One on one

5 minutes with with Siyanda Mbele

Written by Shereen Lurie

Siyanda Mbele is the founder of Pinda Furniture and Interior Design, a cutting-edge design company geared towards the manufacturing of high quality products with an African aesthetic. A participant in Southern Guild’s A New Wave exhibition and nominee of Design Indaba’s Most Beautiful Object in South Africa award, he is fast becoming one of South Africa’s leading designers.

Nandini coffee table. Photo by Njabulo Magubane

My approach to design depends on the furniture piece or type of interior space I’m designing. If I’m following a brief or theme, I do research and check existing designs so I don’t replicate. When creating new products, I’m guided by the things that inspire me. While designing, I take into consideration the materials needed, manufacturing process and cost implications.

Creating products is my passion and working with people from different backgrounds and different industries adds to the passion. I am incredibly passionate about Africa and restoring culture through furniture and interior design.

I enjoy working under pressure because I get bored very easily and lose interest. I love walking around Durban, a city rich in culture, which always helps to get the creative juices flowing – much better than being holed up in the office all day long.

My approach to furniture design depends on the design requirement. I usually start with the direction I get from the client’s brief and then do my research by going out into the field and talking to people. When I get big projects, I collaborate with other designers and hire very creative freelancers – it’s great to bounce ideas around and get different perspectives on the same project. My key objective is to always be unique.

My studies at the Durban University of Technology provided me with a great opportunity to learn a lot about myself and to push myself out of my comfort zone. I miss the liberating part of being a student – working within an industry can limit creativity to a certain degree whether due to lead time, manufacturing capabilities or a client’s vision and budget.

My furniture is inspired by the meaning behind African symbols, patterns and cultures. We turn two-dimensional patterns into three-dimensional furniture and try to capture the essence of each culture without diluting it too much. Our designs are also influenced by cultural practices, for example the Mvelo desk aims to show how the Zulu people portray their culture with symbols.

Ndalo coffee table. Photo by Siyanda Mbele

My personal style can be described as pretty complex – just like the design industry. I’d say my style is predominantly very modern, but tribal patterns are always part of the equation.

The South African designers I am inspired by are Andile Dyalvane, Ditau Interiors, Donald Nxumalo, Thabisa Mjo, Blaque Pearl Lifestyle, Umongo and Minenhle Ntuli.

My favourite piece of furniture I have designed is the Mvelo desk.

Over the past five years we have started to see a rebirth of the South African design aesthetic through Design Indaba, Southern Guild, Nando’s and various initiatives by the departments of Arts and Culture, and Trade and Industry.

Future plans include continuing to work on the residential and commercial interior design projects I started last year. We’re also going to release a few new products – the last design we did was in 2016 so it’s time to update the range.


Photo by Njabulo Magubane


Shereen Lurie

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