Mid-Century Modern

WORDS: Remy Raitt


Take a step back in time at the Mid-Century Modern showroom in Salt River, Cape Town – a new store that’s already a favourite among the VISI team.

Here, signed Salvador Dali lithographs from the "Much Ado About Shakespeare" series rub shoulders with vintage cars and a remarkable selection of iconic furniture pieces. And, this month, a coffee shop and design library will be added to the showroom.

Business partners Gawaine Ziman and Ernst Eloff share a passion for design, quality and exclusivity, and are particularly enamored with the shapes and materials typical of the modern design movement that swept across the globe from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s.

VISI spoke to Ernst to find out more.

Where do you source your products?

We have different sources, but a large part of our collection was imported from Denmark. The products are mostly from the mid-century modern period (roughly 1933-1965), but we also sell items from the Bauhaus period (1919-1933) and the Memphis-Milano movement (1981-1987)

Why a focus on the mid-century modern period?

Designs of objects based on functionalism and simplicity evolved from this era, and it was the pioneering age of modern interior and architectural design.

What has the response been like so far?

We’ve had a great response from local interior designers, architects, design students, tourists and people who just love timeless design and art. Our space is a showroom and gallery, so people also see it as a destination to view authentic works of art and design.

Our clientele base involves some of the leading interior decorators, architects and exclusive boutique hotels in the country, and our furniture has featured in numerous films, commercials and editorials, both locally and internationally.

What are some of the most exciting items you’ve had in the store?

That’s a really tough question as all items in the showroom are carefully selected and every piece is authentic. If I have to point out a couple of things…

- PH5 (1958) and Contrast (1962) by Danish architect and author Poul Henningson, who was one of the leading figures of the cultural life of Denmark between World War I and World War II.

- A range of Vistosi pendant lamps hand blown by Gino Vistosi in Murano in 1960.

- The Egg chair by Arne Jacobsen (1958), which was made for the Radisson SAS hotel in Copenhagen.

- David Rowland’s award-winning 40/4 stackable chair, which is arguably one of the most important designs of the 20th century.

- The Tulip dining room table and Tulip chairs by Eero Saarinen (circa 1956).

Are the vintage cars for sale too?

We have one car for sale on the floor at a time. We previously had a 1969 Jaguar E-Type convertible and currently have a 1967 Daimler Sovereign. Daimler Sovereign was a name applied by British manufacturer Jaguar Cars to a sequence of luxury automobiles built by them but carrying the Daimler badge between 1966 and 1983. We approach private collectors to find the perfect car that would complement our furniture and would fit the period we cover. We only deal with cars in perfect condition, which have been well looked after.

More information: 021 447 1187