THE HISTORY BOY
The Chandler House owner and artist on his life in style
Michael Chandler is linen shirts and art history, he’s an island in the Med, a suitcase full of stripes, and cobalt on porcelain. His shop and gallery, inside an 18th-century Cape Georgian on Church Street in Cape Town, is the manifestation of his interests: local talent, art and handmade craft marked by a sense of place and whimsy. He’s a painter of murals (the Bosjes bistro Cape Palampore being a must-see), a maker of ceramics (get your paws on his Cape Willow series), as well as illustrations and richly detailed homeware with a historic narrative. “I think denying history in our everyday lives is denying ourselves,” he says. Chandler House is an outlet for all the things that make me excited to be alive: curating art and spaces, creating art and homeware, and providing a platform for those talents who don’t have one. If my style were a person, it’d be a Merchant Ivory character exploring the Med in the 1950s. Think blue skies, sapphire ocean, dried grass and sun-bleached stone paths leading to archaeological ruins. This translates to linen shirts from local label Swing (I have them in every shade of blue), paired with a linen jacket, khaki trousers and leather sandals.
I never go anywhere without my Missibaba ‘bag of life’ and I like to wear a gold, brass or beaded jewellery piece imbued with a sense of ancient magic.
A wardrobe staple I have on rotation is anything with stripes! I love to wear a stripe on a stripe on a stripe.
For shoes and accessories, I’m a fan of Missibaba and Spitz. My litmus test for taking in new work is simple: Would I want to live with this in my own home? If I would — they’re in. It’s much easier to sell something you feel passionate about.
I’m working day and night on a long list of commissioned celebration platters with each one made just for its recipient. I enjoy the challenge of creating an image in cobalt glaze that incorporates the meaningful aspects of a person’s life. One of my happiest memories was last year when we were first allowed to travel after the hard lockdown. We booked a modest cottage in the Groot Winterhoek. We hiked, lazed on blankets in the post-winter sun, spread out on the grass and sipped on gin and tonics. We laughed and soaked up one another’s friendship. It was such a simple pleasure, but one that I will treasure for a very long time.
A mural that stopped me in my tracks is Da Vinci’s The Last Supper. I was blown away by the gentle, soft humanity in the depiction of Christ. It was an emotional experience for me and something I never expected of a famed and muchreproduced artwork.
I’ve been reading The Land where Lemons Grow by Helena Attlee. It’s the story of Italy’s unexpected history, told through its citrus fruits. The one tome I keep returning to is Inside Tangier: Houses & Gardens by Nicoló Castellini Baldissera. I never close the book without being inspired.
My go-to fragrances include a mixture of Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male and gewone Old Spice (in the daytime) and then in the evening I like Santa Maria Novella Acqua di Colonia.
The first place on my travel wish-list when “all this” is over is a small, obscure Italian island. I’d like to do a few days in Palermo before getting on a ferry and going to Panarea for two weeks of quietness among a dry grass and blue landscape.
As local artists go, I can’t get enough of illustrator Elise Wessels. She recently approached me to look at some ideas she has. Her work is really strong, decorative and has a clarity that I long for myself. I am excited to see where she takes us with her work.
I’d like my future collabs to include a collection of accessories for men with Missibaba. There is just so little out there for those of us who sometimes want to step off the country road and head back into town for a night of fun and flirting.
Willow pattern is more than a pretty piece of homeware. I love it for its rich, palimpsest history and its strong narrative quality. It’s a story that is told with a series of symbols and motifs. Considering its age, it’s remarkably fresh, balanced and relevant — an icon of design that’s underappreciated.