Acre Studio aims to make designer furniture more affordable

17 May 2020 - 00:00 By Julia Freemantle
The Roller Table, R8,200, from Acre Studio.
The Roller Table, R8,200, from Acre Studio.
Image: Sarah de Piña

Interior design can seem intimidating. The perception exists that high quality comes with an equivalent price tag, and the truth is not always far off.

Designer Lianel de Jongh saw this as an opportunity to bridge the gap between the high end and the mass produced, a realisation that brought about her product and interior design firm Acre Studio.

"The primary reason for starting my own company was that I felt the big guys fill the market with price points small businesses struggle to compete with, but often deliver a sub-standard product. Our aim is to make designer items more affordable. I also saw it as an opportunity to uplift our craftsmen and the quality of things we produce," she says.

For De Jongh it started as a side project while she worked at Anatomy Design as an interior designer for five years.

She kept at it after she moved to Weylandts, all the while building Acre in the background.

"I was lucky enough to have income while setting up the website and prototyping, as the initial investment can be quite challenging. But eight months into it I realised that I couldn't carry on burning the candle at both ends, and I decided to put all my focus on Acre Studio."

With a lot of time to plan, her concept was crystalised from early on in the process: simple, authentic, timeless spaces and products at a more accessible price. The name, too, had been in the back of her mind for years.

"My maiden name is Ackerman - meaning 'grounded' or 'earth', which seemed fitting for working within the realm of the home," she says.

Fitting too for her design aesthetic, which advocates for unfussy spaces and products, consciously designed and curated.

"I love an uncluttered yet layered space that's been well thought out and serves its function beautifully," she says.

True to her affinity for timelessness, the products also steer clear of trends, and are built to last.

"Our goal is to create products and spaces that will speak to the user for years. We do not want to contribute to filling the world with sub-quality furniture and design."

Looking ahead to how the global crisis will affect designers in general, De Jongh believes it will prompt innovation.

"I think designers around the world are sweating. But in the same breath, I think there will be a gust of creativity in response to economic and living challenges. Designers are problem solvers.

Now is not the time to stop and pause on business; it is the time to pivot and figure out new ways of helping people and creating design solutions," she says.

She also sees the potential for a more considered way of looking at design to come out of enforced lockdowns.

"I think people are placing a magnifying glass on how their homes are designed. Being in a confined space makes you re-evaluate how you do things and what is important."

Her business aims to problem-solve beyond product design and space making.

"There is so much potential for upskilling people in South Africa, and I believe small businesses can play a role in solving issues like unemployment and education."


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