Michael and Kylie Bornman are Kipekee Studio, an incubator of design concepts and a workshop for their unique, Scandinavian styled range of furniture – hence the name Kipekee, “unique” in Swahili, writes Anne Schauffer.
Kylie Bornman describes Kipekee Studio as “a family adventure. It’s run solely by us, and our two little wildflowers Fynnley Grace (four) and Willow Wylde (two), and our youngest little dude Jory Judah (nine months). They’re fiercely beautiful, and keep us on our toes.”
Michael and Kylie have a wonderful love story: “We went to primary school together, lost touch through high school, and reconnected in 2016 – when our love story began.” She adds, “Growing up, we were both passionate about creating and making things. As a child, Michael was free to go wild with his dad’s tools and create things, and this love has never left him. Fresh out of school and during his university years at the University of Cape Town, he began making furniture for himself.”
Trained as a teacher, Kylie has always been designing and making, passionate about all forms of art, and creative and talented at whatever she tackles. She believes her vision to see a creative process is a gift, something that has blessed their business and furniture designs.
The couple started Kipekee Studio in 2017 when they returned to Kylie’s hometown of Ballito – they’d been living in Cape Town where Michael was a quantity surveyor: “The seed for Kipekee Studio was planted when we, together, built a bed for our nephew – we constantly spoke about our big dreams of merging our talents, and love for creating beautiful things together.
“In 2017, after Fynnley’s birth, we took the leap to pursue passion and a dream,” says Kylie, “but also to be able to put our family first. With Michael working in corporate, the hours were not his own. My very tough pregnancies and us both wanting to be very present in our children’s lives, was the impetus.”
Kipekee Studio’s factory moved into a beautiful space called The Makers Yard in uMhlali: “We are mainly online and haven’t had a showroom before, but are currently attaching one to our factory where visitors can have a full experience of seeing the process, the making and crafting of Kipekee Studio furniture and, at the same time, sitting on, seeing and feeling the finished product.” They do have a small space in Cape Town with a few select pieces, one that gives the public the opportunity to experience their furniture.
Michael’s woodworking skills have developed over the years through passion, trial and error, and is constantly learning from other skilled carpenters and applying this to his craft. The conceptual design, vision and dreaming up of furniture pieces is done by Kylie. She explains, “There is however a lot of design work that continues through the prototyping and manufacturing of each new item. So, it’s largely a combined effort, bouncing off of each other to create the final product. We have so many beautiful ideas and products we want to develop and create, and we’re slowly ticking them off the list.”
The furniture style is very Scandinavian, very Danish, sometimes with a Japanese element. They’re both drawn to and inspired by minimalistic beauty: “We’ve always wanted to create functional, yet breathtaking, unique pieces of furniture that speak for themselves when standing in a room. Handmade furniture is a craft, it draws on knowledge gained over centuries of experience. It is the same practice today as 100 years ago. There is a real grounding in having your hands as your tool – I’m sure any artist or crafter would agree.”
At Kipekee Studio, each piece of furniture is handmade using traditional craftsmanship, modern technology and the highest standard of solid, sustainably sourced furniture-grade timbers: “We design and build products to last, and don’t aim to make those that trend with the season, but rather create simple pieces that hold the integrity of their design for many years.”
What about the wood? “First and foremost, we select environmentally friendly and ethically sourced timbers – forested timbers from North America, parts of Europe and Australia fit this profile best. Secondly, we look at structural properties and workability, and, thirdly, aesthetics. As such, we have ended up narrowing our offering to American white oak and American walnut. We found that these two are by far our most requested and in-demand timbers for furniture.”
But it’s not all work and no play. “We’re a full, busy and wild household – it’s been a crazy, beautiful juggle the last five years being full-time parents and starting Kipekee Studio. Navigating this has included hard days and glorious days, but we’ve learnt so much about ourselves, and the power of grace and gratitude. We don’t always get things right, but our children thrive off their little routine and are very adaptable when things don’t go according to plan.”
Inevitably, the couple’s roles have changed over the past five years, and Michael is full-time furniture making with his team in the factory, from early morning so he can finish around 4pm to be home for family time. After school drop off, Kylie is committed to Kipekee Studio, and Sunny and Bear (her children’s brand): “My afternoons are for the three wildlings. Some of the time they join in on the afternoon work journey, lots of factory visits, but we think it’s important to bring your kids along on the journey. They can learn a lot.”
FOR MORE INFO: www.kipekeestudio.co.za