Object stories: Beraking table by Jack Flanagan

By Penny Craswell

This unusual design replaces traditional table legs with three large balls that allow the table to roll across the floor. Perth furniture designer Jack Flanagan was inspired by ball bearings, and in particular by the spherical stones that make up the gravel roads in Western Australia and create a slippery surface for rally car drivers.

Beraking table by Jack Flanagan. Photo: Toby Peet. Image: The Design Writer
Beraking table by Jack Flanagan. Photo: Toby Peet

“[These stones are] completely unique to the south west of Western Australia,” Flanagan explains. “I was interested in the way in which, when driven on, it becomes very slippery due to the spherical stones rolling over the hard compact base. I became well experienced with this sensation in my past as a rally driver.” Read more

January reading list: Design and architecture

By Penny Craswell

January is an excellent time of year to catch up on reading, including those design and architecture books you accumulated during the year but didn’t have time to read, or those you were given for Christmas. Here’s my list.

My January reading list, 2018, Penny Craswell, The Design Writer
My January reading list, 2018

Hello World by Alice Rawsthorn (2013)

At 288 pages, this is a book that can be read straight through like a novel, or dipped into as you like. With chapters like “What is design?” and “Why design is not – and should never be confused with – art”, the book addresses the basics of design in a style that is both straightforward and instantly engaging, but Rawsthorn’s examples are its true strength. Her journalism background means she draws from every element of life, describing, for example, how the pirate flag was an example of early communication design (page 29-30). Thought-provoking reading. Also don’t forget, her new book Design as an Attitude is out this year. Read more

Object stories: Botanical planter screen by Helen Kontouris

By Penny Craswell

It seems that us city-dwellers have gone crazy for all things green over the last couple of years, and Melbourne designer Helen Kontouris has responded with an inspired take on the screen that also acts as a planter, creating curtains of vertical greenery that will suit the smallest interior space or balcony.

Wattle, Acacia and Banksia Botanical planter screens by Helen Kontouris for LEN Furniture. Image: supplied

Designed for LEN Furniture, the  Botanical Planter Screen is self-watering and suits climbing plants, with only one plant per screen required for the full effect – you can even plant climbing vegetables like tomatoes, passionfruit or snow peas.  Read more

Small concrete in Hong Kong

By Penny Craswell

Two recent graduates of architecture from Hong Kong University have created All Goods of Concrete, a new range of products exploring the use of concrete in small-scale objects and accessories. Yip Yi Kwan Jennifer and Lee Ka Anthony first started to experiment with concrete when building architectural models at university.

“Concrete appeared to be a dirty and difficult material to handle at the time,” says Jennifer. “Only when we started using it to make study models did we appreciate its simple and pretty texture.”

Mahjong in concrete, by Small Goods of Concrete. Photo: supplied, The Design Writer blog
Mahjong in concrete, by Small Goods of Concrete. Photo: supplied


In February 2016, the pair decided to extend their university experimentation with concrete, inspired by architects such as Tadao Ando who use it at a larger scale, pushing the boundaries of the material into industrial design and home decoration.

Read more

Object stories: Sprint chair by Sean Dix

By Penny Craswell

The Sprint chair by Hong Kong-based US designer Sean Dix is a lightweight, stackable chair and stool with a simple profile that belies its complexity. Originally developed specifically for the Bar Veloce, an Italian bar in Beijing, the series was named after the Vespa “Sprint Veloce” which is an Italian design classic.

Sprint chair by Sean Dix for Zenith. Image: supplied
Sprint chair is a stacking chair by Sean Dix for Zenith. Image: supplied

The origins of Sprint as a bespoke design for an interior are characteristic of many of Dix’s industrial design projects since he also runs his own interior design practice and often will design products for an interior that subsequently have a life of their own. For Dix and his team, the opportunity to feed industrial and interior design projects off each other brings many advantages, both creatively and for the business. Read more

Milan 2016: Ex.t thinks beyond the bathroom

By Penny Craswell

Based in Florence, Italy, ex.t has always pushed boundaries when it comes to bathroom design, striving for simplicity and elegance while thinking outside the basics of bath, basin and bowl. This year, they launched two new ranges, in both cases commissioning a non-bathroom designer to create something different to go alongside their bathroom products.

