Sandisiwe Mbhele
Lifestyle Journalist
4 minute read
7 Mar 2021
10:00 am

Designing unforgettable spaces – John Jacob’s a top 100 interior designer

Sandisiwe Mbhele

The talented local interior designer has appeared in the Andrew Martin Interior Design Review as one of the world’s top 100 designers for 2020.

Interior designer John Jacob. Picture: Supplied

One of South Africa’s best-known interior designers, John Jacob Zwiegelaar’s passion and drive for creating beautiful spaces has received international acclaim.

Recognised once again by the Andrew Martin Interior Design Review as one of the world’s top 100 designers for 2020, this accomplishment is no easy feat even though he has appeared three times before.

Zwiegelaar said he was always interested in making amazing spaces, spaces that could uplift people, as he knew the world of creativity was where he was meant to be.

His path didn’t necessarily begin like this, he started at a culinary school in Ireland after he matriculated. In the grand scheme of things, he wanted to be in the restaurant and hotel industry.

“I realised during my studies at university that my interests were more in design and the designing of spaces. It wasn’t a complete 180 degree change of how my life would work out. It happened quite easily, I fell into the right thing almost immediately.”

His company, John Jacob Interiors’ work is quite broad, ranging from contemporary to traditional styles, including architectural design, custom furniture design and the decoration of the interiors.

“If you look at all my projects together you wouldn’t say the same person made the designs because they are so different. For me, the design isn’t about a look, or a particular look, it’s more about putting things together in a way that is harmonious and works nicely together.”

For the talented luxury interior designer, this is his key approach, putting things beautifully together. The same is done when he’s working with clients’ inspirations or ideas. A collaboration of making their “dreams come true”, he adds,  “to make something that would be amazing and have that experience when they walk into their homes”.

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Using an analogy of clothing, Zwiegelaar is the friend who wants you to look great at all times, never allowing you to walk out looking less than your best. The way your outfit is put together is important, so give him a style and he will do his magic.

Having achieved so much in his career the accolade of appearing in the Andrew Martin Interior Designer Review for the fourth time, he said it’s still pretty cool.

“I am more excited for my clients because of their projects, their dreams get published in this international directory. Their hard work, money that they put into it, their time working on the design they like, then it gets recognised internationally I love that feeling for them.”

Being in an industry where it is easy to fall into the latest trends and most talked-about styles, the interior designer tries to avoid this as much as possible, doing the opposite of the trend – on purpose.

The colours of gold, emerald green and dark tones has been on trend for some time. Zwiegelaar says he wouldn’t choose these colours, rather a contrast to this – such as monochrome.

“Something that is created special should not be pirated from what’s going around it. My job is making something that is almost weird to look at, it ends up having much more power, it’s more unique and its own thing. It almost looks more sophisticated, more bespoke.

“If you walk into something that you have already seen before, it’s not going to be special is it?”

The effects of the pandemic were felt by many businesses, but John Jacob Interiors has never been busier. There was a huge upsurge in people wanting to redo their homes. The designer says his client base is a niche and wealthy market.

“It is such a small percentage of people, those people generally always have money. What I have found is during lockdown people have become so much more accustomed to their spaces, their houses and we are now spending more time in our spaces. They are much less interested in leaving their homes as they have gotten used to staying indoors.”

The more people stay at home the more likely they want to retouch or redo their spaces. He’s learning more about the technical side of design, understanding the construction aspect, not just applying finishes and adding colour.

“Those things matter but what you ultimately experience when you walk into a building is spatial proportions, ceiling heights, door heights and what the building looks into. ”

His advice for people looking to redecorate or change up their homes is first to look at the space you have, what the views are, what the spaces feel like and what should be expanded or closed up.

This is where one should start before picking the furniture.

“Those small architecture touches often make things look so much more expensive and classier.”

Constantly looking for ways to build on the next project, improve and do better on each, Zwiegelaar’s consistency shows in his stunning designs.

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