Seeing Dark Horse’s Boss Armchair for the first time transformed me into an instant fan. It has been with great excitement that I watched each time a new design was announced. Dark Horse consistently produces products that are not only beautifully designed but practical and locally made. Good design has the capability to adapt to a variety of spaces and Dark Horse pieces can easily be thrown into a mix of styles and shine.
Some of my favourite pieces include their latest Circle Storage Shelf and Timber Spire Stools, an old favourite is most certainly their Leather Strap Round Mirror and of course the fabulous range of Bar Carts which is a MUST for any home.
So after all of this time admiring the brilliant minds responsible for Dark Horse I had the chance to ask Jarad and Lise some questions.
Q&A with Lise and Jarrad
1. What sparked the idea to team up and start Dark Horse and how did it happen exactly?
Lise: When Jarrad and I arrived in Cape Town in 2011, we had squeezed the full extent of our worldly goods into my little green golf (the only furniture/decor items we owned were two sad looking table lamps and a set of bath towels). We moved into a tiny flat in Woodstock and set about trying to find some furniture whilst I was working in Interior Design and Jarrad, Architecture. The search sparked a little D.I.Y project that resulted in some slightly wobbly yet lovable new furniture pieces that we proudly presented to our friends. The experiments continued over the next few months and I decided I would like to pursue furniture design full time….Dark Horse was born!
Jarrad: I worked for a variety of Architecture firms and started to help out after hours – A year later we decided to go full time. Dark Horse now turns 6 years old in 2017.
2. What was the first product you designed as a team?
Lise: We experimented with some furniture together first but our first sellable product was our canvas Duffel bag.
3. You’ve recently extended to Europe, Hamburg specifically. Tell us, was it something you planned for a long time or was it a case of the right place and the right time?
Lise: Jarrad’s had this trick up his sleeve for a little while now… the cogs never stop turning inside his head on growing the brand.
Jarrad: We saw this growing response to our work from Europeans visiting Cape Town. Our clients are central to the brand – We say once you own a Dark Horse piece – You join the family. We believe in sharing good quality South African design with more people, having jumped on trains, planes and after many beers and sidewalk conversations, we dived into more research. Hamburg is a dynamic but small city, it allows us to connect with people across Europe very easily.
4. You manufacture all your products in Cape Town, South Africa. Do you have a training/ skills programme, which focuses on job creation for locals? If so please tell us more.
Lise: We have put a lot of time and energy into finding the right people to work with (in terms of suppliers and employees) We train all our staff up from scratch on how to weave, assemble and wrap our products. We believe in rewarding our team and have created job opportunities through independent staff teams and our other suppliers.
5. From who/what do you draw design inspiration?
Lise: I’m inspired by the spaces I imagine the furniture will go into. I imagine living with the items around me and how I would feel about using them on a daily basis. If I get excited about a design and can’t wait to have one of my own I feel the design right. I also love drawing inspiration from the Japanese minimalist style of furniture and the Atomic age.
Jarrad: I think my eye is more eclectic but always detail driven – I can see the form a car seat might take and push that to become an inspiration for lighting. I have a love for how graphics and mood inspire the story – So always looking and digesting.
6. If you had to favour one would you favour aesthetics or functionality?
7. You two design dream spaces. Which of your projects has been your favourite with regards to process and overall satisfaction if you look at the end product?
Lise: I am quite happy with how the reception area of the Max Hotel in JHB turned out. But generally love seeing how other designers have used our products in their interiors- I get all tingly every time we see a pic of something we created in a beautiful space!
Jarrad: That’s a great question and a hard one. We design products that people engage with every day – Multiple times a day and so the curation of this becomes so satisfying. On a product level, we recently designed our new Spire Stool series and this has been a long process of refinement and reduction.
8. How would you describe your designs?
Lise: Bold, unapologetic and versatile
9. Which of your designs do you think encapsulates all of the aspects of Dark Horse?
Lise: Our boss armchair, it’s modern with a little traditional element. It has clean lines and a lot of texture.
10. Any exciting things fans need to keep their eyes peeled for?
Lise: I’m quite excited about a new table lamp design currently being machined in the workshop.
Jarrad: We have a new Bar Chair that has a beautiful balance of presence and simplicity. It’s a piece we believe will stand up against European offerings.
11. What is your favourite design trend at the moment?
Lise: The indoor/ outdoor mix- such as bringing the garden into the interior and furnishing outside areas as you would a lounge- making it cosy and welcoming.
12. What kind of work would you like to do more of?
Lise: I would like to work more with bright colour and spontaneity in our upcoming pieces
Jarrad: Homeware – I’m working on how do we design for sharing and gifting.