High style comes to Kramerville
KRAMERVILLE, north of Johannesburg, is an area known - if known at all - for . . . yawn, light industry. But it was rocked a few weeks ago by a gathering of the who's who of interior designers and their clients.
Over drinks and the jewel-like snacks of First Avenue Café's Caroline Dodds, they celebrated the arrival of Monique Lion-Cachet's Halogen International - and the fact that Kramerville is now a true home to the elite of home-fabric houses.
Halogen - to curtaining and upholstery what Palazzo Pitti is to women's shoes and what Taggs is to men's shirts and ties - joins Mavromac and St Leger & Viney in Kramer Road.
What's more, the inimitably stylish Lion-Cachet - the doyenne of interior designers, though she no longer undertakes assignments - has teamed up with two other well-known members of SA's decorating sisterhood. They are Fiona Harris, well-known for electrifyingly pretty dec- orative accessories, and Carol Bland, who has been importing and wholesaling porcelain and Oriental objets for several years.
Harris and Bland have taken small showrooms adjoining Halogen International's spacious one in an area that totals 600m² and will sorely tax your ability to keep your credit card from bursting out of your wallet.
But while the showrooms of Fiona Harris Decorative Accessories and Carol Bland Decor Exotica are designed to attract retail as well as wholesale buyers, Lion-Cachet's is strictly a trade showroom. (Neighbours Mavromac and St Leger & Viney are also trade showrooms, as are the fabric houses of Midrand.)
"Members of the public are more than welcome," she says. "But if they find a fabric they want to buy, they may do so through a decorating shop or an interior designer."
And, of course, while they are looking through Halogen's rich array of samples from international fabric houses - the US's Brunschwig & Fils, the UK's Titley & Marr, Andrew Martin and Malabar, Italy's Etro and Brochier, Spain's Pepe Peñalver and Thailand's Jagtar Silks, to name a few - they can also pick up a hand-painted lamp from Harris or a copy Ming porcelain jar from Bland.
Harris creates tôleware - wastepaper baskets, candle shades, umbrella stands, cachepots - and ranges of lampbases and she also supplies cushions, needlepoint rugs and silk-smocked dressing tables.
She has also recently added copies of classic English and European furniture - campaign tables, for one - and light fittings.
"The items I copy sell at about six times the price in London," she says. "A lamp base selling at about £400 in London, for instance, costs about R1 200."
Though Bland's copies of antique porcelain and objets are made in the Far East, they include copies of English and European porcelain designs. At prices raning between R100 and R15 000, they will enhance houses from the ultra-modern to the traditional.
Lion-Cachet acknowledges that many of Halogen's imported fabrics are wildly ex- pensive. She even has hand-loomed pure silk leopard and tiger prints retailing at R3 000 a metre, though the price of Halogen's fabrics start at R30 a metre.
"With the exchange rate as punishing as it is today," she says, "it's wonderful that South Africans are able to continue to decorate their homes in the most exclusive and best fabrics the world has to offer. You can also mix cheaper and more expensive fabrics to terrific effect."
Many decorators use mainly local fabrics and then simply accessorise with imported fabric - on scatter cushions or a single chair, or in a single curtain drop.
"After the sanctions years," says Lion-Cachet, "when practically the only beautiful imported fabric came into SA in the odd suitcase, it's wonderful to have every international house represented in SA." ý Linda Stafford is a senior editor of the Financial Mail