When it comes to furniture, you can’t beat bespoke. Allow us to introduce some of Australia’s finest makers.
Jun 09, 2022 4:00am
Hours of precise and masterful work go into the making of bespoke furniture. It’s always exactly the right size, painstakingly finished and so well constructed that it should last a lifetime (or longer).
There’s been a noticeable shift away from mass-produced, inferior furniture and towards pieces that are not simply going to end up in landfill, which is great news for our furniture makers. When you commission a custom-made piece of furniture, you’re buying Australian and supporting a small business.
Most importantly, though, you’re also forging a connection with someone who’ll put their heart and soul into creating something for your home that’s not only unique but perfect for you.
Nick Pedullá, Pedulla Studio, Sydney
As a young boy, Nick Pedullá fell in love with the furniture-making process at the foot of his grandfather, who was a master craftsman.”I spent every spare moment tinkering and making things with wood,” he explains.
All bespoke pieces have a story to tell, Nick says, and he enjoys communicating them. “I’d like to continue building my YouTube channel, where I invite viewers into my workshop,” he says. “Through making videos of my work, I can pass on the skills my grandfather taught me.”
Karl Young, Saltwood Designs, Perth
Former aircraft engineer Karl Young has always enjoyed working with timber. “I took the leap and decided to turn my passion into a career,” he says.
The possibilities presented by timber hold great appeal for Karl. “It’s an especially good day when a client chooses to use walnut. It’s a beautiful timber to look at and work with.”
Kieran Meegan & Rickie-lee Robbie, Idle Hands, Melbourne
Kieran’s entry into the world of custom furniture making began after he was made redundant when the shipyard he worked in as a naval shipbuilder was shut down in 2015. “Rickie-lee and I are both creative people and we wanted to use the change as an opportunity to try something new,” says Kieran. “Furniture felt like a good fit for us.”
“I like working with steel because it’s strong and lends itself to pared-back designs,” says Kieran. When you buy bespoke, you’re part of the process of creating an object you want to live with for a long time, he adds. “You can enjoy an understanding of where it came from and its specific function and relevance to your life – I think that’s of huge value.”
Luke Reddie & Blake Robertson, Concrete Republic, Geelong
This year, Luke and Blake are launching the Concrete Academy, where they will be teaching others how to work with this material.”Hopefully, that will inspire designers and makers to embrace concrete, push their boundaries and create some amazing pieces we’ve never seen before.”
Nicola Grey & Tara Wilcox, Redfox & Wilcox, Melbourne
“Custom furniture connects its owners to the people who made it,” says Nicola. “We feel that connection, and hope our customers do too when they take home these pieces.” Every Redfox & Wilcox piece is made to order and that means the customisation process runs deep.
“We talk timber tones and grains with our customers, so we understand exactly what sort of finish they’reafter,” says Tara. “Everything is made by us and sourced as close to our workshop as possible. If a customer wanted to, we could take them to meet our powdercoaters, platers, laser cutters and metal suppliers. I think that’s what makes these pieces really special.”
“Real-estate pressure drove us out of Sydney and into the arms of Tasmania,” says furniture designer and maker Laura McCusker. “It was the best move we could have made; our business became more viable, and we had the space to become better parents.”
“When you make a custom piece you’re creating an heirloom, a piece that someone will enjoy using every day,” she says. “We love to invite our clients to come in and help sand their new table or select timber from the timber yard. There’s a sense of ownership that’s established before the piece is even finished.”
Jack Stannard, Iluka Studio, Sydney
Operating out of a small workshop in Sydney’s inner west, furniture maker Jack Stannard is a one-man band. “It can be quite insular being in your own little bubble all day,” he says, “but I really enjoy the work and, to be honest, I become almost obsessed when I’m making a new design or testing out new materials.”
For years, Jack spent his days on construction sites and saw firsthand how much beautiful old timber was ending up in landfill. “That’s why
I use reclaimed timber. It makes me happy to breathe new life into it.” A respect for the material underpins everything Jack does and drives him to ensure there’s an intense attention to detail in all his work.
“A handmade piece of furniture is probably going to long outlive you,” he says. “There’s something so special about designing an object that’s tailored to someone’s personal taste and that has the potential to be handed down for generations.”
In terms of the work he’s already produced, Jack says he’s particularly proud of a coffee table he designed and made for a local cafe owner in Annandale.
“It’s in solid recycled timber and I ended up very pleased with the joinery and how the top appears to almost levitate above its sculpted legs.” He also recently developed a flat-pack guitar stand inspired by the interlocking Japanese scarf joint. “It folds neatly into an A3-size block for easy portability.”
Former magazine journalist and photographer James Howe knows a lot about communicating ideas, but for him there’s simply no better way to express a design concept than to just have a go at making it. “I’ve learnt a lot in the years since I began making furniture, but I still find there’s no substitute for making when it comes to exploring an idea.”
He’s open to creating furniture with all manner of materials – from timber and stone to steel and plastics. “Anything that has texture and interacts with light in an interesting way appeals to me. If you start with a beautiful material, your job as a designer is a lot easier!”
What makes a piece of bespoke furniture appealing is that it’s the result of a collaboration between the maker and buyer, says James. “If there’s one thing even more beautiful than a well-made piece of furniture, it’s a meaningful human connection, and when you buy a bespoke piece of furniture, you will hopefully get both. The fact that the resulting piece will serve your taste and needs perfectly is a bonus.”
James is currently working on several new products, including a table that he is “disproportionately excited about” and some new pieces utilising Danish cord-weaving processes. “Danish cord weaving is something I keep coming back to. I love the material and am always looking for new directions to push it in.”