• Good Design Transcends Time and Functions as Art

    When it comes to design there are certain shapes, styles and principles which always stand the test of time. Good design is forever, just as certain fashion trends are always in style. With the right elements, it becomes easy to determine what type of design is considered good and what is a passing trend. A good design is focused on quality and is impactful and relevant. Every built environment should be full of ‘good design’. This should be the benchmark to produce pieces that are more functional, beautiful, and evolved.

    Locally, the Australian design scene is thriving and making waves worldwide. The dedication to produce ‘good design’ evident with many Australian designers commissioned by the European design studio powerhouses (brands) such as Tom Dixon, Alessi, Normann Copenhagen, Ligne Roset.

    Perhaps the most renowned Australian designer is Marc Newson, described as the ‘most influential designer of his generation‘. Newson’s fame hit new heights when in 2015, he set a new international record for the sale of his chaise lounge the Lockheed Lounge which he had designed in Sydney in the late 1980s. The chair was sold for $4,689,585 on 28thApril, 2015.


    Yet, it was only able to command a price like this because there is interest in his piece. At the time of its design, it was highly futuristic, inspired by the appearance of a plane from Lockheed Martin, the craftsmanship breaking conventions, and garnishing admiration industry-wide for a furnishing which saw contoured sheets of aluminium welded to make a seamless shape. The daybed became a statement piece and is the world’s most expensive example that design does not have to be discrete but rather impactful.
    However, Newson’s ‘good design’ has also come under critique, some questioning the daybed’s relevancy. Arguing, to reach a larger audience, and function as a ‘everyday object’ the piece must have a purpose – and equally must perform well in its intended function.

    Elleen Gray’s Adjustable Table (E1027) is a good example of this. Its functional design is what made waves in the industry after it was released in 1927. Gray’s design philosophy to invent a table that is multipurpose and adjustable. The top depresses so it could be used as a knee-height table and it is portable so it could be moved from room to room. It could be a breakfast table, a bedside table or end-table. Made from steel, this high-quality product is still seen throughout evolved spaces.

    Another essential element of good design which helps it transcend time is the relevance a piece has on the industry. The Featherston Wing Chair by Grant Featherston is one such product which was originally created as everyday Australian furniture, yet, the modernist design created a shape which is pioneering. His design being considered one of the first to bring correlation between architecture and the interior.
    Since 1955 the shape of the wing chair has become a staple in homes and businesses throughout the world. As recently as 2016, a Featherston Wing Chair sold for $11,100 because of its design heritage.


    Another important consideration in discussing ‘good design’ is understanding the emotion involved in connecting with an object. People like things for many intangible reasons and understanding the ‘think, feel and do’ of the audience, and incorporating these into the design features allows the piece to transcend time.

    The Sway Lamp made by prominent Australian designer Nick Rennie, is one such piece. It gets the name Sway because of the distinct swaying motion which occurs when accidentally knocked or tapped. Rather than shying away from the idea of movement within what is traditionally a static object, Rennie leaned into it with his unique lamp design.

    In addition, this innovative Sway lamp design is highly functional. It is rechargeable, portable, able to be used indoor and outdoor and incorporates 5-light settings. Showcasing form and function.


  • Luke Rogers Interview: Father’s Day Tribute

    LUKE ROGERS (Interview 3)
    It’s still September and there is still time to pay tribute to more incredible Dads. This week we chat to Luke Rogers of LUI furniture design studio. Geelong-based, Luke’s influences and reputation span the globe.

    1. How did you first discover an interest in industrial design?
    I discovered an interest for industrial design in high school, possibly in year 9 woodwork! The interest gradually grew into a passion through an RMIT furniture design course and later finding experience in the industry whilst travelling in America.

    2. Tell us a little about LUI and your favourite pieces and why?
    LUI started on a shoestring and has gradually morphed into whatever it is today!! I like to think the product is getting better and the designs are smarter and able to find niche markets. I love pieces that work! I do love the big sculptural designs such as the Yoko and Metro Shelving units but I’m just as happy when a small side table sits perfectly in a space. We did a bunch of coffee tables for the North Fitzroy Library, a lovely example of our product working within a space.

