I have always been inspired by Michele Throssell and the fact that, like me, she is based in KZN brings it closer to home. Her passion for design was inspired by her love of fabrics while working for a clothing manufacturing company in Cape Town and her talents grew from there. Her style is impeccable and she seems to radiate positivity. Two of her children have recently joined her business and it is so exciting to see them working together to create beautiful spaces.
I recently touched base with her to ask her a few questions about her personal life, her business and her inspiration.
How do you measure success in your business? For example is it money in the bank / happy clients / successful design / amount of followers or something else.
Most important to me always is a happy client and creating a working relationship where you understand what their wants and desires are and then helping to interpret that into a home or space with a stylish, edgy result.
Can you tell me about one of your greatest projects, not necessarily the biggest one, but one that brought you the most joy and sense of accomplishment
Probably Mala Mala’s re-imagination and refurbishment. It was a 27-unit lodge and there were many challenges with regards to logistics and distance and the complexity of having clients in camp whilst construction and interiors were happening. It also spanned nearly three years.
When and how did you start your business? Please tell me a bit about yourself.
I started my business 25 years ago, but opened a closed corporation in 2002.
I have a PPE degree from UCT and went on to opening a hand-made jewellery business with my sister just after I got married in 1987.
I then worked for Danco Clothing in CT on a sales basis, where I found a huge love for fabrics and creating. This led to the love of interior design, helping friends and family after they loved the space I created in my own home.
I did a drafting course and went on from there. One friend led me to another and that is how it all started.
Can you remember your first design project when you started your business? What was it? Can you take us back there…
My first big project was a corporate share house at Leopard Creek Estate after the big floods. Once insurance paid out the clients engaged with me to take on the project. It was a full home: 6 bedrooms en suite, in a very exclusive golfing estate just outside of Nelspruit.
I poured over every decision, but just loved the challenge and even more the fact that my clients were so happy with the result.
South Africa is such a vibrant country and we are so lucky design wise to be inspired by Africa. What are your favorite design aspects or inspirations of South African design?
I am absolutely in love with all things African. We have so many amazing artisans that create many beautiful things. We work with many local designers and celebrate their talent. The use of colour, beadwork, embroidery and weaving is hugely inspirational to me
If you ever feel overwhelmed or out of your depth in a project, what do you do?
One can achieve anything in life when you set your mind to it and keep your vision. If ever overwhelmed, move away for a day or so, breathe and go back and nail it!
Do you have a mentor or someone you look up to? Someone that inspired you to become an interior designer? Or someone that still inspires you today?
I have always been inspired by many different design fundis, from architects to garden designers, artists, ceramicists as well as some great designers that celebrate lifestyle living like Ralph Lauren and Kelly Wearstler.
How many staff do you employ in your business? And how do you manage your staff and inspire them?
We had 8 staff and just recently we have scaled down to 4. I am privileged to have two of my children in the business now which is so exciting and it is wonderful to see them grow in the design industry. We try have weekly design meetings, to explore what is happening in the world of design, as well as visit design shows and trade fairs.
What have been your biggest challenges along the way? And has it made you stronger and wiser? What lessons have you learnt from the challenges?
Life is a challenge to always keep your wits about you and stay calm and collected. When feeling troubled, I like to walk away and give myself time to think through the way forward. If we are reactive we often make the wrong decisions.
What are your plans or insights for your business for the future? Do you have any goals that you want to accomplish this year?
We are planning more of our own development projects, as well as opening our own ECommerce site.
Without giving away trade secrets, what is your favorite local shop / supplier / designer / artist / creative? And why?
Young South African designers and artists are always a go-to and we design many of our own bespoke furniture pieces which we have manufactured locally. With the exchange rate weakening so much, I see us going even more local in the future.
How do you balance your work and personal life as a woman, being a wife, mother, business owner? How do you manage to juggle everything?
This has always been a challenge. It is not easy to be a mum and a worker but I have a very supportive husband and the saying “happy wife, happy life” is so true as he has allowed me to follow my passion and to express my love for all things beautiful and to let me create, which makes me happy. I try to have a few personal hours each day, to meditate, read, or garden and this helps me balance myself in the office.
What is your view on social media for your business? Do you use it for inspiration or marketing purposes?
I am not a big personally on social media, but I think it’s a wonderful platform to share one’s work, as well as to be inspired by others’ work. It is also a good platform to find new suppliers and interesting people in the design industry.
Always inspired by the talented women in our industry,