Theme: Simply Beautiful

Tonic Design, run by Greg Gamble and Philippe van der Merwe, is known for its superior interior design of beautiful homes, stylish stores, sophisticated restaurants and the famous airport Slow Lounges. The Joburg-based practice is renowned for its combination of refined, muted colour palettes, subtle use of sumptuous textures, and perfectly streamlined furniture designs. Theirs is a tailored form of classic urban modernism; underplayed, discerning and elegant in its curation with a sharp eye for fine art and eye-catching sculptural accessories. With all this state-of-the-art finesse, it would be assumed that employing their services would come with a hefty price tag, right? Not necessarily so. Keen to seek new challenges, the duo recently pitched to do the Home* Suite Hotel in Rosebank. The budget for the revamp of an existing mixed-use building was more standard hotel than luxury getaway, but seeing the potential with the developer’s business plans they were willing to give it a go. Having won the job, they aimed to make it an intimate, welcoming experience for the boutique hotel. “There are so many standard generic hotel rooms out there, in neutral colours and with the same boring furniture. In keeping with the excellent service the hotel is offering – they place huge emphasis on personal service and the best quality coffee, food, etcetera – we wanted to create something more striking, colourful, homely and special,” explains van der Merwe. “And most of the time the customer would be using it at night so the colours and style need to feel warm and comforting.” “We had to seek out companies who we previously would not have gone to but quickly learned that when you dig around in a place beyond the standard stuff you find the gems, such as the tiles that we used in the foyer café,” Gamble tells us. “We also worked with existing suppliers, especially fabric companies where we knew the quality was good but they had competitively priced ranges.” “And we created a high/low budget, saving on some places and spending on where we knew it mattered,” van der Merwe adds. “We learned to source more creatively, buying art at auctions rather than galleries and picking up some really special pieces that worked so well with the interiors – like some Cecil Skotneses.” But it is with the furniture they had the real challenge. While shopping around they were always disappointed with the quality, especially with the cheaper imported ranges that the budget was dictating. They quickly came to the conclusion they would have to design affordable bespoke furniture with the suppliers whom they knew and trusted – the companies who made their more exclusive ranges. To make it price competitive, it became a question of new designs or scaling down, restructuring or re-tweaking original designs and looking at new ways of manufacturing, but it allowed them to create the standard of interior furnishings they are known for. What they have achieved in rethinking their own methods is an engaging experience with beautiful, relaxed journeys and comforting touch points for the guests. It looks and feels very luxe. Not confined to Joburg, the hotel group is opening up more boutique offerings in Seapoint and other national locations. Now, more than ever, this affordable but high standard of luxury created by Tonic Design is exactly what will be needed to regain South Africa’s international tourist market. We all just need to take note from the masters of style that it is indeed possible.

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.