South African born Louis Henri Buhrmann, now based in London, comes from a family of engineers and landscape architects and as a result, design has always been a part of his life. Louis and his brother Balthasar grew up surrounded by woodturning and metalwork machines, and often spent time using them while hatching plans for working together in the future. After studying Interior Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, Louis moved to London in 2002 and spent the next five years gaining experience with Andrew Martin and as a Senior Designer at a leading property development powerhouse. In 2007, he established Louis Henri Ltd, specialising in sophisticated luxury – Louis only takes on 2 or 3 projects a year to ensure the same attention and meticulous approach can be given to each. To date, these projects have included a presidential apartment in Dubai, apartments in Mayfair, Kensington and Knightsbridge, the Avenue Montaigne, Paris, and a palace in Saudi Arabia. A true polymath, Louis oversees his interior design projects from start to finish: the initial sketches, the designing of the rooms and furniture, the making of the furniture, the upholstery, fixtures and fittings, soft furnishings, and even the artwork which he sources and sometimes paints (a new collection of Louis’ paintings has recently been completed and will be exhibited Summer 2015).
Louis saw that some of the furniture he had designed for specific interior projects had universal appeal, and he redeveloped and redesigned these pieces over a number of years: this was the start of the Louis Henri furniture collection. Many of the furniture pieces in Louis’ collection are inspired by South Africa’s nature and landscape; their names and form are often playful references to animals or birds. One design writer described his furniture collection as “mischievous cool”. The De Villiers lamp, which takes inspiration from the stalactites and stalagmites in the Cradle of Humankind caves near Johannesburg, comprises hand-turned walnut components and a polished black granite base. This piece was the first product of Louis and Balthasar’s collaboration, and marked the start of a three year partnership before the brothers established a workshop together in January 2010 – realising their childhood plans. Like the interiors he designs, Louis’ furniture collection is of unwaveringly high quality, and many items are limited edition or one-off pieces, created by Balthasar in his Johannesburg workshop. “We’re on the same wavelength; whatever I think of is always made exactly as I want,” says Louis.
Another of Louis’ designs inspired by the wildlife of South Africa is the Shongololo bench – in Africa, millipedes and centipedes are affectionately referred to as ‘Shongololos’, a word derived from the Zulu ukushonga meaning “to roll up”. The design features 56 hand-turned walnut legs and acrylic foot detailing, and is created using a cold curing process whereby thin layers of walnut veneer sheets are moulded into a custom-made frame.
Understanding the importance of functionality without compromising design, Louis often creates furniture pieces for a specific purpose or setting, for example to conceal drawers for storage or to echo the curve of a side table. The walnut Linden desk, created for an elegant Paris apartment, incorporates a delicate beech inlay and bone handles, as well as a number of hidden drawers for stationery. The shade of the De Villiers lamp, constructed from three elements, is designed in such a way that the viewer is protected from glare at any angle, while not altering the design or compromising the amount of light emitted. Similarly, a bookshelf to be installed in a room with high ceilings could have been dwarfed by its surroundings – its proportions had to suit the space (he decided on a three tiered walnut design, inlaid with églomisé and finished with solid walnut detailing, with concealed storage. “If I just picked something from a collection, it would compromise the look I want to achieve,” said Louis
“I’m inspired by French art-deco designers such as Ruhlmann and Arbus, Edwardian styling and cutting edge modernism,” says Louis, “but I also want my designs to put a smile on your face.”