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PICS: The organic eccentric

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Durban designer Michelle Markram tells of her love for the green revolution. By Omeshnie Naidoo.

The self-described “eccentric artist with a bohemian quirk”, Michelle Markram of Msquared (MSQ) Interior Design, is among those who will share their expertise at Decorex Durban at the Durban Exhibition Centre, from Saturday until March 21.

She has big plans for the creation of the Painted Wolf Wine Bar and Bloggers Lounge, that will be featured at the show.

Sian Cullingworth, portfolio director: Lifestyle, Design and Retail Exhibitions, says the designer and businesswoman’s passion for the natural world and sustainable living is something that resonates throughout the exhibition this year.

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Through her designs, she creates vertical and rooftop gardens, transforms previously believed waste matter into stunning artwork and educates people about the sustainable ethos, working with and not against the environment.Through her designs, she creates vertical and rooftop gardens, transforms previously believed waste matter into stunning artwork and educates people about the sustainable ethos, working with and not against the environment.Through her designs, she creates vertical and rooftop gardens, transforms previously believed waste matter into stunning artwork and educates people about the sustainable ethos, working with and not against the environment.Through her designs, she creates vertical and rooftop gardens, transforms previously believed waste matter into stunning artwork and educates people about the sustainable ethos, working with and not against the environment.Michelle Markram

Markram says an artistic passion has burned within her for as long as she can remember, encompassing the outdoors in a uniquely creative manner throughout her career.

“I’ve always been obsessed with the organic lines and beauty of the humble tree,” said the Durban designer. “It was, and still is, an obsession. My family laugh about having to coax me to come indoors and spend time in reality, rather than in my world of imaginings with nature, my playground.”

Whatever environment she finds herself in, she has a way of making it her own, finding beauty in the overlooked.

“I’m a curious person by nature and always keen to learn something new. My father’s construction site was my playground and, like a sponge, I hungrily soaked everything in. In contrast, my mother – an accomplished floral designer – lovingly provided another exciting playground for me to learn from. The greatest lesson she taught me is that space is the breath of art and wonder.”

These teachings have grown into Markram’s biggest dream, encapsulated in the African Green Revolution where people learn to bring the natural world back into their lives, breathing life into every concrete jungle.

Through her designs, she creates vertical and rooftop gardens, transforms previously believed waste matter into stunning artwork and educates people about the sustainable ethos, working with and not against the environment.

“The African Green Revolution is still in its infancy,” she explained.

“But it will provide the necessary vehicle for transition to a better future for Earth’s inhabitants, as well as the environment which underpins us.”

The mother-of-three established MSQ in 2014 where she works with her “extended family”.

Her deep love for her community pushed her to study for a psychology degree, and winning the Miss Hibiscus Natal South Coast title in 1977 further allowed her to expand on services to the broader community.

Selective about which projects she will work on, Markram feels she needs to be spiritually moved so as to ignite the creative solutions for the job at hand. Her design house isn’t beholden to any “signature style”, rather assessing every organisation and individual on its own merits before setting on a design path that will fulfil the needs of each.

“MSQ places nature at the forefront of the design process,” she said. “We do not believe in waste and this forms an integral component to the design process as we know it. Waste is not waste, it’s an unlimited raw material base for art that can only be described as sublime.

“It’s difficult to describe the feeling that naturally flows when you look upon an art form lovingly crafted from ‘junk’,” she continued. “Where humanity finds itself today is in dire need for reflection about the sustainability of the planet we call home. Undoubtedly, my design trend is the African Green Revolution.”

This will be clearly evident throughout Decorex. An intricate wooden-sculpted horse forms part of the welcome at the show’s entrance with a mosaic background, underground greenery, overhanging canopy and reconstructed water trough feature all creating a forest-like welcome.

Flowing through to the Painted Wolf Wine Bar, the written word represented in moss will continue the “urban jungle” theme with carefully-placed recycled bottles seemingly suspended and used to create a distance perspective.

Hints of the white on white and the linear design trend will be cleverly incorporated into the bar stool design, with the colour theme extending into the Bloggers Lounge.

Here, round tables will echo the decorative tree stump bases with plants suspended in the manner of Japanese hanging gardens, providing writers with the necessary creative inspiration.

* To view the exquisite work created by Markram and her MSQ team, visit the show. Tickets are sold through www.computicket.co.za and at the door.

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