South African furniture studio Houtlander has a history of collaboration – with brands, other designers and artisans – and founders Stephen Wilson and Phillip Hollander’s openness to explore creative avenues and approaches gives their designs a refreshing newness that appeals across generational lines.

The award-winning studio – which has grown exponentially since its inception – is committed to the celebration of craft, most specifically carpentry, but increasingly weaving as well, and its pieces are testament to the timeless quality and appeal of these traditional and culturally rich skills.

While rooted in heritage – how workmanship is passed down through learning – Houtlander is also always pushing the limits: of what its machines, its craftspeople’s hands and minds, and its materials can do. The straddling of tradition and innovation, and the exploration and advocation of local craft, makes the brand unique in its offering and has set them apart on the design scene.

The wider world has taken note too, with its recent and much-lauded piece, the Hlabisa bench, designed in collaboration with Mash T Design Studio and created in close partnership with the renowned zulu basket weaver Beauty Nxongo, was recently added to the renowned Rossana Orlandi Gallery in Milan – an accolade of note.

Its latest collaboration, with local artists in Cape Town for the BKhz pop-up exhibition, Blue is the Warmest Colour, sees some of its collectable art pieces as well as its functional designs on display in situ, including the Interdependence II, Hlabisa, Preservation III and Chaste benches. Arranged in order to serve as both a vantage point to view the artworks – selected and curated by Banele Khoza – the pieces simultaneously act as artworks in themselves, with the exhibition highlighting the multifunctional and versatile nature of Houtlander’s designs and the ability of design and art to transcend traditional boundaries.

With its participation in the show supported by the American Hardwood Export Council, Houtlander is a longtime advocate of using sustainable materials and only uses timber that is honourably sourced through a longstanding relationship with American hardwoods. While availability and characteristics vary according to region, every American hardwood species grows at a far greater rate than it is harvested, making it an environmentally responsible material to design with.

Consider then the multifaceted nature of the pieces – their ability to provide a functional purpose, their role as aesthetically pleasing objects and a symbol of beauty through sustainability.

The group show is on until the end of February at 41 Sir Lowry Road, Cape Town.


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