Plateau and Raso designed by Sebastian Herkner for ex.t. Image: supplied
Plateau and Raso designed by Sebastian Herkner for ex.t. Image: supplied

In the case of the new Plataeu and Raso collection, German furniture designer Sebastian Herkner was approached to design a range that includes mirrors and pendant lights in addition to washbasin, console and bathtub. An architectural language is created through the use of a shelf that sits just behind and below the rim of the basin, console and bath, creating a functional space to rest bathroom items, while also adding the illusion of a shadow or extra dimension. The mirror features the same shadow, an extension to the oval shape by way of a transparent frame on one side only. Meanwhile, the Raso lighting pendants in pink, grey, white and transparent glass offer a complementary design object that softens the bathroom interior. Read more

Object stories: Carafe Table by Charles Wilson

By Penny Craswell

The Carafe table has a visual and structural complexity to it that is characteristic of the work of Charles Wilson, a Sydney-based designer who worked in close collaboration with Herman Miller over a period of years to complete the project.

Living Edge_Carafe table designed by Charles Wilson for Herman Miller_009-5
Carafe table with drawer designed by Charles Wilson for Herman Miller

The underside features a series of compartments in moulded plywood including open shelves as well as a closed, sliding drawer that opens both ways, sloping inwards to create a geometry that is tucked in under the tabletop. The leg structure spans to the corners of the table, supporting the shelves but visually forming a third layer underneath that is drawn together at the centre in a distinctive T cross-section which Wilson says references industrial structures. Read more

Object stories: Softly sofa by Nick Rennie

By Penny Craswell

Melbourne designer Nick Rennie was recently in Paris where French design brand Ligne Roset launched his latest design at Maison & Objet – the Softly sofa. For Nick, the sofa is really about comfort, creating a compact shape with high cushions that provide effective support while being extremely comfortable.

Softly sofa by Melbourne designer Nick Rennie for Ligne Roset. Photo: supplied
Softly sofa by Melbourne designer Nick Rennie for Ligne Roset. Photo: supplied

“The idea came from placing a number of cushions together vertically to form the sides and the back of the sofa,” says Rennie. “It has quite a high seat level as well, so its super easy to get up from. And the higher back and sides also have a little flex to them and yet retain their stiffness, which allows great support.” Because of its compact size, the sofa is much more flexible than many other options. Read more

Interview with Rolf Hay at HAY Sydney store

By Penny Craswell

Rolf Hay visited Australia at the end of January to open the new HAY Sydney store with retail partner Cult. Here is my interview with Rolf Hay on communicating design, the pros and cons of storytelling and what sets Danish design apart.

Penny Craswell: I’m interested in your approach to communicating design, because I’m writing my Masters in Design on design narratives at the moment.

Rolf Hay: To be honest we have always tried to be quite straightforward with communication. I’ve always had problems in wrapping products into stories. Storytelling is interesting if it’s relevant, the question is what is the important information. It’s different when it comes to communication of the brand and the values of the brand. But for products, we try to do as little as possible.

Reception with marble counter, HAY Sydney store
Reception with marble counter, HAY Sydney store

PC: I’m interested in which stories are told about products – and I have been quite critical of the celebrity designer angle.

RH: I totally agree. I think in the fashion industry and the furniture and design industry, a lot of people perhaps feel a little bit insecure in the fancy salons. The design industry has a reputation for being arrogant and hard to get. This has to do with an overload of information and stories behind how fantastic the company is, and how amazing the products are. For us, it’s important when we meet our clients that we meet them with an open and honest attitude. And of course it has been very important that we meet the client with a lot of knowledge about the product – about materials, about production, about environmental issues. For the client it’s less important if the designer had an idea to do this chair when he was at the beach or on the toilet. Read more

Object stories: Macadamia wood design by Quench

By Penny Craswell

Quench is a group of Queensland-based designers who have been coming together each year for five years to exhibit their work both in Australia and overseas. In 2015, for the first time, the designers of Quench decided to take a more unified approach, deciding on one material – macadamia wood – and one theme – objects relating to food. The result is a series of objects that are handcrafted and beautiful, creating a truly Australian collection that tells a story. The name of the exhibition, which was shown at Tokyo Designers Week in 2015, is “Table Stories”.

Dr Crunch by Marc Harrison for Table Stories. Image: Supplied
Dr Crunch by Marc Harrison for Table Stories. Image: Supplied

For Table Stories, each designer has created a different story to tell. Marc Harrison, known for his Husque tablewares made of processed macadamia shell, has designed a macadamia nut cracker called Dr Crunch. Alexander Lotersztain, an Argentinian-born multi-disciplinary designer working under his brand Derlot, handcrafted Sclpt, a series of four spoons; Jason Bird, who sells furniture and objects under his brand Luxxbox, designed three objects called Vessel; Surya Graf, whose work spans architecture and industrial design, created Hex, a mortal and pestle grinder for fresh spices; and David Shaw, who designs furniture and is founder / director of the Street and Garden Furniture Co, created Prop, a sculptural object for holding hot food as well as a tea candle. Read more