Despite the fact that we are were once seen to be hidden away, in this little pocket of the globe, Australian furniture design ranks among the best in the world. Why? According to our European brothers and sisters such as famed design matriarch Patrizia Moroso, “Australian designers are not burdened with history and tradition that Europe is. Designers from this region are far more free to explore uncharted – even unconsidered – possibilities. And that quality makes the design outcomes some of the most daring and exciting in the world.”
It’s for this reason that we could have easily made a top 20, but for the sake of being concise, here are Habitus’ top five Australian furniture designers, and some of products that makes them exceptional…
No other furniture/industrial designer in modern Australia is more internationally admired or sought-after than Adam Goodrum. A firm believer that every environment is defined by the objects within it, Adam Goodrum designs with the philosophy that an object must therefore justify its existence – through its story and detailing. For this reason, his designs celebrate process and craftsmanship, and accentuate components and joinery to create functional pieces with spirit and personality.
In recent years, Goodrum’s work has been awarded a host of design accolades including the NGV Rigg Prize, Vogue x Alessi Design Prize, Indesign Luminary Award and the Idea Awards Editor’s Medal. He has also been commissioned to design pieces for several global luxury brands including Veuve Clicquot, Alessi, Cappellini, Normann Copenhagen and Poltrona Frau.
Adam’s impressive and imaginative portfolio continues to grow, and we find ourselves adding new must-haves to the list each year. But for now, here are Habitus’ top 3 Adam Goodrum furniture design faves:
- ‘Stitch’ Chair for Cappellini, 2008
- ‘Fat Tulip’ Armchair & Sofa for Cult, 2014
- ‘Volley Rocker’ Rocking Chair for Tait, 2012
Traditionally speaking, Austrlian furniture design – if not on a global scale – has been a bit of a boys club. Sure, there are phenomenal female furniture designers who have risen through the ranks to produce some of the world’s most exceptional design pieces (think Patricia Urquiola, Charlotte Perriand, Zaha Hadid, and Hella Jongerius) and Australia is lucky enough to add to this exceptional list of talented women with Melbourne-based powerhouse Kate Stokes, founder and designer of the Coco Flip brand.
Sharing the brand with her partner Haslett Grounds, Kate’s work is characterised by a strong relationship with local craftspeople and manufacturers to create lasting products with depth of character. “We draw extensive inspiration from travel,” says Kate. “New destinations and cultures help us see things from a fresh perspective and renew our enthusiasm for design. We also spend a large amount of time researching new materials and processes. It helps us form boundaries to influence interesting ideas afforded by material constraints.”
Her design process begins with a mood or tone. Whether it’s a place, character or feeling, Kate’s goal is to imbue objects with personality. ‘Play’ is a crucial part of the process – “we believe the best ideas come when you least expect,” she says.
Since launching in 2010, Kate and Coco Flip have produced some of Australia’s most prolific and celebrated lighting and furniture collections and pieces. Here are just five of our favourites:
Argentinian-born designer Alexander Lotersztain is arguably Australia’s most dynamic, agile and wonderfully outspoken figure in the Australian industrial design scene. Not only is he passionate and vocal about some of the world’s most poignant design issues (including replica, design accessibility and material selection), Alexander Lotersztain also has one of the most diverse portfolios, having worked with local and internatioanl brands including Idee (Japan), Planex (Australia), Sigg (Switzerland), Asahi (Japan), Mizuno (Japan), UFL (New Zealand), Escofet (Spain), Nestle (Switzerland), Superior (Australia), Virgin Australia Airline (Australia), The Queensland Art Gallery (Australia) and Australia’s first Design Hotel and Limes Hotel in Brisbane.
Alexander’s work can be described as rebellious, highly geometric and expertly resolved. His approach and aesthetic is so impressive that it has captured the attention of international design royalty figures including famed Italian design curator Rossana Orlandi, who in 2016, hand-picked Alexander during the Salone del Mobile to produce an exclusive collection for her – the insta-famous QTZ range.
It is difficult to narrow down our top three furniture faves from Alexander’s portfolio given the broad scope of product’s he’s contributed to the Australian furniture design catalogue, but here’s what we just can’t go past:
Quirky Australian design house DesignByThem describe themselves as: “Bauhaus meets fun – you know, Bauhaus but if the weather was better.” And it’s so true.
Not only are founders and designers Nick Karlovasitis and Sarah Gibson some of the coolest design kids you’ll ever meet in the Asia Pacific, they also genuinely care about the value of the Australian furniture design industry. DesignByThem produces (in this writer’s humble opinion) some of this region’s most original and imaginative industrial design work. Their latest collection, Cabin, is definitely a new favorite, not to mention the Butter collection and iconic Ribs bench.
But more than just being good at what they do, they put their money where their mouth is. Many brands attach themselves to supporting Australian design, and yet have only one token Aussie creative on their floor. Nick and Sarah are constantly expressing their opinions and support of Australian design and it’s designers. Not only collaborating with them, but taking their designs in-house including fellow creatives such as Tom Fereday, Seaton Mckeon, Jon Goulder, and Trent Jansen.
Founded in 2007 – and having recently celebrated their 10 year anniversay – DesignByThem have a design-first approach that is reflected in their culture and products. Every design is carefully considered, developed and curated by them to ensure it meets their requirements and represents what they consider to be good design.
“We believe that our products must be innovative but not forced,” say Nick and Sarah. “They must be useful but also be enjoyable.” Because of their young, energetic furniture designs, Sarah and Nick have contributed to the success of some of Australia’s most reveared hospitality, residential, retail, education and workplace projects. Here’s three of our favourite pieces:
Industrial designer Grant Featherston is arguably the Godfather of Australian furniture design. As a young lad from Geelong, Victoria, Grant Featherston began his design trajectory as a self-taught lighting and glass panel maker before serving in the army during the Second World War from 1940-1944.
On is return to Melbourne, he produced the first of his famous plywood shell Contour Chairs in 1951. Shortly after, he launch Featherston Contract Interiors furniture showroom in 1956, and in 1957 he became a consultant to Aristoc Industries for 13 years. Grant was a foundation member of the Society of Designers for Industry (the forerunner to the Design Institute of Australia) before he sadly passed away in 1995. His designs have since received many Good Design Awards and he is represented in the collections of National and State galleries and museums throughout Australia and internationally.
Though he produced over 30 iconic furniture pieces throughout his career, here are our top three Featherston favorites: