Montebello Design Centre

Montebello Design Centre is a non profit organization established from a financial and property bequest from Cecil Michaelis. The project is situated in the old farm buildings of the historic site of Montebello in Newlands. The buildings and land have a colourful history, being the birthplace of Ohlssens Brewery and Continental China.

Montebello is a development projected aimed at promoting good local design and using craft for job creation. 

The project takes the following form:

  • An adult and child education programme for the general public;
  • On-site craft and design studios and businesses;
  • On-site exhibition areas, shops and a restaurant, a garden nursery, and
  • A job creation outreach programme with draft and design in township and rural areas.

Some of the projects were initiated by Montebello, whilst others existed but needed assistance. Montebello provides on-going product development, training and marketing assistance to a wide range of producer groups.

These groups include ceramic works, textile workers, bead, tin, wire and the alien vegetation furniture-making projects and the ‘work from waste’ project. The central Montebello shop offers a wide range of projects made on site and items produced through various outreach programmes.

Classes and courses offered at Montebello include African music and dance, jewellery making, ceramics and painting. The Gardener’s Cottage restaurant is open for breakfasts, lunches and teas as well as for private functions in the evenings by prior arrangement.

The history of Montebello:

The Montebello Estate has an interesting history featuring some prominent Capetonians. The Montebello homestead and stables were built on what was part of Papenboom Estate on land granted to Rutger Mensing in 1764.  Mensing was the first brewer in the area, making use of the abundance of fresh spring water. The estate was passed to successive owners before eventually being divided. The portion of the land that became known as Montebello was bought by Daniel Cloete, who built the original house (now used by a school) and ran a renowned brewery.

In 1888, a prominent Capetonian of Swedish descent, Anders Ohlsson, purchased the brewery and associated buildings and stables. Maximillian Michaelis purchased the Montebello estate from Ohlsson in 1919. His son, Cecil, conducted experiments in the old Montebello stables to produce the fine local porcelain that gave birth to the now flourishing South African ceramics industry. Cecil successfully contested attempts to expropriate the land on which the fine stables stand and an adjacent wooded area. His bequest of the land and buildings made the Montebello Design Centre possible.

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