Family, furniture and all things Kipekee…


With two small daughters and a successful and very stylish furniture design company, life is busy and beautiful behind the scenes for Kipekee Studio’s Michael and Kylie Bornman.

Kipekee – which means ‘unique’ in Swahili – was started on a leap of faith by the Salt Rock couple in an attempt to make more time for their family in 2017. Together, teacher-turned-interior designer Kylie and quantity surveyor-come-timber master Michael, create beyond beautiful and unique furniture which oozes handmade quality. And right now they are doing this with two very small daughters in tow, namely two-year-old Fynnley Grace and newborn Willow Wylde.

“We knew we wanted to create furniture that moves in the opposite direction of our modern, throwaway society. We wanted to start a culture of buying less and appreciating higher quality items that will last a long time,” says the fairy-like Kylie, who designs the clean, fresh, Scandinavian-esque furniture.

Every inch of their work is personal, carefully created and made with sustainability in mind.
It starts in the names of the furniture pieces. The ‘Selah’ chair, for example, is a term used in the Bible which means to sit back and day dream. Isn’t that romantic?
“We combine our personal style with things that inspire us. We are loving the use of straight and curved-line furniture, mid-century art illustrations, natural and neutral colour palletes and statement tiled walls or floors. We’re also feeling incredibly inspired by biophilia – emphasizing the relationship between humankind and nature, and the connections between the two.”

Life is beautiful with some Kipekee furniture. Photograph: LarLar Photography

They even thank nature for the timber they use by giving back with a new green life.
“For every item we sell, we donate money to Greenpop, an environmental organisation in Cape Town. They plant a tree and send us a certificate with the co-ordinates of the tree so that our client can go visit their donation to nature.”

It is no wonder then that their little company is making big waves in SA and everyone wants a piece of Kipekee. “This last year has been busy! We’ve done some lovely collaborations – one with Wolkberg Casting Studio’s at the Homemakers Expo, which won Best Stand Design – and the other with the Afro Futura Discover Durban Design stand at the ECR House & Garden Show where we collaborated with Katekani Moreku on our Selah chair and his fabric, which won a Gold Medal Award. We also finished our showroom – a dream come true – and Top Billing visited us! We are incredibly grateful and feel so blessed.”

Add a pop of colour with the Chameleon Bench. Photograph: LarLar Photography

Getting to this stage has taken a lot of courage, hard work, late nights, copious cups of coffee and determination . . . and they have learnt a couple of lessons on the way!

Always ready to support local businesses, Kylie and Michael share their advice with up-and-coming  start-ups who need a little nudge to take the plunge:
1. Don’t be worried about competition. Competition keeps you grounded and makes you push to be better. As long as you strive for excellence, you should be fine. Excellence in life and that of your business is highly important to your customer. This needs to show in every aspect – the look and feel of your business, the way you communicate and, of course, your product. Remember, people never forget how you make them feel.
2. Check your pennies. We didn’t have all the finances to start Kipekee – we purely had a dream and vision. We started Kipekee while still at our current jobs and only once it proved to be a success, we took the leap of faith to go full time. We made sure our bills were paid and chased our dream.
3. Self-belief is key. Start where you are with what you have and base it on what you know. People are often hesitant to start because they might not have the tools, knowledge or backing they need – but to a certain extent, you never will. Those who move the fastest and learn from their mistakes will be the ones that make it. Make more music, make more art, make more whatever it is you’re good at and keep moving forward and be open to learn.

WIN a gorgeous Harmony Bench worth R3970 to add a touch of Kipekee to your home. Enter here.

Details: or 083 561 5598

Text: Elana Wagner | Photograph of family: Chris Allan Photo| Hair & makeup: PAM MCNEIL, NIXON MAKE-UP