect.’

But perhaps lighting is where metallics truly come into their own, and few people have mastered the art of this material like Tom Dixon. Take his Etch lights in brass – to my mind like gorgeous nuggets of oversized jewellery. Or even the dome-like Copper Shade – pure James Bond and the height of retro-mod glamour.


‘I recently hung three copper pendants above a charcoal kitchen island with a natural timber top,’ says Crozet. ‘The rest of the space was modern-country white and the lights gave a wonderful gastronomic aspect, a sort of cheffy appeal not unlike that of a good set of copper pans.’

Crozet adds that her very favourite way to use metallics is against a dark background, such as hanging a gilt-framed painting on a gunmetal wall. ‘Raw timber furniture is also a wonderful foil for metallic accessories; the combination of matt and shiny, rough and smooth is always appealing.’



Openwork designs have such a very rich history and broad application that, once you start looking, it’s amazing what you’ll find. Take incense burners, Chippendale chair backs, Coptic crosses and, well, the Eiffel Tower, to start.

Gaps, cut-outs and openings have been applied to all kinds  of materials, from ceramics and linen to timber and steel. Often, this made things lighter; more importantly it helped make the item less expensive to produce. And, in the case of Paris’s iconic tower, its lattice-like construction was far less susceptible to wind.


‘There’s a new wave of openwork that exists in perfect harmony with contemporary living,’ says Crozet. ‘Take riempie chairs, which now have seats of nylon webbing or ribbon – a quirky, modern update on the original. We’ve always had a great tradition of weaving in South Africa, and I like making a bold statement on a table by adding three overscaled woven baskets. Try filling them with greenery such as elephant’s ears or fig leaves – indoor plants are back in fashion too.’

Rattan pendant lamps are also back to stay; now a lot less 1970s-sunroom and more textural chic, especially when you opt for a cluster hung at different heights.


‘I think the overall feel of openwork furniture is simple and pared down,’ adds Crozet. ‘It’s about allowing all the shapes and materials to speak for themselves, and it really adds a light, airy quality.’ Again, the side table is an excellent bet, with inventive options, such as timber and glass or metal and wicker. ‘I’m using a lot of circular tables in my residential projects, and enjoy grouping different circular designs together. It makes a nice change from the traditional matching rectangular tables, and I find that using three varying heights makes the most impact.’

Pairing these simple forms with graphic fabrics is a match made in heaven, and geometric patterns continue to hold sway. ‘I think the reason that I love using geometrics is that a little goes a long way,’ says Crozet. ‘A beautiful scatter cushion makes a strong statement and instantly lifts a space, especially where you have an abundance of neutrals. Geometrics always work beautifully with white, yet they’re not impractical. It’s an excellent way to add a crisp, sculptural feel’.


Echoing these symmetrical patterns are accessories such as metal cage lamps. Used on tables or as pendants, they’ve got an industrial no-nonsense appeal – equally at home in a Newtown loft or a Paris apartment. And, while metalwork is not new (Harry Bertoia’s wire-grid Diamond chair is as stunning now as it was in 1952), it certainly offers a fresh alternative to that chintzy bedside lamp you’ve been meaning to toss out for years.

Styling: Shannon Daniell; Styling assistants: Francoise Jeanne de Villiers & Robyn Lane; Photography: Kendall-Leigh Nash/
April/May 2016

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