Adri van Zyl
Adri van Zyl
Image: Supplied

Cape Town-based Adri van Zyl opened Atelier only in 2014, but already has a string of hypnotic spaces under her belt. “I had initially enrolled for law. The week before class started I pulled a U-turn and decided to do graphic design and photo-graphy, with absolutely no background in the arts,” she admits. Together with her fiancé Vincent Clery, a passionate designer who handles the commercial side of the business, the Atelier brand is becoming

a force to be reckoned with. Joburgers know her best for Work Shop New Town, while Capetonians are definitely not alone in their praise for Mulberry & Prince, the gob-smackingly gorgeous restaurant and wine bar with a blush-pink interior, exposed brick walls and luxe brass accents. Another project that still causes a stir is Honest Chocolate, for its step-back-in-time Parisian café aesthetic, thanks to its antique bentwood chairs, handmade tiles, bottle-green velvet, and exposed brickwork courtyard.

A quick scan of van Zyl’s enviable Instagram feed reveals her passion for colour, with a stream of provocative design scenes in delicious shades and magnetic textures. Currently, Atelier is busy with a handful of exciting residential projects, including a monochromatic bachelor pad and a bohemian family sanctuary. The thread that runs through all of Atelier’s work? Authenticity. Interiors that steep you in their mood and spark a response are what it’s all about.

My earliest memories of great design are… my grandfather’s mid-century, olive-green, beach-house chair. And the Rubik’s cube.

I’m always stirred by… colour. The last three projects we completed were… some display units for the V&A Waterfront, a collaboration for Design Joburg, and a décor job for a stunning home in Pearl Valley near Franschhoek.

Design… what’s it really about? There’s that age-old adage about functionality following form, but really, it’s all about holding space beautifully.

The materials I most love to work with are… bold, patterned marbles and lush velvets. I’m also a huge fan of terrazzo, but have been struggling to find a good local supplier.

Three spaces that move me… 1. Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia — it’s absolutely breath-taking. 2. The Sandersons’ library in their private home designed by Kelly Wearstler. 3. I take great inspiration from nature and was recently fortunate to experience the late Geof­frey Bawa’s mastery of natural form at his private residence in Lunuganga, Sri Lanka.

Our product range is… soon to be launched. For almost all of our projects we design unique furniture pieces. We’ll be releasing some of those as limited editions, as well as developing some brand-new ranges — expect them in early 2018.

The best advice I was ever given was… “Be brave and be kind”. The National gave me that advice.

Which ingredient brings magic to the spaces you create? Interesting and unique use of materials and attention to detail. Novelty is important and often the smallest things make the biggest difference.

The colour I’m lov­ing right now is… rust.

Describe the space you live in… We live in a 100-year-old Victorian duplex in Green Point. We’ve tried to respect the natural heritage and grace of the house, while curating the living rooms with our adventurous style. The dining room is completely black, and the house is full of unique pieces that we’ve designed or collected on our travels. We’ve also turned our bathroom into a forest.

Do you think it correlates with the work you produce professionally? Definitely. Often, I will incorporate elements of my dream house into a project. The best presents are the ones you buy for someone else, but would secretly really love for yourself.

My fashion aesthetic is… I’m not really one for a prescribed style, and like to mix it up. I like clean lines and casual wear with a hint of fun. I’ll often throw in some interesting earrings or a state­ment jewellery piece.

The one space that still gives me tingles every time I return… is the secret courtyard at Honest Chocolate. You feel as if you’ve stepped into a European back alley and found a local gem. It’s the got this magic-realism feel to it — the kind of place you’d read about in a book.

I’m in awe of… some of our local furniture design and art, for example Meyer von Wielligh’s Two Ocean’s Drinks Cabinet and Conrad Hicks’ Implementer Bench. Southern Art Ceramics is really pushing the boundary with their surface designs. I admire Studio 19’s clean design aesthetic and am in dire need of a Dirty Mirror, recently launched by Stay Evil Kids.

My current wallpaper or textile crush is… unsurprisingly, the Graffito wallpaper range by Kelly Wearstler, for its hand-painted, abstract pattern.

This article originally appeared in the Edit.

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