Meet Tristan du Plessis, a Johannesburg based designer with an edgy and opulent style. His portfolio of projects spans the globe, and his studio continues to churn out ‘luxuriously cool’ interiors, yet he still believes that his career is still in the blossoming stage…
A designer known for his maximalist and luxury-focused approach to interiors, Johannesburg based Tristan du Plessis has made his mark mainly in the hospitality space with numerous high-profile projects to his credit. His edgy, atmospheric aesthetic entails layering textures to the nth degree, and pushing the envelope on opulence. With deluxe homes from France to Johannesburg, immersive restaurants around the world, and a growing portfolio of cool concept hotels quickly expanding his repertoire, his reputation is growing accordingly.
FYN Restaurant, Cape Town
Background and career
“I feel like my career is still beginning to blossom. Having said that, coming from South Africa and yet having a very international portfolio of current work is certainly exciting. I feel that my approach of taking one project at a time and making sure it’s the best that it can be, will always push one forward, and luckily for me every new project is a step in the direction that I want to be going.
What led you to practice design?
I have an innate passion for creating things. I have also always had a love for beautiful spaces and an interest in the way that these spaces have the ability to affect people on an emotional level. It was a natural gravitation towards interior design and I’ve never looked back.
From left: Alice & Fifth Supper Club and Bar, Johannesburg; Gorgeous George, Cape Town
The most challenging aspect
The difficulty in being based in South Africa is that in one way you’re far removed from the ‘design capitals’ of the world, but this separateness also creates an opportunity – to incubate new ideas and introduce them to the international market. Working locally does present its challenges, of which there are many – from the scarcity of highly skilled artisans to eye-wateringly tight budgets. This means we always have to think über creatively to pull off a world class product… but this is part of the fun.
A particularly exciting project
Working on the MeatCo at the Madinat Jumeirah was equal parts challenging and exciting. Firstly, we had only a five-week window in which to complete the full design for a 1,000 plus square metre space. The site itself posed challenges too, with beams running across the space at a very low height, which we ended up incorporating into the bar front display, and the champagne room arches, rendering them invisible to the guests in the space, a challenge where the solution really paid off, especially when you look at the final impact of the main bar. We also had the idea of casting a life size bull skeleton bone by bone in solid bronze, which then had to be put on a flight from Cape Town to Dubai, and was logistically extremely difficult, but made the end result and impact that much sweeter.
Meat Company, Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai
Design style and sources of inspiration
I would describe my style as being very detailed, layered, and loaded with personality. I am inspired by each project individually though. I love doing a deep-dive into the project’s location, intention and background and building a multifaceted design story around this. I prefer to create an aesthetic that is unique to the project, rather than creating a ‘signature look’ of my own (at least not intentionally).
Favorite design sector
Hospitality is a truly amazing space to play in, because we get to design spaces that define a moment in time for our guests. Also these are spaces that are enjoyed by large numbers and a variety of people, and spaces where memories are made.
Where do you see the interior design industry five years from now?
I think there will be less ‘trend following’, or that’s something I’m hoping for at least. Designers now have access to an immediate and immense volume and variety of inspiration from all over the world daily, which means they aren’t looking towards the same five design magazines as their only source anymore. I think this allows for more boundary breaking design.
Staying abreast of the ever-changing trends and technologies
It’s an organic process. If you love design, you naturally follow the latest developments out of interest without having to search for them. It’s so easy to stay connected to global design through blogs, Instagram accounts and other design media, which are constantly updated and evolving.
If not an interior designer, what would you be?
I would, and might still one day, be a property developer.
If you could design anything without constraints, what would it be?
What are your design dreams?
My dreams are to continue to grow and eventually have a vast global footprint of multi-disciplinary design projects. I also definitely see myself being drawn more towards the luxury sectors.
The Mighty Fine Hotel, South Africa
What are you working on at the moment?
Locally, I’m working in a few restaurant projects as well as luxury homes, in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. I am also busy with a penthouse in Downtown Johannesburg in collaboration with the DJ and producer Black Coffee. Internationally, I’m working on an exciting rooftop restaurant at what promises to be one of the most luxurious hotels in the world currently being built in Saudi Arabia (but I can’t divulge more than that). I am also working on a rooftop bar in South Florida and a fine-dining restaurant in Rome.
The best advice you have ever received
Philippe Starck said that the greatest mistake that a designer can make is designing for other designers and neglecting the audience. I have taken that advice ever since I first heard it and continually to apply it to my projects.