Michael John Chandler was born in the small Eastern Cape town of East London on the 17th of April 1985. The second eldest of four children to an accountant and school teacher, Michael displayed early interests in what would later inform his taste and eye. A close and big Eastern Cape family, Michael spent much of his childhood playing at the bottom of large sub-tropical gardens, as well as on the 1820 settler farms and Haga-Haga on the Wildcoast. It was in these magical places that an affinity for nature, imagination and history developed. By the age of 10, Michael was regularly doing needle-work, sewing, flower-arranging, gardening, breeding tropical fish and birds, paintings, drawing, wood-working and reading every book he could find on topics that fascinated him.
After leaving high school, Michael enrolled at The University of Cape Town in the Humanities Department where he studied one of his most favourite undiscovered interests; Art History. While writing his Honours dissertation on the ‘Hidden Iconography of Tombstones’ Michael began working at Stephan Welz & Sothebys, a prestigious fine and decorative arts auction house. Spending every day examining and cataloguing beautiful things, Michael learnt an enormous amount about design over the past 400 years and was snapped up as a research assistant to Deon Viljoen – a leading expert on 18th, 19th and 20th Cape Visual and Domestic History. Deon’s passion for early Cape furniture and Dutch trade pieces quickly seeded itself in Michael and this is easily recognisable in the work that Michael does today.
In July 2010 Michael started a small design studio – Chandler House – and his work is largely associated with the above mentioned interests. Michael is currently doing research into Arts and Craft philosophies and has great ambitions to contribute towards a revival of all things Cape. He says: “The Cape has such a rich and unique history of design and interiors that is only starting to be tapped now. The fulcrum between the West and the Rest, Cape Town straddled, juxtaposed and wove all sorts of different pieces into its own unique song.” It is this siren song that has Michael designing wallpapers inspired by 18th Century Imari’s Vases, crockery that gives a nod to the pepper trees at Kersefontein and tea cloths printed with Vergelegen’s orchard layout. … and he seems to be having fun doing it.