Born in Cape Town, Colin Lee completed his B.Comm degree at UCT and qualified as a Chartered Accountant, working for Ernst & Young in Cape Town and later the UK. In 2000, he followed his personal passion and embarked on a spectacular international operatic singing career, becoming only the third South African tenor in history to achieve the ‘Grand Slam’ i.e. to have sung in all the five major opera houses in the world.
In 2012, after two decades abroad, he returned home to Cape Town and, together with his business partners, established the bulthaup kitchen brand. Colin Lee believes that in the space of five years the company has redefined the kitchen industry in South Africa and latterly – combining his financial skills and creativity – he has focused on bringing the finest global products to Southern Africa, while delivering unequalled service and dedication.
He recalls: ‘My first contact with bulthaup was in 2003 in London when my friend, and now Domum’s Design Director Ramón Casadó, redesigned my apartment. He convinced me to invest in a bulthaup kitchen, which was a decision that would ultimately change the course of my life. Not only did this prove a great investment – 12 years later when I sold this property I recovered the total initial kitchen cost – but it introduced me to a world of design-excellence and a set of values that, hitherto, I believed existed only in the sector of the arts.
‘Subsequently, we decided to bring bulthaup to the African continent and with partners Ramón Casadó and Gurmat Nahal, we established the first African bulthaup showroom in Cape Town. In 2014, we launched our second bulthaup showroom in Kramerville, Johannesburg and in 2018, moved from our first Cape Town showroom to a new 700-square metre flagship store at Waterway House on the V&A Waterfront.
‘The rationale behind the establishment of bulthaup in South Africa was the premise that people from all walks of life have an innate universal appreciation of beauty. It made further sense to introduce this product to South Africa where the appreciation of nature’s beauty and fine living already existed. bulthaup Germany was also extremely interested in its presence in SA, and we were able to offer them a management team with the required skill set to bring their product to a new market. My business partners Gurmat Nahal and Ramón Casadó had already enjoyed highly successful careers at bulthaup, Mayfair in London in project management and design / sales respectively, with a total of 25 years of experience in the luxury furniture and kitchen markets. As a qualified South African CA, I was able to add local business acumen.
‘It didn’t take long for our clients to ask whether we could assist with other living spaces. While we already offered Carl Hansen freestanding furniture items, finding a product range for living areas and bedrooms that matched bulthaup in quality, craftsmanship and service took some time. After a careful review of international luxury brands, Rimadesio provided the solution.
‘With Rimadesio we were able to provide bedroom cupboards, sliding doors, walk-in wardrobes, internal doors, living room cabinets, desks and tables. All are delivered to the client with the same passion and attention to detail as bulthaup kitchens.
For the full article see Habitat #267 September / October 2018
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