At just 30 years old, Gregory Widmer is intent on making a significant mark in South African furniture design with his company WIDMER+CO. His family’s background in design created a fertilized foundation for him to develop his creative skills.
Hot Lifestyle: WIDMER+CO is something of a family business, please tell us more about the company’s history?
Gregory Widmer: I initially embarked on this journey with my parents. They’ve been in the industry for over 30 years focusing predominately on shop fittings. I wanted to branch out and start desgining unique and once of pieces of furniture. We first launched a design brand which was called “Y-eah Furniture” through which I gained a lot of experience however I had a great desire to create a high end art + furniture emporium . That’s when WIDMER+CO was born.
HL: What are some the challenges you’ve faced with having an original concept furniture design store?
GW: At the beginning a lot of our designs were made mainly from steel, which gave it quite a cold feel; I found people in South Africa weren’t quite ready for that. Since then we have incorporated a lot of wood, which I can proudly say I really like. Also some of our designs were ahead of its time for the South African market, and it has taken some time for people to see and believe in this way and style of living.
HL: Have your ideas been well received by the South African public?
GW: Certainly! It has taken some time but the South African market is starting to appreciate and acknowlage what we have to offer, which is really rewarding.
HL: What is the idea behind WIDMER+CO that you feel sets you apart from other design companies within the country or even internationally?
GW: I do believe we have something new and fresh to offer the South african market. Our designs are timeless and we always keep that in mind when going through the creation process. We put in a lot of emphasis on quality as we are focused on having our designs last a lifetime.
HL: Your space incorporates some very striking artwork, which somehow manages to give your designs a becoming context without having to contrive decorative suggestions. What is your connection to the arts and how do you decide on which art works to display/sell?
GW: Art has always played an integral part in my family’s life. All the art is done by my brother Nicolas Widmer and his partner Simone Arcanium. I feel their art is a perfect marriage between what I do and what they do. They complement each other and give the consumer a better idea and feel of how a living space can look like. Having said that, I do believe that every single piece, whether it be art or furniture can stand alone as feature pieces.
HL: Please tell us about some of your products: the intention behind them, where you find your creative inspiration, choice of materials, functionality.
GW: I get a lot of inspiration when travelling around the globe. I always come back with loads of new ideas and concepts. In terms of materials, our main focus lies with steel, wood and glass.
HL: Do you sometimes collaborate with clients if they request personalised items?
GW: We are quite flexible when it comes to our tables. We’re open to resizing the tables, using a custom wood and changing the colour of the legs.
HL: Do you have a favourite piece which you feel you’ll never stop producing?
GW: That’s quite a difficult question to answer. I like all of our designs, they all have a story behing them. But if I had to choose, I would say the AnneM table and the Great Dane couch.
HL: Any future plans for WIDMER+CO?
GW: To keep designing timeless pieces and potentially opening a branch in Cape Town.
Words & Images: Kwanele Kunene