Interview with David Collins Studio

Inspired Interiors

Simon Rawlings, Creative Director of David Collins Studio, reveals the inspirations behind the exquisite interiors at Delaire Graff Estate.

The Owner's Villa living room interior at Delaire Graff Estate designed by David Collins Studio

Situated in a prime position at the very summit of the Helshoogte Pass, Delaire Graff Estate looks out over some of the most spectacular scenery the Cape Winelands has to offer.

The newest jewels in Laurence Graff’s crown are six Superior Lodges and a four-bedroom Owner’s Villa. Luxuriously appointed, they take opulence to a whole new level. Designed by DHK Architects, natural, raw materials, such as stone-clad walls, feature prominently, alongside thatched roofs and 200-year-old French oak ceilings – an ode to the wine cellar at Delaire Graff Estate. Laurence Graff turned to David Collins Studio to transform the interiors. Subtle African touches abound, from the tribal drum footstools to the dark leather and wood surfaces, which evoke the continent’s beating heart while infusing the space with a sense of calm.

We sat down with Simon Rawlings, the Creative Director of David Collins Studio, who shared with us the renowned design company’s inspiration behind the interiors at Delaire Graff Estate.

How has travel shaped your work?

Travel has made me a practical designer. I obsess now over practicality and efficiency. It has also opened my mind to new ideas, new ways of approaching the creative process, and exposed me to incredibly talented people who are hugely inspiring.

Is it important for you that interiors reflect their locale?

I want to wake up knowing which country I am in. I want the personality of a region and culture to come through in the design. We achieved this at Delaire Graff Estate by working with local artisans, craftspeople and artists, incorporating their art and objects, and layering colours and textures that we felt represented the location. We never imitate or theme an interior. We take inspiration from the environment and reinterpret this into the vision and DNA of the project.

What inspires you most about South Africa?

I adore the textures. The texture of the land, the hand-worked feeling in the art and crafts, the texture in the colour… Also, there is a very special quality of light here. For me, that’s very unique to South Africa.

How would you describe your style?

My style is tailored to the projects. I am very adaptive, collaborative and responsive. I would say that my overriding look is determined by my desire for timelessness — designs that do not reflect a particular time but do reflect a place. My designs will always take inspiration from the building, the location, the cuisine, the landscape and, most importantly, the people. The David Collins Studio look is layered and textured, exuding craftsmanship, playing with whimsy, yet feeling resolved and ordered in a British way. I like to think that our designs are approachable yet luxurious, simple yet detailed, colourful yet calm.

What do you most wish more hotels would get right when it comes to design?

So many hotels get the lighting wrong and try to be too clever. We must remember that a hotel room is basically a bedroom, and should really be lit in a very soft, warm and delicate way to promote relaxation and calm. I also feel that hotel rooms should not challenge you in any way, either through design or operation.


The Owners Villa entrance hallway with artworks and a window looking out over the Stellenbosch Valley

What was your favourite aspect of working on the new Superior Lodge and Owner’s Villa?

It’s always lovely to return to a property that we originally created. It’s great to work again with the team here — the architects, DHK and the Delaire Graff team are all wonderful. I really enjoy working directly with Laurence Graff and seeing his collection of African art grow through the design process. His attention to detail and exacting eye for design inspires and influences our design decisions. We have discovered so many great artisans throughout this process and hope to bring many of them to other projects around the world.


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