A towering black-and-white photograph of a young woman with a luminous smile, taken by David Ballam, welcomes you into the hallway of the Centurion home that Mpho Vackier shares with her family. Opposite the image is the entrance to Vackier’s studio, where she creates pieces for her furniture design company, The Urbanative. The former process engineer says the aesthetic of her brand, launched just over a year ago, is inspired by the graphic motifs of different cultures. ‘I find that there are a lot of similarities in the way that different cultures communicate with signifiers; [it’s] something that brings us together.’ Throughout her design process, Vackier likes to stay true to the materials at hand. Run your hand across an Urbanative piece and you can feel the timber grain. Even when working with a material like steel, she tries to keep its original feel and rarely uses a gloss finish. The light-filled room where she works with a small team has a few pieces from her Afrocentric collection, including the Thandekile, a white and solid timber server, and the Khanyi floor lamp. She says the collection is a play on Ndebele graphics and lines. ‘I love that you can take something that is 2D and have that inspire a 3D piece that can be used functionally in your home, while also being part of a culture that tells a story,’ she says. An average day for Vackier starts at 7am, when she goes through a few emails before the rest of the team gets to work at 9am. Meetings are scheduled for the mornings and sketching and designing happen later in the day. Having a studio in the same space as her home makes it important for her to make time for her family. ‘You have to create a balance or you will go crazy,’ she explains.HOW DID YOU GO ABOUT DESIGNING YOUR WORKSPACE?
I approached the home office in the same way as I approached the whole house, which means always playing; changing things like artworks and furniture. I also like objects that have dual functionality; for example, a wall that is aesthetically appealing but also a space to pin inspirational fabric swatches, magazine cut-outs and more.
ADVANTAGES OF WORKING FROM HOME?
I like that I am always accessible. At the same time, I do not always like that I am always accessible.
MOST MEMORABLE PROJECT?
We recently designed barstools and lights for Nando’s in Cherry Lane Shopping Centre in Pretoria, and marble-and-steel tables for the Nando’s in Bryanston. It is always a good feeling as a designer to see people using something you have worked on.FAVOURITE CITY?
Antwerp. My husband is from there. It has an amazing train station and is a lovely shopping destination.
WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING?
Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes.
IF MONEY WASN’T AN ISSUE…
I would buy an original Eames lounge chair.
BEST PLANTS FOR YOUR WORKSPACE?
I love cacti. Orchids are happy in my studio too, because of the light.YOUR FURNITURE OF CHOICE?
Furniture that we have found at shops like @home and pieces from local designers, like Noosh. Our office has a mix of pieces from our own collection, a few DIY pieces that are not for sale, like the cork board that is modelled after one of our prints and a conference table that we are making for our new space upstairs. I also love curating little moments with small pieces.
THE QUESTION YOU ASK YOURSELF WHEN DESIGNING A NEW PIECE?
How will it work in someone’s space and what problems will it solve?
Image credit: Themba Mbuyisa