Nthabi Taukobong: founding member and managing director of Ditau Interiors. An interior design consultation company based in Johannesburg, South Africa that provides an exclusive design service to a niche clientele.
Interior designer, Nthabi Taukobong has a luxurious, yet effortlessly functional design style and a strong focus on creating liveable interiors. Taukobong has created an African lifestyle brand exclusively designed and made in South Africa. She has extensive experience and a successful, 20-year career as one of the top interior designers in the country through Ditau Interiors.
Interview with Nthabi Taukobong of Ditau Interiors
CREATIVE FEEL: Please give us some background on how you got into interior design?
NTHABI TAUKOBONG: I knew from quite a young age that I was definitely going to be an interior designer. I had an amazing art teacher in tenth grade who was able to guide us and said, ‘let’s go to Technikon open days, visit and see all the departments,’ and so we did: advertising, graphic design, fine art, interior design and architecture.
Interior design made sense at that stage. After matric, I went to Calvary, Canada for a year, as an exchange student. When I came back I was steering towards interior design, but had no reference or people I knew in the field.
I then did a three-year national diploma in interior design at Natal Technikon. From there, because destiny aligned I think, my first job was at a hotel company that specialised in high-end hotels. Including the likes of Palace of the Lost City, Table Bay Hotel, Blue Train, as well as hotels in Mauritius. My first job was working on Sugar Beach Hotel in Mauritius. Within a week of joining the company, I was off to an island and I worked there for three years.
I was offered to renew my contract, but was ready to go on my own. All I knew was that I wanted an office with leopard print or zebra striped chairs. I didn’t know how I was going to run the business, but I knew if I had those chairs, everything would work out. I had a two-bedroom flat and one of the rooms was run as my office. I had the chairs, but I had no business. I had been on my own for about three months when I attended a networking evening with an ex-colleague. One of our clients happened to see us there, and he said to us, ‘it’s not networking if you’re talking to each other.’ So I said, ‘I’ve actually gone out on my own.’ And he replied, ‘call me on Monday.’
That was my first job; I did Sun International in Cape Town, and various hotels and casinos, and from there on, I was in. We had a period of six years of doing hotels. This was in a time when lots of casinos were built, but eventually that industry died down and casinos were closed. I started focusing on high-end residential properties, which is what I am still doing. We have had fun times with our over-demanding, well-travelled clients with huge expectations and that’s the service that we offer to these people who often have a first, second and third home. We’ve done work in Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Angola and all parts of South Africa.
I offer a full interior design service, from concepts, all the way from selecting the toilet paper to handing over the keys of a property, with everything in place, ready for the client to move in. We’ve done a VIP suite for Foreign Affairs at the airport; we’ve done it all. We did a suite in the Royal Mafikeng hotel for the royal family, used during the World Cup by the English team.
CF: Style obviously changes over time, but how would you describe your own, preferred style?
NT: I’ve been in this industry for 20 years and worked with clients at all levels. Personally, what I’m encouraging now on a personal level and for my clients, is effortless, laid-back luxury. Barefoot luxury. One should be able to take off ones shoes and jump onto a couch. You need to lose the formality of design and that’s what I’m encouraging. There’s always a sprinkle of African, that’s my nature, my x-factor, to add in something decidedly African.
CF: When it comes to the actual material you like to work with, be it soft covering, curtains or carpeting. Is there a preference when it comes to choosing your fabric?
NT: In the laid-back feel, natural linen with a sparkle of a little bit of velvet. I call it organic glam, you have to have a little bit of ‘zhoozsh’ to material. When I’m asked to do a project, my first thought would always be that it should not be average. As laid back as I am, there has to be a little bit of boho chic, you know, the x-factor. You’ve got to add something to it. So yes, there is, not necessarily a favourite fabric. I often check if there are kids in the home: I don’t want to make showcases of people’s homes, I want to create homes with soul that can be lived in.
All images were provided by Nthabi Taukobong.