    3. You also sculpt. We love to hear about some of your public works.
    Firstly, I love sculpture. Like all art I’m not too fussed about the commercial value or prominence and stature but more so just to look at, observe and practice in. Unfortunately, I have been side tracked for the last few years and produced little. I have plans on a new body of work! Hopefully I can get back into some prominent shows. I was lucky enough to partake in some great sculpture awards a few years ago so it would be fantastic to get back into that!!

    4. Australian design, what’s the good, the bad and the ugly, and where is it headed?
    The good – Heaps of local designers doing fantastic work with lots of passion and great product. Some fantastic platforms such as DEN fair in Melbourne and Sydney to get the work out there.
    The bad – Cheap imports that copy and have no regard / integrity and make good design look nasty
    The ugly – Landfill from cheap imports!
    Headed – More and more people are getting on board and buying from local designers, the product is getting better and industry for small businesses is becoming more sustainable.

    5. You’ve got two kids. How did you celebrate Father’s Day?
    My partner and twins (5 year old boy and girl) took me to breakfast at a chocolate factory on the Great Ocean Road! Dinner was then at Little Creatures brewery in Geelong. We had a nice chilled out day!

    6. Tell us a little bit about work-life balance as a Dad.
    Running a small business has many challenges. Cliché but true. My kids are adorable, funny, great natured and pretty easy to look after. I’m by no means a perfect dad. Fatherhood is a journey and I cannot imagine life being any different now. Twins is kind of hard work, but my partner is so good at being a mother, knowing what to do and really I don’t know any different.

    7. Do you get a kick out of watching your talents being passed through to your kids?
    I love to see my kids drawing, making craft and exploring nature. My son keeps asking when he can come in to work and help. This would be a dream! His artwork is really good and very expressive. The best thing is they love painting and can be consumed by it for hours. I don’t need to get involved other than compliment their work!!

    8. You have strong beliefs around sustainability, how do you translate this through to your kids.
    Yes – I think its super important that we teach our kids to be sustainable in every way possible and understand why. I want my kids to experience the natural world much the same as I was lucky enough to do.

    9. What’s next on the agenda for LUI?
    I just finished a huge commercial project with nearly 200 pieces. I have a stack of custom pieces to make and some new ideas and samples I want to get out! Hopefully all of this by Christmas!!!

    Luke ‘Lui’ Rogers maintains an energetic creative practice designing products and objects spanning from furniture to experimental design within interior and exterior spaces. Go to www.madebylui.com

  • Field by Helen Kontouris from Made By Pen for the ultimate hygge with family & friends

    HYGGE… a word you’ve no doubt come across in recent times, as it is very in, much like scandi homeware designs, furniture etc. There’s even countess very popular books about it or even bearing the name, translated into more different languages than you can imagine. And being Danish – like the word HYGGE – I often cannot help but smile – not just as many have no idea how to pronounce the word, but how they also so badly want to ‘practice hygge’, but in the end of the day fall back in their ‘old ways’ of living.

    Hygge cannot be translated into a single word, it is more a way of life… it is making your home warm, cosy and welcome. But it can also be eating your favourite food, sitting in your favourite chair with a cuppa and a good book, or it can be spending quality time with family and friends.

    As for socialising, where ie Aussies love catching up with friends at a cafe, restaurant or the like, as it is easy – no need to stress about what to serve, do any cooking, or cleaning up afterwards etc – in Denmark, yes of course you catch up over coffees, lunches or dinners at a cafe, or go shopping with your bestie, but for a great night, you more often invite friends over to relax in the cosiness of your home. You cook some food and then you sit around the table and share the meal and a bottle of wine, with the candles burning, and music playing quietly in the background. And then you chat and laugh. Sometimes until the wee hours of the morning. And the next time you catch up or talk over the phone, you thank them for a great night, and say that it was ‘hygge-ligt’. Yes, a good cafe or restaurant meal you haven’t got the skills or time to cook yourself is always nice, but for Danes it is not always about that, sometimes a basic and quick meal at home can often be preferred, simply as it can be way more ‘hygge-ligt’ sharing it at a friends or family members cosy home, than in a noisy and barren restaurant.

