DSSA alumni, Warren Walkinshaw, transforms original Blair Atholl farmhouse


South African interior designer Warren Walkinshaw, who graduated from the Design School of Southern Africa (DSSA) in 2012, was recently featured on Top Billing for his spectacular success in breathing new life into the original Blair Atholl farmhouse previously owned by legendary golfer Gary Player.

The former Spanish-style homestead was transformed to incorporate the client’s eccentric vision and personality and it is testament to the masterful way in which Walkinshaw was able to juxtapose old and new elements to create a charming harmony with the warm ochre tones in one room and bright, colourful and playfulness in another.

As an independent consultant to both architects and home owners, Walkinshaw specialises in renovating older homes that require an update in both aesthetic and re-distribution of space, modernizing them without changing their external architectural character.

Attaining recognition and acclaim as a respected modern designer a mere three years after graduation is not something that just happens in the design industry; it takes hard work, wise decisions and fundamental talent.

Walkinshaw explains the choices that he made in his career path to success and offers his insights into the design industry in South Africa with his personal views on current challenges and opportunities, as well as possible directions for the future.

“One of the most important aspects of a career choice is selecting the best tertiary institution,” says Walkinshaw. “I chose DSSA, a brand of The Independent Institute of Educations (The IIE) which is internationally accredited with the BAC, as it was the most comprehensive institution in comparison to other private institutions offering the same qualification. It turned out to be an excellent decision.

“While studying at DSSA, I gained a full set of skills required by the interior design profession, and I learnt to focus on creating unique, tailor-made solutions that cater to clients’ needs while staying true to aesthetic. Most importantly, I learnt to persevere through change and embrace a multi-faceted approach to intelligent design solutions.  DSSA helped me find my own voice and hone in on creating a signature that was unique to the niche market I wanted to specialise in.”

This bold sensitivity characterises his previous projects, which include a new-build villa in Cypress, apartments in Killarney and Illovo, a call centre for an insurance company and a Restaurant in Monte Casino. His expertise is currently being put to excellent use in renovating a family home in Franschoek and private residence in the exclusive Mount Street in Bryanston.

“My skills are continuously building on the fundamentals taught to me at DSSA,” he continues. “Antiquities and fine South African art are two of my current themes. I love contemporary clean lines and how they can be used to showcase antiques and modernist furniture, highlighting each item’s unique beauty through contrast, which is the same way I feel about South African culture and how we are able to celebrate our differences and the rich diversity of our country as collective.”

This attention to South African heritage can be seen in the inclusion of a serving trolley from the old Johannesburg Carlton Hotel next to a Chinese dresser, Gaultier chairs and a modern rug, and in the mounting of Willem Boshoff’s Collection of African Curios above the original stone fireplace in the living room.

According to Walkinshaw, South African design is as vibrant and pioneering as ever. “South Africans have a fantastic heritage and spirit of place to draw from, with a unique approach to both identity and aesthetic. I am proud to say we have some of the greatest design minds leading international trends, namely Stefan Antoni, Stephen Falcke, Karen Wygers, Boyd Ferguson, John Jacob Zwiegelaar, Graham Viney, Catherine Raphaely, Charlotte Daneel, Julian and Trevyn McGowan, Karen Roos, Maira Koutsoudakis, Michele Throssell, Kelly Hoppen, Joe Paine, Dokter and Misses, and Tonic.

Regarding design opportunities in South African, Walkinshaw asserts that, “With the plethora of foreign investors trying to buy properties locally, and with the falling rand placing foreign currency in a position of high buying power, there is a lot of work available in the high end spectrum of the African market. However, the upcoming local elections will determine the outcome of many projects that have been put on hold as a result of our political turmoil, which has created some very nervous buyers who are not sure if their investments will be safe.”

A passion for the future of South African design is evident in Walkinshaw’s advice for those looking to start their journey towards a career in design: “Be bold and go all the way, don’t hesitate to express yourself; there is nothing more rewarding that finding your voice and seeing a completed project sing!”

2016 Registration at DSSA closes on 29 February. For more information, visit www.designschoolsa.co.za


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