African Home Furnishings And Decor

During my extended stay in Florence, Italy, in 2000 and 2001, I became a Medici “groupie” while studying the Italian Renaissance.  At the time, little did I know that one day I would find myself standing at the door of such a movement in my country of birth, South Africa.  Upon my return to the U.S. in August of that same year, a friend of mine in Los Angeles with a highly successful home furnishing store asked if I would consider going to South Africa to explore the prospects of finding a new look for her store.
I had no experience in this field; however, I packed my bags, and set forth on a talent hunting expedition. Once embarked on this journey, I never looked back, for I found a renewed “kinder spirit” in South Africa and its people, known as the "rainbow nation".  What I found at the end of this rainbow was a pot of gold, and it was not the kind of gold we are most known for.  This was a melting pot of untapped creative talent; finally I had my opportunity to give back to Africa.

  This is how I became a “talent scout” in Africa and created my business, Phases Africa, in 2001.  I have been observing the continuing growth of this creative movement, called the “African Renaissance, “so coined by former South African president, Thabo Mbeki   

  I source my products all over Africa, literally as far as Timbuktu, where I buy from the Tuareg people, who are nomads living in the desert.  These artisans work with goat skin leather and use an ancient technique in tooling the leather.

  South African safari lodges and hotels generally only use African products and have been consistently rated amongst the world’s top hundred hotels, in the most prestigious of publications year after year.  Phases Africa obtains their products directly from the artisans responsible for the interiors of these luxurious hotels.   

  I love being surrounded by conversation pieces; when I sit in one of my genuine ostrich skin wing back chairs, and look at my living room, every single piece has a story to tell.  I take my Yellow Jarrah chateau dining room set, made from the original rail-wood sleepers, used to link countries in Africa at the turn of the 19th century.   One-of-a-kind contemporary ceramics and wood-turning vases are all over my African themed dining and living room, from several of South Africa’s most collectable artisans.  Telephone wire baskets from the Zulu people are donning my walls.  A Dogon hand-carved wood door from Mali combined with Panga Panga timber (another sleeper-wood) was turned into a stunning custom made cabinet where I store all my choice African table ware. 

  Owning something as significant as a piece of Africa’s history probably makes my rail-wood one of my more treasured furniture lines.  Above my Yellow Jarrah table, I have a 3 ring Ostrich egg chandelier. Then behind my dining room table -- up against the wall overlooking my dinner guests, are two six feet tall “musicians”, hand carved from palm fronds. One is holding a flute, the other a violin.  These six feet, tall sculptural women figures are a limited edition of African art and each sculpture is signed by the artist. In the entrance hallway of my home I have an incredible Shona art sculpture called “Lady with great Desire” by Richard Kanjara.  It is as if Picasso himself sculpted it.  It’s a well-known fact that Picasso was hugely influenced by African Art, and in this piece the similarities are clearly noted.

  The recycled rail-wood we addressed earlier comes in 4 different timbers, namely Yellow Jarrah, Panga Panga, African and Rhodesian Teak.  We also have products made from African mahogany, mostly created by a Russian artist now residing in South Africa.  He hand carves each piece of furniture with a distinctive modern African flair.  Recently he was commissioned by the House of Fendi from Milan, to produce furniture for their new home store in Miami.  When the Italians turn to Africa for their products, you must know that we are doing something right. 
  I also ventured into a part of South Africa’s colonial past, using indigenous precious woods that grow in the rain forests of South Africa. Known as the Garden Route, this timber is under strict government protection.   We are only allowed to use these timbers once the trees have fallen.  These forests house some of the worlds most expensive and rare timbers; Stink-wood and South African Yellow wood.  If you need to know where you can purchase these genuine antiques today, try Sotheby’s in London, you may get lucky.  Phases Africa have not used any stink-wood to construct furniture; I do have a few heirlooms in my home, and no, they are not for sale!  I have one contemporary Yellow Wood tables left in my warehouse in California with aluminum horn shaped legs, and it is on sale.    
  My business is set up in South Africa where I am able to oversee production and take care of my clients shipping needs for speedy delivery across the globe. Each and every product, whether it’s African furniture, accessories, lighting, rugs, or African décor and art, it’s suited for residential, hospitality, as well as office spaces large or small.

  Before 2001, the so-called “home products” that were exported from Africa where mostly artifacts famed by tourists I am thankful that Phases Africa has a role to play in the telling of this positive story; a tale of a continent who’d rather be known for their trade, instead of their plight for aid.