Following on from the recent Open House exhibition featuring carefully curated roomscapes showcasing pieces sourced from the plethora of décor stores at Hyde Park Corner, this is the story behind one of those brands…
At the end of 2019 the Bont Huijs store opened adding to the growing hub of décor-focused stores which call Hyde Park Corner home. Owner, Werner Bonthuys is delighted that he relocated and re-established the Bont Huijs brand at its new location as it is a perfect fit for what his brand represents.
Werner’s journey in the décor industry began in the most unlikely way. While studying law, he took on a temporary position at a well-known furniture outlet where his job entailed hand-writing invoices in his unusually graceful script. Little did he know that this was the start of a career in décor retail which has allowed him to explore every nook and cranny of retail and merchandising.
After the takeover of the furniture outlet 11 years later, he ventured into retail himself, opening his first store in Pretoria, ‘Prag en Praal’. These were humble beginnings with borrowed carpets and paintings from his Mom in the store, but he stayed focussed and developed his skill for innovative furniture revivals. He located a supplier in the Far East that could replicate antiques from a mere photograph. With his business expanding, a need to relocate emerged, prompting a move to another location in Fourways.
A shift in focus
He spent a decade at his Fourways location where the move afforded him the opportunity to shift his focus. He decided to ditch the furniture revivals and focus on mantels – a niche market on which the Bont Huijs brand identity is now built. His first store in Fourways was called ‘Morceau de Mantel’ (furniture of the fireplace) where the décor and art he stocked complemented the mantels. Eight years down the line he re-branded to Bont Huijs, a name derived from his surname and when translated means ‘colourful house’.
His true identity was born.
The Bont Huijs brand
Werner says that he does not follow rules. “I did not study décor or art – although I do have a degree in Afrikaans linguistics - and the merchandise I stock, and curate does not conform to a mainstream notion. My shop is edgy and diverse – but never ordinary.” Bont Huijs offers an eclectic mix of everything that Werner loves and believes will find a potential home. The mere size of the shop in Hyde Park Corner, makes a bold statement. “The world is full of run-of-the-mill décor. Bont Huijs offers a daring alternative,” he explains.
His many years in merchandising and retail inform his choices regarding what is curated for potential customers. “I do not see myself as a designer, I see myself as a purveyor of beauty – but nothing that is bland, ordinary or mainstream. I have a wide interest in styles, from contemporary to art nouveau to pre-Victorian antiques. Nothing gives me more pleasure than mixing styles and periods and flouting the notions of what ‘style’ is.”
Bont Huijs stocks mantels, art and décor. “The mantels are hand-picked for their beauty and how I think they can be applied in an eclectic setting. As far as I know we stock the biggest range of bespoke marble and travertine mantels in terms of design and supply locally,” says Werner.
Coining the phrase ‘interior retailer’
He is adamant that he does not regard himself as a designer – and this has indirectly become intrinsically link to the Bont Huijs brand. “I see myself as an expert interior retailer,” he says. “The retailing aspect comes from many years in the business, my love for economics and business management. This is seamlessly blended with objective good taste: I buy art, décor and mantels that speak to me. These pieces are merchandised in such a way that they appeal to a broader customer base.”
He has more than 100 active suppliers ranging from sole proprietors to large manufacturers. “I have been supporting some artists for 15 years – some of whom are now self-sustaining. This and an installation in the Franschhoek valley where we were served wine for breakfast, must count as career highlights!” enthuses Werner.
The pandemic has forced us to stay home more, to nest. And this is why it is more important than ever to create beautiful spaces. Bont Huijs will continue to offer a personally selected and curated offering. “I intend to continue doing what I love: selecting art, décor and mantels that inspire and enthral. Individualism is not negotiable. There is a famous quote: ‘A room should be collected, not decorated’, and this is an ethos that speaks to the core of the Bont Huijs brand.”
This talented and not-so-ordinary retailer leaves us with one final thought: “I have always believed it is the worst insult if a customer walking through the shop leaves without an opinion. Your shop must elicit an opinion, irrespective of its nature.”
But don’t take our word for it. Visit the Bont Huijs store in Hyde Park Corner to form your own opinion!
NOTE: All Covid protocols are in place.
Visit Bont Huijs at Hyde Park Corner on the corner of William Nicol Drive and Jan Smuts Avenue. For more information on enjoying a lifestyle that’s made for you, visit our website.
Hyde Park Corner Operating Hours:
Hyde Park Corner is currently operating under adjusted Level 1 restrictions.
Monday to Saturday: 9am – 6pm
Sundays and Public Holidays: 10am – 3pm
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