Lemon's sleek new Cape Town showroom, which is situated in the CBD at 212a Buitengracht Street.
Lemon's sleek new Cape Town showroom, which is situated in the CBD at 212a Buitengracht Street.
Image: Supplied / Sunday Times Lifestyle

Kevin Frankental is one of the co-founding brothers at Lemon, a South African furniture and interior product design company.

Established in 2007 and based in Joburg, Lemon began with the creation of custom print products and artworks that in time led to a unique range of furniture, lighting and decorative objects. These have recently found the perfect home in their new Cape Town showroom.

We ask Kevin about his design philosophy, his influences and Lemon's plans to expand into Europe this year:

How did the creation of Lemon come about? Our original concept was to supply interior designers with canvas artwork products that we custom designed and manufactured to brief. We are still supplying the trade, so it seems we filled a nice gap at the time, and still do.

And the name? The name Lemon was based on the segments you see when you cut a lemon in half — the idea being that we were in the middle, surrounded by a community of partners who help us create our products: artists, artisanal manufacturers, designers etc. We've loved collaborating with the South African design and art community and continue to do so.

Describe your design identity/philosophy in three words? Eliminating the unnecessary.

You've recently opened a showroom in Cape Town, and plant to expand the brand into Europe. Tell us more. As Lemon has evolved and become a furniture and accessories brand, we felt strongly that our clients needed to be able touch and feel our products. You have to see our products to understand the quality and craftsmanship, so we needed a space where clients could do that. We obsess over quality, and we want locally made products to be as good as they are from anywhere else in the world. We believe they can be — we have all the skills here; there is no real need to import.

Our first international studio is opening in Amsterdam in August, which is really exciting for us. In the same way that we want to show the South African market how good local product is, we also want to take South African design and manufacturing to the world. It's a challenge but we have seen a lot of interest from overseas in the past few years, and we want to be able to meet that demand.

What is your favourite stage of the design process? I love the making of something; working with different materials and pushing their limitations. I find I work much less with paper and sketches and more with prototyping — it's not the typical process but it's what works best for me. I start with the basic idea and then rework and mould from there.

It can be incredibly frustrating, especially for our manufacturers but it produces good results. I also like to work in real scale where possible — it gives a better understanding of the experience of the product as you go.

'I'm Okay You're Okay' wallpaper from Lemon's 'New Wave' collection.
'I'm Okay You're Okay' wallpaper from Lemon's 'New Wave' collection.
Image: Supplied / Sunday Times Lifestyle
Lemon's '44' sideboard was inspired by the work of German industrial designer Dieter Rams.
Lemon's '44' sideboard was inspired by the work of German industrial designer Dieter Rams.
Image: Supplied / Sunday Times Lifestyle

Your message to the local design industry at this time? We have a lot to offer. There is so much talent. My message would be to stick together and support each other. This is not the time to be competitive with your South African colleagues, instead let's promote and help each other. It's a big world and there is enough work and a big enough customer base to go around, and for everyone to succeed.

Your biggest influences at the moment? The biggest would have to be Dimore Studio based in Milan. The strong graphic side of our brand — courtesy of our wallpapers and prints — lends itself to more maximalist design, and Dimore are the masters of this. We also get a lot of inspiration from the past; different eras influence us in different ways, and we draw on everything from film, to fashion, music and art. They're all connected.

Your go-to things to get yourself out of a creative rut? I don't believe in waiting around for the "moment of magic". I believe in routine. Sitting down every day and doing the work. It's about discipline. Most days you will hate the work you produce, but then you get up and do it again and eventually you'll produce something you love. You have to put the time in, and it has to be done in a habitual way.

Lemon's Promenade unit as seen in their new Cape Town showroom.
Lemon's Promenade unit as seen in their new Cape Town showroom.
Image: Supplied / Sunday Times Lifestyle

Which of the many global design events do you like to attend? Salone Del Mobile is always a must. I haven't been, but apparently the Beirut Design Fair is amazing.

Who are your design heroes, and why? Gio Ponti and Charlotte Perriand — I love that they have both worked across so many disciplines. I also love Margaret Howell. She's more on the fashion side but I enjoy her utilitarian approach to everything.

What object or piece of furniture do you own that always brings you joy, and why? We have the two amazing Ercol lounge chairs that were restored by Wim from Decade in Melville, Johannesburg. They're good examples of incredible design and workmanship.

 This article was originally published by the Sunday Times Lifestyle. Read more content like this at the Sunday Times website.

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