Contemporary Cocoon


The Great Indoors with Donald Nxumalo

Whether it’s gracing the homepage of local design collective Always Welcome, or completing the luxury homes of South African celebrities, Donald Nxumalo has come a long way from his modest beginnings in Pretoria West to become one of the most celebrated interior designers on the scene. Giving us a glimpse into his rare talent for creating cohesive interiors, Donald keeps it in the bedroom by sharing his current inspiration for designing the ultimate master suite.

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Beauty begins in the bedroom

The bedroom is one of the most personal spaces in our homes, and the place where we spend most our time. It is a sacred space to retreat and rewind after the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and, fortunately, one of the easiest rooms to refresh. This winter, we’re seeing a heightened, more emphasised focus on soft lighting, lush fabrics, warm finishes, cocooning furniture, and plush comfort to create a luxury hotel experience at home. From headboards to wall finishes, here are a few ways you can improve your beauty sleep.

Nestle into the night

A headboard is often the centrepiece of a bedroom, and in 2023, headboards are going extra-large! A wide headboard can instantly make your bedroom feel more eye-catching and elegant, especially if the piece has ornate detailing. Select soft, neutral upholstery — custom, if needed — with backlighting for a dreamy nest.

When creating a luxurious, layered bed, opt for natural materials like 100% cotton or linen, as well as silk pillowcases (your hair and skin will thank you later). Linen is also a moody curtain option and great for creating a textured atmosphere. Next, pile on the pillows and select oversized bedding. This will create a lovely hang and cover the sides of the bedframe or base. One size up is a good rule of thumb. A pile of plush pillows in different shapes and shades can instantly transform an ordinary bed. A clever hack is to overfill your pillowcases — stylists do this by buying inserts that are slightly larger than their covers. Layering textures and fabrics are also a fantastic way to make a bedroom feel more visually rich. Lastly, top off your bedding with a statement throw blanket from a local artisan.

You can leave a light on

Pendant lights are popular and for good reason: they’re a functional, stylish way to create a beautifully ambient lighting scheme that can instantly elevate your bedroom and make it feel cosier. These light fixtures come in various shapes, sizes, and styles, making finding the perfect match for your home easy. Pendant lights can either be suspended over your nightstands or wall-mounted on either side of the bed to frame the focal headboard. These accent lights should be your main source of light, with the centre ceiling fixture primarily serving a decorative purpose. Choose warm-toned bulbs for that ambient aesthetic and try installing a dimmer switch so that you can control the level of brightness. Brass fittings are also perfect for adding warmth and heritage-chic character.

“Blending contemporary elements with African influences, leading South African interior designer Donald Nxumalo has created a distinct design aesthetic that is modern, sophisticated, and bold.”


Barefoot luxury

Wooden floors are always an excellent option for bedrooms, bringing a natural softness and warmth to your sleep sanctuary. This flooring finish remains a timeless foundation for both traditional and contemporary homes and is available in a host of grains and colours — although darker, walnut woods are definitely making a bit of a comeback. Good quality wood flooring will last for decades to come, and with minimal maintenance, will age gracefully.

Layering hardwood floors with a bespoke rug is a surefire way to make your bedroom plush and inviting. Two of Donald’s favourite local brands known for their high-quality artisanal pieces are Soho Rugs and Lund Rugs. A focal floor feature will add texture and warmth to your bedroom, and is one of the easiest ways to boost its luxe factor. Plus, nothing pulls a room together quite like a rug does, so in this case, bigger is better!

Table talk

A humble bedside table is essential and can be one of the most important furniture pieces in your bedroom. Balancing functionality with beauty is incredibly important when considering how to customise your bedside table, so choose a design that’s aesthetically pleasing and has enough space for your personal items! Style your bedside table with things that make you happy: choose colours that you love, and add practical pieces such as a favourite book, a statement lamp, a scented candle, or other items that will make you appreciate the space more. The epitome of comfort is convenience, so above all, bedrooms should be as liveable as they are beautiful.

The perks of wallflowers

When it comes to wall finishes, you really can’t go wrong with neutral tones. If you’re feeling adventurous, then wooden or fluted panelling is a timeless choice for texture. Painted moulding and wallpaper are also good avenues to explore, especially if your room leans to the minimalist side.

The ABZs

Then there’s the miscellaneous. Mirrors, accessories, table lights, candles, vases, greenery, trays, décor boxes, and personal trinkets are crucial for completing your bedroom aesthetic. Whether it’s a family heirloom or a piece picked up on travels, this is the part where you can have some commitment-free fun. Play around with styling (the rule of three is always golden), and update your arrangements when you’re ready for a room refresh. If you’re interested in something more permanent, then marble tops are an excellent way to add colour and texture to the vanity, en-suite, or dresser. Of course, art is the biggest investment you can ever make, so don’t be afraid to fill up those walls with frames.

Don’t be afraid of white for winter

Dreaming of a white winter? Light tones can bring in some much-needed brightness to dark rooms this time of year. But how do you go from stark and empty to cosy and calming? A good place to start is by selecting statement furniture pieces and lighting fixtures that will add form and interest to an otherwise unobtrusive interior. Vary your palette by layering different tones, textures, and materials for additional character and depth.

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