Elle Decoration interview with Haldane Martin

by Andrew Royal

The award-winning work of top South African furniture designer and producer Haldane Martin can be seen in hotels and homes all over the world. I got a sneak preview of Haldane’s brand new Woodstock studio and showroom, where I took some snaps, and also caught an interview while I was there. Let’s take the tour:

Impossibly feathery Fiela lights are suspended above Tub Chairs in the high-volume showroom space.

Hello Haldane! Tell us how you started out as a designer.
I have always loved making things, I would spend school holidays shaping sailboards, surfboards, and skateboards while my peers were shaping up with girls!







Why did you choose to focus on furniture?
I studied industrial design and became interested in furniture design in my second year (1991) whilst designing my first chair (see below left). I found that the furniture niche of my profession had a more “soulful” quality that resonated with me.



What was your first big break?
Being commissioned by Mel Miller to design and manufacturing the Daddy Long Legs chair (see above right), together with John Vogel & Jamii Hamlin, for the BMW/Imax Pavilion at the Waterfront in 1996.


How have your things changed over time?
Hopefully there has been a steady development and evolution of my work, perhaps a deepening in complexity without losing its essential simplicity.

The modular New Slant shelves are held together with an ingenious magnet system.


What is your favourite design? Choose one of your own, and one by somebody else.
Like any parent, my most recent creation is my current favourite – the Songololo Sofa (below). Also, my iPod, and wrinkly tea cups made by Frauke Stegmann.

What inspires and motivates you?
Cracking the geometric codes of Life.

Beautiful work-in-progress models in Haldane’s office.

Who or what are your design influences?
Nature, culture, my inner life, and spiritual path. My past work has referred to the great design masters Eames, Castiglioni, Starck, Le Corbusier and Berger.

Right now – sculpture by Paul Edmunds, architecture by Herzog de Meuron, and product design by Ronan & Erwan Bouroullec.

The workshop floor, piled with skeletons of stool chair bases and Fiela lights.


What have you done that you are you most proud of?
Contributing to the emergence of a new South African design language and identity: for example, the Zulu Mama chair (below).

What do you love most about your work?
Bringing ideas down from the heights of the unseen world, into everyday physical reality.


What is the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Being in business without losing my humanity.

Haldane’s Riempie series features this couch, a bench and dining set.
Favourite book?
White Fang by Jack London


Best way to spend your free time?
MTB trail riding with my mates or jumping on the trampoline with my 2-year-old daughter, Sophia.


You’ve just opened a brand new design studio. Give us a brief rundown on your plans from here on.
Explore, learn, grow, create, money, fame, global distribution and… oh yes – pay off the bond on my new studio!

Any last words…?
Thanks for the opportunity to share my work on your great blog! Everyone reading this is invited to come and experience my furniture designs first hand at my showroom launch at 12 Aberdeen Street in Woodstock, Cape Town, on Saturday 6 September from 10h00 to 13h00 (map here). See you there.

Originally published in Elle Decoration

2 September 2008