With Cape Town’s turn as the World Design Capital 2014 (an honor bestowed by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design) in full swing, all eyes have been focused on the city’s contributions as hotbed of creative energy. Fashion, architecture, furniture, art, and industrial design are all booming industries across South Africa, but where Johannesburg is regarded as the country’s financial and business capital, Cape Town is unanimously considered South Africa’s creative heart. To really wow your friends the next time they come by your house, pick up some vibrant local artwork, office accessories, or kitchenware hewn from local materials instead of your typical souvenir. There are countless shops and ateliers to choose from (I recommend spending at least a day roaming the boutiques and artists studios of the Woodstock district), but pop into any of these five design havens for some truly distinctive mementos to take back home.
Stable opened on Loop Street in August 2013 and quickly became the go-to shop for home décor, accessories, lighting, and furniture by up-and-coming South African designers. Some of my favorite transportable pieces: bamboo wireless keyboards from Houdt, cork and ceramic bowls by Wiid Designs, wooden satchels from Indalo Decor, and a Pop Art style painting of Nelson Mandela by John Catlin Designs.
Next door to Stable on Loop Street stands Ebony, a small concept store and art gallery that's also a showcase for African designers and artists. The aesthetic here is sleek and modern; I especially love the outlandish, whimsical pottery by ceramics collective Ardmore. Don’t leave without perusing the shop’s collection of carved jacaranda rhinos, elephants, and buffalos.
LIM stands for Less is More, and I love the streamlined aesthetic of the furniture on display at this Kloof Street shop, set in an old Victorian-era house—my house is filled with LIM bookshelves, tables, and chairs. While the retro oak armchairs and 60s-style consoles might be a tad too bulky to transport, the brass candleholders would make for a great gift.
Pedersen + Lennard
Tucked away at the back of the industrial-chic Woodstock Exchange compound, the design team behind Pedersen + Lennard turn out funky Scandinavian-inspired furniture. Their bucket stools in a range of bold primary colors are particularly eye-catching, as are smaller items like toast racks and coat hooks. If you need some time to ponder over your choices, there's a café serving coffees and pastries you can choose from as you mull.
Robert Sherwood Design
Celebrated South African interior designer Robert Sherwood has decorated homes and offices from Zanzibar to the U.A.E. and beyond. At his beautiful Bree Street showroom (complete with latticed Victorian-era railings), he and his partner sell a curated selection of their favorite housewares. Come have a peek at a mix of bucket chairs, sculptural ashtrays, and Buddha busts.