Pattern, colour, culture and a high-low mix of furniture all come together in the contemporary family home of The Urbanative designer Mpho Vackier
As the owner of product design brand The Urbanative, Mpho Vackier’s pieces include strong narratives of Afrofuturism and cross-culturalism. The mix is what makes them so appealing. ‘The whole reason I design is to tell stories,’ she says. Her family home in Centurion, Johannesburg, speaks the same language, signalling the designer’s bold approach to style with a clash of influences that’s unexpected and unquestionably her own.
When she and her husband Harald bought the house three years ago, they had a light makeover planned. However, as things progressed, the makeover became an overhaul. ‘We gutted everything,’ Vackier recalls. This involved installing new vinyl flooring, adding windows, building an upstairs studio for her business, replacing the ceilings, and refitting the kitchens and bathrooms. ‘The bathrooms had sandstone tiles and little brown mosaics… how do you brush your teeth in that!?’ she exclaims of a look completely at odds with her own breezy, animated aesthetic.
Vackier’s interior style is eclectic, blending antiques and vintage finds with accessible pieces from local homeware stores and retailers. The abode is also a vessel for the ever-popular Afro Mid-Century Modern furniture she designs. ‘I create the way I do to speak to my cultural background. My son is both Tswana and Belgian. I don’t have an heirloom to give him, but I have cultural stories to tap into,’ she says.
Her latest furniture collection, The African Crowns, was inspired by sculpted tribal hairstyles, with Vackier mirroring those elements in the detailing of her woven and fringed chairs, tables and lights. ‘My furniture has to speak of who I am culturally, as well as stand on its own in a home in Antwerp, for example,’ she says, noting the duality of her designs, which juxtapose European, Mid-Century Modern feels with African narratives. Her reference to Antwerp is no coincidence: Harald is Belgian and they talk about owning an apartment there one day.
All over their family home, Vackier’s designs bring life. Pops of colour and geometry vibrate against a base colour palette of greys.
In the lounge, an antique marble-topped coffee table is teamed with a light grey, deep-buttoned sofa, emerald scatter cushions and her Thulani loveseat, with its open metal framework and pink velvet seat. A wooden server extends the interplay of patterns, textures and colours. The walls are where Vackier has been most playful: a series of geometric wallpapers from Builders Warehouse shakes things up in the bedrooms, patterned tiles and painted stripes invigorate the bathrooms and a commanding Vladimir Tretchikoff print brings saturated colour to a small guest toilet.
Her home office/studio was a vital move, allowing her flexible working hours and accessibility to the couple’s son, Xavier. It’s an enviably cool, pared-back space with ample room to store samples and prototypes. Here she painted an entire wall in pink, black and gold motifs that nod to traditional Ndebele design, while a mixture of contemporary and vintage pieces rub shoulders. With its inviting living areas, Xavier and her beloved Yorkies have a place to hang out while she works.
‘Our kitchen was purpose-built for my husband, who’s very tall, but it’s fine because I don’t cook and I don’t care!’ Vackier laughs. As the appointed family chef, Harald wanted a social area where he could prepare meals while chatting to friends, and they’ve achieved this with an open layout that makes use of a central island surrounded by Vackier’s Buumi bar-stools. Here, too, a shot of pattern is introduced in the form of terrazzo floor tiles.
Vackier is a restless homemaker. Ever the stylist, she admits to moving things around most weekends. ‘I like constant change and because I’m subjected to design through my work, I know the look I’m after. I want people to feel comfortable as soon as they walk into this house,’ she says, without the slightest sense that she’s already nailed her own brief.
Text: Mila Crewe-Brown Photographs: Elsa Young Production: Sanri Pienaar