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Furniture Talk With Kipekee Studio

Michael and Kylie Borman, the husband-and-wife team behind KZN’s Kipekee furniture studio, fill us in on their diverse backgrounds, love of timber and soon-to-open showroom.

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A boutique woodworking outfit based in KwaZulu-Natal, Kipekee makes handcrafted furniture with sleek lines and a subtle, minimalist aesthetic. 

We talked to its founders and owners, Michael and Kylie Borman, about what they do on a day-to-day basis, why they chose to make furnishings in the first place and where they can be found when not hard at work in their studio.

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Kipekee founders Michael and Kylie Borman with their daughter, Fynnley Grace.

 

5 Minutes With Kipekee Studio

Where does the name Kipekee come from and how do you pronounce it?

We pronounce it ‘kee-pee-kee’. It means ‘unique’ or ‘exclusive’ in Swahili.

Describe your roles in the business.

Kylie: We both do a bit of both. There are admin things that only Michael can do, and vice versa. Michael does more of the quoting, building and finance side of admin because of his background in quantity surveying. I focus more on the creative and design admin. Michael is also in the studio all day making furniture while I do a lot of the running around organising upholstery, fabrics and any photoshoot planning.

Why furniture? What is it about functional interior products that you’re drawn to work on?

Kylie: Michael is incredibly passionate about making beautiful things with his hands, and also has a genuine love for timber. We want to create a culture where people can buy fewer things at higher quality that last a long time, so our functional products are in opposition to our throw-away society. 

What’s the biggest lesson that working with wood has taught you, Michael?

Like all crafts, working with wood and furniture-making is something that just takes practice and patience with oneself. You have to feel it out, and then repeat it over and over again. I can spend forever trying to perfect my joinery, but until I actually get my hands dirty on the timber and feel the pressure of the saw as it resists, I won’t truly understand it. It all becomes muscle memory.

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You seem to keep all your upholstery rather neutral. And, when you do use colour, it’s in one tone only. Has this been a conscious decision?

We prefer to go neutral or stick to one tone due to functionality. We find people prefer to add a pop of colour or pattern with decor items such as scatter cushions. We also want our pieces to be timeless. Patterns are forever changing and not every pattern or print is everyone’s cup of tea. Neutral is just more pleasing to the eye.

Your fabrics all come from local suppliers in KwaZulu-Natal, right? How important is it to you to be working with people in your region? 

Yes they do, unless we have a special request from a customer. We love supporting the businesses and people around us and in our community, just as they support us. Having everything local to us in KZN is helpful and has made sense for us in our journey.

Kylie, you were a pre-primary school teacher before studying design. Any aspects of teaching that you’ve brought into the way you approach your design work? 

Patience! It has definitely been a gift I’m grateful for. I find that being patient with myself is hugely helpful when I don’t have a complete creative brainwave, and it also helps me in letting go of designs that just don’t work out. Patience is remembering that tomorrow is a new, fresh start.

Michael, you qualified and worked as a quantity surveyor. Do you think that has brought anything unique to the way you view projects?

Yes, it has helped hugely with the admin and grit that goes into the behind-the-scenes of starting a business. Knowing our numbers and planning the future of the business is important. Being a QS helps with all the costing, quoting and designing of our projects, and allows for minimal waste in our factory when making an item of furniture. It also helps in making our pieces cost-effective and affordable.

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We heard you moved to a new workshop and showroom. Tell us more.

Well, it’s in Kyra Park in Imbonini Industrial Park, between Ballito and Salt Rock. We are currently working on a Kipekee showroom, which will be above our studio, and open to the public. This should be ready by July before we welcome our second child. People will be able to see the studio and all the hard work, energy and long hours that go into making furniture. And all our furniture ranges will be on display in the showroom. We want people to walk away having had a fun and inspiring experience. 

Last year you did Decorex Durban and 100% Design South Africa in Johannesburg. Where can we expect to see Kipekee during the remainder of the year?

We will be back at 100% Design South Africa this year, which we absolutely love to be a part of and are so inspired by. We will also be part of a collaboration as one of the featured designers at Discover Durban Design at the East Coast Radio House and Garden show. Other than that, you’ll find us in our studio.

When you’re not doing all this work, where might we bump into you and your growing family?

If we’re not on the Salties or Granny’s Pool beaches, you can find us at Salt Café in Salt Rock, Yoli’s Artisan Bakery at the Ballito Lifestyle Centre, LINC Church, hanging out with our wonderful friends, and, of course, home sweet home. 

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