Designer Profile: Craig K. Whitehead, Owner, Managing Director & Design Director of CKW Lifestyle Associates

Name: Craig K. WhiteheadCraig Whitehead
CKW Lifestyle Associates PTY LTD
Position with company: Owner, Managing Director & Design Director

Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)
My 28 years in Interior Design and Architecture started with me as a design and decor graduate from Johannesburg. I built up my skillset as a lone interior designer and decorator / furniture consultant in my first 5 years of practically running a small furniture and curtain work room in Pretoria. My previous experiences include working for a fabric house and internship shadow work as a student decorator on the last interior design renovation of the illustrious Johannesburg Carlton Hotel for the late Gerard Kokt.

The scale of the business I worked in led to me wanting to own my own practice, and after a stint in the musical arts I founded my business in 1996 at 24 years old. I acquired a contract and partnered with architect Hugo Hamity (who I still work with today) and Atelier Architects where we formed a collaborative company called Atelier Whitehead Incorporated.

You can read more on Craig’s background here.

How would you describe your personal design style?
I personally enjoy a grand, modern style. An eclectic mix of modern and classic elements which celebrate great design and my love for pieces with a story, whether its something I have found in my sourcing trips, travels or designed myself. Great design is simply my inspiration. I enjoy fusing pieces together to create a sumptuous style with personality and which celebrates cultural inspirations without being pretentious.

Where does your design inspiration come from?
South Africa is so diverse and such a melting pot of style and people that one can find inspiration in almost anything. With eleven official languages, inspired lifestyles whether African, Asian or Western influenced are just such a treasure trove of inspiration for me. My mind never stops and I am like a sponge of inspiration. I celebrate diversity and culture and I think its a great starting point in understanding your client and what their needs are.

My flexibility as a designer and decorator is what gives me the creative edge in creating spaces that are not only stamped with CKW style but are a celebration of the people who inhabit them. Inspired by the likes of Ralph Lauren who celebrates American culture in his legacy – I strive to do the same.

No single person is alike and their lifestyles are all important to how they live and enjoy their spaces. There really is no point in being a designer if you cannot address that, and create a space for, and about your client. It’s a real ignition for my creative juices, this and empowering people and communities to a better economic and lifestyle freedom. This is the basis of all we do at CKW Lifestyle.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?
I really feel as designers we are challenged more and more to create sustainable living. Our planet is dying and the more we can address the planet we all live on, the more successful we will be. Technologically we are seeing some of the most inspired and advanced eco-friendly and sustainable products, fabrics and finishes to use in design. Some even better than what we have lived with to date. As a designer I believe we owe it to our clients and our work ethic to promote sustainable products and lifestyles.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2020 and beyond.
• Sustainable, repurposed and eco friendly furniture
• Health and lifestyle conscious living
• Smart, Multipurpose and compact furniture solutions
• Security and smart technology based living
• Water and Energy Efficiency

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?
Keep it real. Nothing is more successful than making your own true statement. We live in a world thriving on trend and fashion with no consideration for waste or personal authenticity. Be authentic in your interpretation of your own personal brand or style, take sound advice and create a space that reflects you and your personality – not some brand alone.
Let a designer’s label be an extension of what you wish to create- for yourself.

How important are The International Design & Architecture Awards?
I personally think its a sensational platform to celebrate style and influence in our industry, community and the public at large. Creativity is such a beautiful gift and when honed, polished and perfected – it is a gift to the world. These awards create such a great platform for designers to exhibit their work, gain notoriety and be influenced by the acknowledgement and work of your peers.

What projects are you currently working on?
We are currently completing a full spec Modern Villa on the cliffs of Antananarivo in Madagascar by a dynamic architect Hugo Hamity which I am very excited about. There are numerous other projects including another 4 large interior architecture and design residences in South Africa specifically in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Bronkhorstspruit. We are negotiating a project put on hold for now due to Covid-19 for a luxury safari lodge development in the Northern South African bush veld of Waterberg, Limpopo. This and more, all very exciting indeed.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?
I have always been a trailblazer in my work ethic. I grew up under very difficult circumstances and being successful or achieving goals are my daily aspirations. The pandemic has set so many people back, destroyed so many businesses and livelihoods, and I am overwhelmed that we have been blessed enough to sustain ourselves and keep working. I guess God has been good to me and the next twelve months I hope will continue to be fruitful and successful as we press on through this very trying time. If I can inspire others to do the same,I will have been more successful in 12 months than I have ever aspired to being. I would personally like to re-open a venue and showroom to showcase our products and our lifestyle celebrations, but honestly- right now I am more interested in staying steady with our strong client base and ensuring their needs are met. Time enough to revisit the big dreams when we have pulled through this global crisis together.


Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations:

Your most treasured possession?  I would have to say my family, my staff and my two incredible Scottish Terriers. Whilst not possessions per say, furniture comes and goes in my life on a grand scale. Naturally I have a few prized pieces of art or furniture or objet d’ art I will probably never get rid of but my living creatures are my greatest source of solace and comfort.

Your favourite holiday destination?  Up to now (besides home) – London, Spain and France. Both for their incredible influences on the world and their very different, but magnificent ways of life. Especially if it’s coastal, I am keen on it. Cape Town is like a second home to me.

Your favourite Hotel, Restaurant & Bar? Hmm, this is a difficult one. I would have to say one of my best hotels which I am yet to visit is the Banyan Tree in Seychelles. Otherwise I adore the Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga in KwaZulu Natal or the Twelve Apostles in Cape Town, South Africa. Restaurant – I have so many and for very different reasons it would be unfair to say. Bars… again I have been to a few, but some that stand out for me, Little Red Door in Paris on Rue Charlotte, and The American Bar at the Savoy in London – timeless and so elegant.

Your favourite book, film & song? I wish I read more. I’m so work absorbed I am mostly reading design books. But nothing beats a good read or a great novelist. I am really inspired by philosophy and faith, so yeah without sounding too serious the bible is a great one and never fails to keep me occupied or learning about my spirituality.
Films… oh so many from fun ones to intense dramas. I have enjoyed everything from chick flicks like First Wives Club to old Elizabeth Taylor or Bette Davis movies. Great acting and great stories are my go to.
Songs; as a singer, give me swing and big band jazz and I am in my element.

Your favourite food and drink? Love seafood and love gin and champagne. A great whisky at the end of the day is also a go to favourite. Wine I seldom have unless I am enjoying a good meal or a chat with a friend.

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon? If I am feeling sociable I enjoy having a few friends over for a relaxed set of drinks or cocktails, maybe a meal. Breaking bread with loved ones is a great way of connecting. In my solace I am happiest with my dogs in front of a tv on the couch or in my bed binge watching a great TV series on Netflix.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be?I think I would enjoy being a talkshow host or back to my singing career. Music really was my first love.

Anything else interesting? Yes! Believe if anything one should have a solid foundation in faith, friends and family, whoever you love or choose it to be.
Being grounded is so important. I cannot aid poor taste and bad manners and I am afraid without either of the three “F’s”…you really don’t stand a chance. No matter how successful you are, you cannot be happy alone or without purpose.

CKW Lifestyle Associates have been shortlisted for Residential Project Value £2.5-5 Million Award in The International Design and Architecture Awards.

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