What I love about being a stylist is that I get to go to inspiring places to find beautiful, new and old hidden gems. My favourite place to source things for shoots are David Bell’s three Cape Town shops. He owns Onsite Gallery in the Palms Centre, Woodstock, Coco Karoo in Chelsea Village, Wynberg, and he also has a hidden treasure of a warehouse at the Wynberg Military base. I chatted to David about his stores, his inspiration and what makes him tick:
Kim Gray: Tell us a bit about how you started out.
David Bell: My first store was a wholesale trading venue to supply retailers. Now I sell a huge range of items, both contemporary and old. My idea is to create a lifestyle and I source the items from all over Africa and abroad.
Would you say that your three stores all aim at a different clientele?
Very much so. Onsite Gallery is primarily aimed at places like boutique hotels and for people looking for larger-than-life objects to bring a wow! factor into their architectural interiors. It is more of an architectural shop than an interiors shop, with things like salvaged gates, giant doors, extra large mirrors, chandeliers and tables.
On the other hand, Coco Karoo is an eclectic mix of contemporary and old furniture and objects sourced primarily in southern Africa (which is the Karoo part) with the glamour and glitter of European style (that’s the Coco part) but still quite restrained and presented in a lifestyle setting.
What inspires you, and is there a particular design style or genre that you’re particularly attracted to?
I get inspiration from all sorts of things; travelling, change in seasons and natural beauty, light and dark, colour, diversity, aesthetic qualities in objects from just about any genre.
The integrity of a design and the story told through its patina, is what makes me finally choose a piece. A piece must be powerful enough to stand alone – whether it be an Art Deco decanter, a contemporary couch, a gilded mirror, or a salvaged French door – because it represents the best qualities of its own genre. This is what allows me to display a range of styles and eras in one space, managing to remain coherent and innovative at the same time.
What makes you choose certain pieces?
I like objects to be either minimal, reduced to their simplest, or completely over the top. When I talk about simplicity, I mean something thoughtfully and well crafted, with a meaningful function and aesthetically exciting, whether it is a simple bench or a dining room chair.
What is your favourite item from your stores?
My favourite item changes by the week. At the moment it is two large Tamarind wood cubes that I brought home to use as stools or side tables. They are a brilliant combination of function and form with exquisite, multi-toned wood. Another current favourite object is the industrial steel framed mirrors we have at Onsite.
Tell us a bit about your personal style at home.
I like decorative things and I like colour, but right now, my own home is a palette of naturals and white, glass and lightness.
Do you have any hot tips for buying antiques?
Forget what other people say, and buy what gets your heart pumping. Buy what you will enjoy.
Any plans to open more stores?
You never can tell!
Thank you to David for his time in answering my questions and for sharing his wonderfully eclectic mix of finds with us. Next time you’re in Cape Town, do pop in to one of David Bell’s amazing stores! There really is something for everyone, and I hope you may find a hidden treasure exploring here too.
For more design, fashion and lifestyle articles, visit www.kimgray.za.net