Block & Chisel: A close-up with the ‘Lady’ of South African Decor

For over 30 years, husband and wife duo Sibley and Lynn McAdam of Block & Chisel have been enriching the decor world with their fascinating and gorgeous pieces of designer furniture. 

Wind Down with Olivia

This Woman’s Day, we’re looking to Block & Chisel’s innovative designer and founder, Lynn McAdam, who many argue is the ‘Lady’ of decor and design in South Africa for inspiration. With great energy, determination and passion, Lynn has made a mark for herself in our industry. We had the opportunity to talk to her about her journey through design and success.

Thirty years in the décor and design industry is no small feat.

Could you tell us how your journey initially began and the highlights of your career thus far? My parents opened the first steakhouse in Port Elizabeth when I was 15 years old. There were three girls in the family and we all lent a hand, earned a but of money and ultimately learnt about running a business. I was a natural entrepreneur. Once I branched out a bit, I discovered auction rooms and the magic that happens there. To put it simply, I was hooked. My lifelong love of old, new and beautiful objects began. Eventually I became a buyer but there was pressure for me to make a decision about my future and thus my first little antique shop was born: Harriet Tuttle. That was 51 years ago and I was only 18 but this was the highlight of my career- I had discovered my passion!


Did you have a mentor in your career and if yes, what was the most important thing they taught you? My parents’ attitude influenced me the most. They had an ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Whatever they needed they made themselves, from designing, to building, to sewing and painting, they had great insight and innovation. They go things done.

What is your design inspiration? There is an explosion of talent and creativity happening globally and at home. Seeing it and being exposed to it is very inspiring and truly motivates me.

Your collections are largely influenced by French and English country styles. What draws you to these styles? It’s what I am naturally drawn to, it’s classical, always in fashion and easy to live with.

Kentish Corner

What current interior décor trend is your personal favourite right now? It’s hard to choose, there’s so much choice. I am fascinated by the fifties and the way it has crept into the current marketplace.

What interior trends have stood the test of time in your opinion? Most things that are well-designed stand that test. The reproductions that are produced today tell that story. Think about retro for example, and the fifties.

How has the landscape of our industry changed over the last 30 years? There have been huge changes in the industry over the past 30 years. The world has changed so much and more people are entrepreneurial these days. This industry has become like fashion – where cycles are not limited to four seasons anymore. There is such an abundance of choice. And, of course, the most obvious area has been the shift to online. But you still have to have the main ingredients – resilience, passion, and the will to succeed.

Georgia Display

Can you tell us a bit about your experience as a woman in this industry? What were the challenges you faced and how did you overcome them? I love being a woman in business. Especially back then, nobody expected you to be successful, so I took chances, experimented and free to fail. It’s been an advantage and not a challenge.

What advice would you give to young business women in the industry (or in general)? Find what you love doing, have courage, make mistakes and learn from them, keep going and success will be yours.

What are your future plans for Block & Chisel? The future looks bright. It’s a family business so the succession plan is in place and it is working its way forward, moving and adapting to ever-changing marketplace.

Describe yourself in 3 words: Resilient. Laid back. Quietly determined.

How do you wind down and relax? Walk with friends, think good and pleasant thoughts as well as practice yoga poses. 

Where is your favourite travel destination and why? The East – Hong, China, India. It’s where I like to go and it’s both familiar and exciting to me. It’s where they make possibility a reality.

Do you have any other passions besides décor and design? Reading, staying fit, and making Sunday pancakes for the grandchildren!

Lynn (centre) and her family.
Image source: The Design Tabloid

Lynn McAdam has been a role model to many women in the decor and design industry. Quality, excellence and an eye for design, Lynn has used her innate skills to develop Block & Chisel into both a brand and a lifestyle. Each one of Block & Chisel’s pieces tell a story. These are not just objects, they are living stories.

Contact: Block & Chisel  


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