Kipekee Studio: the cool new kid on the KZN furniture-making scene

05 May 2019 - 00:02 By Tracy Lynn Chemaly
From left: Supine Lounger, Selah Bench and Chameleon Bench, all from Kipekee Studio.
From left: Supine Lounger, Selah Bench and Chameleon Bench, all from Kipekee Studio.
Image: Supplied

The advantage of working with one's spouse is that, when ideas surface at 10pm, one can start implementing them immediately. That's how Michael and Kylie Bornman of Kipekee Studio view the dynamic in their furniture design studio in Ballito, KwaZulu-Natal.

The couple, who started focusing full time on their business early last year, caught the crowds' attention as the new kids on the block at Decorex Durban, and again at 100% Design SA in Johannesburg.

Their linear, minimalist furniture pieces, all designed by Kylie and handcrafted in wood by Michael, are a refreshing offering from the KwaZulu-Natal coastal region.

The two, who attended the same primary school in White River, Mpumalanga, reconnected as adults in Johannesburg, and later moved together as a couple to Cape Town, where Michael was pursuing his career as a quantity surveyor.

With the move, Kylie left her job as a pre-school teacher to focus on a UK-based online course in interior architecture.

"In hindsight, I should have studied industrial design or architecture," says Michael, who has been making furniture as a hobby for as long as he can remember.

"While dealing with architects all the time [as a quantity surveyor], I found myself gravitating towards what they were doing rather than crunching numbers."

Michael and Kylie Bornman with their daughter.
Michael and Kylie Bornman with their daughter.
Image: Supplied

Kylie says she and the couple's Joburg friends used to joke with Michael about his pastime.

"We used to say to him, 'One day when you open a furniture studio .' because he was always making furniture as gifts."

Michael learnt his woodworking skills through trial, error and online tutorials. "There's a certain skill in looking at something and knowing how it's made," he says of his ability to create.

Kipekee (which means "unique" in Swahili), was started with the intention of producing affordable, good-quality furniture that is sustainable, a philosophy achieved through making long-lasting pieces from sustainably sourced timber. This goes hand in hand with the couple's personal approach.

Selah Armchair and Foot Stool by Kipekee Studio.
Selah Armchair and Foot Stool by Kipekee Studio.
Image: Supplied

A handwritten note accompanies every item purchased, stating Kipekee's dedication to creating statement pieces that instil personality in a home. Michael cuts and shapes every piece by hand. He and Kylie look forward to sharing this time-honouring process with visitors in their new showroom and factory in Ballito, where clients are able to watch him sawing, joining and sanding.

"It's good that we've been here," Michael says of the couple's move to KwaZulu-Natal at the end of 2016. "We're not really influenced by other designers, so our aesthetic is our own."


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