    And the Field serving platter* is the perfect way to add a little hygge when entertaining friends and family at home. The design of the Field is super simple, yet stylish and timeless too – which is also the essence of Danish living.

    The Field is designed by Helen Kontouris and it is made from solid oak, making it a heavy quality piece that is designed to last. It has three tiers of platters, which can swivel in all directions, so it is perfect for using for all types of delicious food, whether it be an anti-pasta platter, cheese platters, cakes, snacks, or simply a combination of all.

    The rotating levels makes it easy for everyone to reach everything, and makes it easy to the arrange the food nicely too, and look incredibly stunning as the centrepiece of the table.

    We also recently used it at a kids birthday party, and it was perfect for all the cupcakes, cookies and snacks for the little kids, and once again easy for little hands to reach all the food.

    And even when not in use, I have enjoyed simply placing it on the buffet or in the middle of the table, without anything on it, as it’s sleek design, makes it look like a decorative sculpture too. But if you haven’t got the room, it is also easy to disassemble, so you can store it away in the cupboard until next use – but again, if you ask me, its much better out on display – and just calls for more frequent Hygge.

    Blog by The Beauty & Lifestyle Hunter

  • To all the dads out there that have positively influenced our lives. Thank you!

    MICHAEL MABUTI (Interview 2)
    Michael has over 20 years’ experience in the construction industry and is owner of building company Seventy7 Projects. Michael is also a founding partner of Made By Pen. Michael has two primary school-aged boys, Jasper (8) and Mannix (7).
    He answers ten questions for us on work, inspiration and fatherhood.

    1. How did you first discover an interest in building and architecture?

    My father was a builder so I grew up around building, but it wasn’t my initial career path. My strong appreciation for the built form – houses, buildings, public spaces – came later. Initially, I studied science out of high school majoring in physiology and then ended up doing Chinese Medicine for the next 3 years, including an internship in China for a year. When I returned I set up a clinic in Melbourne, and then studied a Masters in Pharmacology. Throughout my science years I continued to build houses. It became apparent my interest for architecture and building was larger than my science career, so I went back to university and studied Property and Construction at the University of Melbourne. For close to a decade I then worked for a Project Management firm building large commercial projects around Australia, before embarking on Seventy7 Projects – a high-end, boutique, residential construction firm based in Clifton Hill, Melbourne.

    2. I hear you have a thing for chairs…..

    I have a complete passion for chairs,  I think it is the natural built form companion to good architecture. My all-time favourite chair is the PK22 by Poul Kjærholm. It’s currently manufactured under Fritz Hansen, but the one I have was manufactured under Kold Christensen, so it’s vintage. I was lucky enough to pick it up in Belgium at their yearly Design Market. It’s such a beautiful chair – the thin profile steel frame has a strong architectural feel to it.

    3. Tell us about your favourite projects, and why?

    My favourite projects? Houses I build for my wife and kids – we’re up to our third now. There is something satisfying about building a roof over their heads….

    The original idea behind our current place, the Hawthorn Gallery House was for the build to be our ‘home office’ for Seventy7 Projects and Made By Pen, but we out grew that even before we started construction! Despite this, the front part of the house retains its ‘study room’ purpose and is relatively isolated from the rest of the house.The brief to Bagnoli Architects was straightforward – 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms upstairs, open plan living room downstairs and a lot of wall space for art. The design met this brief and more. Material selection such as the timber batten roof, glass floors, waterfall staircase and brass kitchen was all Stefan’s idea, and we weren’t too difficult to win over.


    4. Seventy7 Projects specialises in one-off homes. What makes it exciting approaching work on a custom-basis like this?

    I built a lot of spec houses with my father before Seventy7 Projects. When houses are designed specifically for the clients there is something very personal about it. There is a definite emotional investment, and most often something that the client has been saving towards for awhile. To deliver on this is hugely satisfying.

    With Seventy7 Projects, we strive to be different with our builds. I’m lucky to work with some very talented architects that challenge standard conventions of building through form and materials. It brings about a lot of challenges, but also diversity and fun as we champion new forms.

