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Cafe musings - Authentic Design

Many conversations with friends lately have highlighted the subject of authentically designed furniture and lighting. At a dinner party I hosted on New Years Eve we played a game of spot the replica, with my friend struggling to determine the replica from the original. I hate to admit that I do own replica furniture as it goes against most of my beliefs, except for affordability.

The replica market has enabled the masses to experience great designs without the price tag. Yet this is the problem. The mass production diminishes both the quantitative and qualitative value of the item and the original designer does not benefit from the licence. The originality and uniqueness is also watered down to create a same same, bland aesthetic in interiors.

When I purchased my replica Eames moulded plastic dining chairs and coffee table 16 years ago Matt Blatt didn't even exist. Now this retro furniture is available EVERYWHERE, not just in Architects and their discerning clients homes. Without sounding too self-righteous I now find the replica market something I would hope to avoid, regardless of affordability. I think this is a reflection of the current sentiment in Australia.

There appears to be a growing awareness of the detrimental impact our disposable culture is having on the environment as well as the need to respect and maintain the integrity of originally designed furniture and lighting. While the initiative to remove and recycle old IKEA furniture should be applauded, the sheer quantity of products available is overwhelming.

Yes, Ikeas certainly serves a purpose, providing affordable, relatively well designed furniture, yet the quality is often compromised and the durability limited. Having said that I think the Expedit bookcase is still one of the most functional, well designed and affordable storage solutions available. I have even upcycled one as a bed head.

Yet I digress from my argument. The ideal of doing more with less to lead a more sustainable and environmentally sensitive life means consuming less and considering quality.

Where possible I like to work with clients to source either Australian Designed and made furniture or Australian designed, ethically produced pieces.

There are some wonderfull initiatives to raise awareness of Australian Design and Authentic Design. I wrote about the reincarnation of the Object Gallery at the Australian Design Centre for the Architecture Bulletin, a few years ago. Local Design is another fabulous initiative and online platform that collaboratively brings Australian Designers together to showcase and promote their work digitally as well as on the world stage at the annaul Milan Furniture Fair.

Workshopped is another fabulous incubator for Australian Design and I have sourced lights from here by one of my favourite Australian designers Coco Flip Design Studio.

I recently admitted that I was in love with a chair. Yes, sad but true. I really do love the Thonet No. 18 Chair, designed by German, Michael Thonet in the 1800's. A timeless classic that graces the beautiful Infinity Sourdough Cafe and Bakery on Oxford Street, Paddington. My cafe musings were inspired by this wonderfull space that has seen many incarnations over the years since it's beginnings as a ceiling plaster showroom at the turn of the century.

I have recently specified this chair for a project and it's cousin, the Hoffman Chair for another project. Their design and craftsmanship reflects the values so deeply esteemed by my practice as an Architect and designer. Simple, practical and comfortable yet sophisticated and beautifull.

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