For a décor company that lately launched in 2012, Joburg’s Rocket Design has already made it into our little black book of must-have furniture contacts. DECO speaks to owner, Werner Openshaw, about the making of his distinctive, contemporary classic furniture.

Based in Northcliff, Johannesburg, as a three-year-old brand already making its mark, Werner’s striking range of Rocket Design Furniture is a bespoke approach to furniture design that can be upscaled or downsized to meet its owner’s needs.

Inspired by designers such as Shai Agassi, founder of the first sustainable mobility company, Better Place, as well as the incredible work by Eames, Werner gave us the low down on his inspiration and favourite pieces from the collection.

In a nutshell, tell us what makes Rocket Design Furniture stand out from the crowd?

Each and every piece of furniture by Rocket Design is tailored – made to order – according to our customer’s personal requirements.

How do you start the creative process for new pieces, from where do you draw your inspiration?

It all starts with a piece of paper and a pen, creating a few sketches. The next step is then to really think it through in more detail to simplify it and to make it practical and as effective as possible. And I always ask myself: will the design create talkability?

What are the key pieces of your range and where does Rocket Design best fit in the home?

With our great range of tables and chairs on offer we can transform any space, but I would say we best fit in your dining room.

Contemporary dining room
Rocket Design pieces are best suited to the dining room.
What makes the Boundless Collection special and where did the name come from?

When I started designing furniture, I didn’t have all the expensive tools and equipment to bend and cut metal so I had to include clever ways in my designs that minimised using large machinery. Instead, we developed a ‘bolt-on’ system that can be scaled larger as your space or family grows. That is how the Boundless Collection started with laser cut steel base that could be flat packed for easy transport and that could be bolted on by anyone and best of all, no instruction manuals are required. So you can use your own table top from an old door or piece of glass. The options are ‘boundless’.

Do you have a favourite piece and why?

The Boundless Table has to be one of my best designs. Then secondly my ‘Old and New’ table which had the same inspiration, creating a table that is versatile and can be transported in any way – even on a Vespa scooter if you have to.

Contemporary furniture that is created from a combination of wood and steel.
‘I used the same inspiration to come up with a table that is versatile and can be transported on a Vespa scooter if you have to.’
Working in a combination of raw materials like wood and man-made like steel, how do you ensure your business practice is sustainable?

In most of our pieces we use reclaimed wood or steel from old buildings, so we are always up-cycling in a sense. We recently bought old antique Oregon pine that is 150 years old in a wood auction for the creation of sustainable furniture.

What should DECO readers consider when selecting their dining furniture?

It’s important to start with the right table for the space, not too big but not too small either. Then the next big step is the lighting. I’m not saying buy a gazillion dollar chandelier; there are simple ways to create good lighting. Warm colours and textures on all surfaces are what give a room character unless you are going clinical and clean. Lastly, good, comfortable chairs. We spend a good few hours there while wining and dining, so why not sit comfortably?

I’m known for always mixing solid, high-quality woods and steel to get that unique, contemporary look.

Can you give us some top tips for setting up the best home office?

I would say the room must be well-lit with good ventilation; we don’t want you to fall asleep on the job. A good sized table that has enough space for you to work at as well as a comfortable, ergonomic chair that is not bad for your back is essential. Secondly, enough well-organised storage space to make sure you don’t look for that one invoice for hours on end while you could be getting down to business.

What excites you most about SA design and what’s your biggest challenge designing here?

We have so much to offer the world and we are right up there with the best designers. I would say the biggest challenges are the running costs of a small manufacturing business like mine, transport is expensive, electricity unreliable and tools and equipment is overpriced compared to the rest of the world.

Are there any winter furnishing trends you really love that we should explore further?

Colour adds warmth to any space. If you sat on a hard chair in a white room you are bound to feel chilled. So transform your room with a lick of paint, a nice thick rug and comfortable seating… and you’re bound to kick off your shoes and relax.

Colour and warmth is added in to this dining room by the warm glow radiating from the lights and the foliage centrepiece.
How will you be ‘hibernating in style’ this winter, Werner?

In front of my fireplace drinking a sherry… and reading Elle Decoration.

Where can DECO readers all over SA browse and buy the new exciting collections?

You can view our products on our easy-to-navigate website on a computer or mobile phone. Additionally, if anyone needs any advice on how we can help transform a room, we are only an email or phone call away…


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If you want to read more about our local artists and designers, we recommend Tintin in Africa opens at studio Dylan Thomaz & Deco diary: Chris Denovan’s next exhibition.