Cécile Celebrates A Life Well Lived

The biography of design doyenne Cécile Tilley – best known as cofounder of iconic design firm Cécile & Boyd – makes for inspiring reading.


Packed with memorable quotes and stylish details, Cécile is the lovingly created biography of a woman who very clearly inspired almost everyone she met.

That life began in Mauritius, where Cécile was born in 1925, and ended almost 90 years later in Durban, where in her mid-sixties she had cofounded South African design powerhouse Cécile & Boyd with Boyd Ferguson. 

Cécile | House and Leisure

Written and put together by noted South African design journalist Kerryn Fischer (a past editor of Elle Decoration, Real Simple and National Geographic Traveller) and her regular partner in creative work, graphic (and fashion) designer Luanne Toms, the biography is both beautiful to look at and makes for fascinating reading. It’s also superbly copy edited by Sally Rutherford, for those – such as Cécile herself, I imagine – who care about such details.

The book takes the reader on a complete tour, using words and wonderful archival pictures, of Cécile’s long and exceptionally interesting life. It quickly becomes clear that she was a person of great charisma, energy and originality.

These qualities shone through in everything she did, from opening a restaurant in Umdloti in the mid-1960s that was the epitome of effortless style, to creating the grand yet eclectic interiors that became her signature.

Cécile | House and Leisure

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It was Cécile who insisted on styling the Cécile & Boyd store like a series of welcoming rooms in a home when it first opened in Durban, for example – it’s easy to forget that this simply wasn’t done at the time, even though it’s now the norm. 

What’s more, discovering all the styling ideas (and quirks!) and essentials-of-good-living-according-to-Cécile that the many people who relate anecdotes of her during the course of the book is a delight.

She had a brilliantly stylish eye for detail and took obsessive care of anyone who was a guest in her home – as the wonderful description offered by designer Geordi De Sousa Costa of how Cécile always made up a bed demonstrates – with an admirable disregard for mere circumstance when it got in her way.

When she felt like the atmosphere created by a roaring fire at home in her apartment in Durban was just what she needed, for example, she simply cranked the air conditioning up to freezing to ensure that having the fire was ‘necessary’. 

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Cécile | House and Leisure

Timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of the founding of Cécile & Boyd, this wonderful commemoration of an exceptional woman honours the contribution she undoubtedly made to the landscape of South African interior design.

As told in this book, the story of Cécile Tilley’s unconventional, dynamic and creative life – truly a life well lived – is bound to inspire anyone who encounters it.

We suggest adding it to gift lists for all your design-obsessed friends and family members.

For more information about the book and to purchase copies online, visit the Cécile & Boyd website.

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