For a country whose design aesthetic regularly gets lumped in with Kente cloth-swathed visions of Africa, furniture designer Natalie du Toit’s work boldly redefines South African style. Applying her native land’s strong sense of color and pattern to finely-crafted wood and metal furniture, a process of refining humble materials, du Toit’s designs create a striking effect without overpowering a room. While this deft touch was honed during her successful stint as Creative Director of Fundi Light & Living, du Toit founded Indigi Designs as a way to experiment.
“The Indigi Designs collection encompasses a fusion of contemporary design, local references and skilled craftsmanship,” du Toit explains. “All products are designed and handmade in South Africa with a great attention to quality and a respect for natural materials.” Her top-to-bottom sensibility shows in wire baskets that look just as beautifully formed when viewed from above, and floor lamps composed of stacked wooden balls that reflect the rhythm of South African jazz.
Often du Toit is at her best when she’s most subtle. A lampshade lined with traditional South African shweshwe fabric emits a warm pink glow through perfectly-spaced pleating for a slightly mesmerizing effect. (It was this piece that first caught my eye when I came across du Toit’s furniture at the Design Indaba expo.) Like the entirety of the collection, the designer’s deep respect for the nature of her material, in this case the fabric’s ability to transmit color and light, makes for furnishings infused with whimsy and delight.
This process-oriented approach is in fact core to Indigi. “Being in the factory environment is incredibly inspiring for me, and where I get my best ideas,” du Toit says, going to describe how there she, “can design around the material and process rather than providing a completed sketch to a factory to simply manufacture. It is fundamental for me to be involved with the factory during product development phase as the design evolves in the process and issues can be eliminated immediately.”