Cape Town: interior design leader and a British bargain-hunter's dream

Cape Town has become a world leader in interior design and now thanks to favourable exchange rates it's a British bargain-hunter's dream, too, discovers Pattie Barron
Click to follow
Move over, Milan: Cape Town, chosen as World Design Capital for 2014, is the go-to city to give your home a contemporary edge. Like Table Mountain, which looms above it, Cape Town's style is big, bold and spectacular, and as a shopping destination — currently with a keen 15-plus rand to the pound — it offers design paradise at dream prices.

Cape Town
Luxe living: Cape Town cool is captured in this home above the ocean, designed by award-winning South African architectural firm SAOTA and furnished by OKHA

"People still want gorgeous, but they want something more than catalogue labels from Italy," said Adam Court, the creative force at OKHA, a Cape Town-based interior design and furniture firm. Design classics at its Hatfield Street showroom include the simple, perfect Stix side table, with clean-cut ash poles bound with a band of polished steel.

Over in Woodstock, the creative quarter, furniture designer Haldane Martin dreams up furniture-as-artwork, such as his iconic Baba Papa lounger of recycled wire loops; newest are the brass cut-out Hex coffee tables that can be arranged in hexagonal patterns.

Visit Woodstock on Saturdays, when the Old Biscuit Mill hosts the buzzy Neighbourgoods organic foods market. Browse homeware stores such as Clementina, the showcase for Clementina van der Walt's Africa Café ceramic tableware, hand-painted in bright patterns; Continuum, Cape Town's equivalent of Petersham Nurseries offering vintage garden merchandise, and Abode, with funky furniture and quirky lighting.

Go big-game hunting in the city and bag a beaded wall trophy — a life-size lion's head with golden glass mane — at Streetwires, on Short Market Street.

Alfresco glamour: Carole Nevin's splashy animal-print tablecloth with bird of paradise napkins
Primitive patterns in sumptuous shades rule at Clementina

With simpler appeal, large, bulbous bowls crafted from wired beads in earth tones, by any one of the formerly unemployed 120 artists in Streetwires' workshops, make striking centrepieces. While you're at Short Market Street, drop into Karoo Classics in Market House, and fall for mohair throws in luscious shades from peach to indigo.

At Long Street's two Tribal Trends stores, traditional beading is worked into modern magic: patterned wall hangings in turquoise and tobacco, or armchairs upholstered entirely in beads of wide blue-and-white yachting stripes.

Take a trip to Streetwires and bag a beaded lion's head, zebra or giraffe
This is the place to order the dinner service to outglam Versace's — animal-print plates edged in silver or gold, and outsize chargers edged with cowrie shells. A delectable small cushion of apricot suede, trimmed in apricot ostrich feathers, is the ideal size for tucking into hand luggage.

At the visually stunning Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, in Cape Town's historic harbour, you'll need roller skates to shop the extensive mall sprawl. Decor stores include Carrol Boyes for kitchen ware that tops Alessi's for imagination, and Avoova, for preposterous but fabulous ostrich feather chandeliers, as well as coffee tables of milky-pale ostrich eggshell mosaic — Roman Abramovich bought five for his yacht.

You'll find Carole Nevin is the stop for gorgeous printed table linens in splashy prints. Her Botanical line showcases South Africa's native protea, pincushion, agapanthus, calla lily and bird of paradise plants.

Turquoise hand-blown glass vase from David Reade
For high-class design stores, head for the small mall with big ideas that is Green Point's Cape Quarter. It spills out down trendy Waterkant Street, where you will find dynamic fashion, interiors and furniture designer Jo Carlin's showroom, as well as chunky, hand-stitched weatherproof rugs at The Verandah Collection. Nap Living — where the mantra is "Believe in Homegrown" — is the place to kit out your home with driftwood mirrors, hessian cushions and felt ball lights.

More Capri than Cape Town, new store Resort Lifestyle is owned by mother and daughter team Leigh Samson and Danela Conti who vow to "capture the essence of holiday living 365 days of the year", and they succeed, with butterfly-print cushions, outdoor sofas and Italian print silk-scarf lampshades.

The luscious glass bottles, bowls and vases at David Reade's are like outsize fruit drops, but for larger glass artwork, check out The Lisa King Gallery, which specialises in South African contemporary fine art.

Zimbabwean Margie Murgatroyd, at Cape Quarter's Africa Nova, pulls together exquisite telephone-wire baskets in Missoni-esque random patterns, cowrie shell figures in mouthwatering mint and apple green, hand-made ceramics in glorious colours, and markings that illustrate how South Africa's tribal crafts have been turned and twisted, to make them cutting-edge contemporary.

Wall of colour: Cape Quarter's Pierre Cronje displays tables with bright tops of paintbox weaves
* South African Airways offers return flights to Cape Town from London Heathrow from £841.99. Visit or call 0844 375 9680.

* The five-star Taj Cape Town hotel on Wale Street is a 10-minute stroll from V&A Waterfront. Rooms from £115 per night (; +27 21 819 2000).

* The Grand Daddy Hotel is boutique-style, in the town centre on Long Street with an Airstream Rooftop Trailer Park. Rooms from £95 per night. Visit or call +27 21 424 7247.

* These firms can ship goods:;

Follow us on Twitter @HomesProperty, Facebook and Instagram