    5. What do you think makes Australian architecture stand-out from the rest of the world?

    Australian architects and their clients aren’t afraid to be different. This has become a growing trend over the past decade and it’s only going to get better. This is why Australian architecture features daily in popular international architecture and design blogs.

    6. Which person or people influence your work most?

    Susan will read this and laugh, but it’s definitely my wife and my boys. I love what I do, but my work always revolves around them. Decisions I make, where I take the business, what challenges I take on next.

    7. Your other role is being a father to two pretty active school-aged boys. Tell us a little bit about fatherhood.

    It’s the most beautiful thing. My boys are 7 and 8 and I still pinch myself sometimes that I’m their dad. My work revolves around them not the other way around. I’m lucky to have that flexibility in my career. As a father I just want to show them everything, and take them to as many countries as possible – experience the world and meet different people – develop a network outside of their postcode.

    8. Does how you interpret the world from an architectural point of view influence your parenting style?

    I see design in everything! That’s the reason why Susan and I started Made By Pen. We are constantly showing the boys what design means, how we live around it, and how it influences everything that we do. 

    9. What values from your career do you want to instil in your kids?

    I want to teach them to be passionate about what they do – not chase money, but to chase satisfaction in work. It doesn’t matter what they choose to do. What’s important to me is that they enjoy doing it – even with its challenges. 

    10. What have you got lined up for Father’s Day this year?

    This year Susan will be in Paris launching new products for Made By Pen so it’ll be all the boys doing!! We are always outside, so if we’re not playing basketball somewhere we’ll be on a golf course (we’ll do the family thing in LA when she gets back).

  • Jeremy Hughes Interview

    As Father’s Day approaches, Pen takes time-out to interview some inspirational Dads. We chat work, design, and how their creative disciplines spill over to their parenting styles.

    Jeremy is an Associate Director at Tonkin Zulaikha Greer Architects and was one of the Project Architect’s on the creation of
    the award winning Sydney contemporary arts space, Carriageworks. Jeremy is also father to Basti (4), Rafa (2) and Frankie (1).

    1. How did you first discover an interest in Architecture?

    I stumbled into architecture really. I had always wanted to do something creative but I was originally thinking of doing a communications degree. When I didn’t get my first preference at uni I discovered architecture. I liked the idea of a broad design based course with a practical bent. I’d always had an interest in building and hands on work so it seemed a good fit. 

    2. Tell us a little about your career and favourite projects, and why?

    I started working at Tonkin Zulaikha Greer as a student between my degrees in 1999. Once I’d graduated, I gathered experience in other firms for a short stint and then returned to TZG. I’m still here!

    At TZG I get to work on an amazing breadth of projects from public buildings to bespoke houses and fit-outs. I’ve been particularly fortunate to work on a number of significant adaptive reuse heritage projects. I love the challenge of respecting the old yet providing distinctly new and contemporary interventions and revitalised use.

    A stand out project would be Carriageworks which I worked on from concept design through to the end of construction.

    3. What architect or creative people influence your work or work habits the most?

    The most important people are those around me in the office. It’s so important to be part of a collaborative team who respect each other. Apart from this, I’d find it hard to identify one architect that’s influenced me the most. I do take inspiration from many creative fields – from art, street art through to my interest in car design and car modifying. 

    4. What’s the good, the bad, and the ugly of architecture today, and what do you think should change?

    The good – there’s a lot of good out there. It’s easy to get hung up on the bad but you only have to look at the recent Institute of Architects awards to see the high quality of projects being delivered in Australia.

    The bad – I think, to a certain extent, we’ve lost the value of design in large scale infrastructure projects as they tend to get rushed through and a lot of the design elements get cut for budget reasons.

    5. What skill has served you best in your architecture career?

    I think it’s my people skills. Large scale architecture projects involve a huge team of people that the architect has to manage. Getting everyone to work together to deliver the design result you want can be extremely challenging.

    6. One of your other valuable roles is being a father to three pre-schoolers. Tell us a bit about fatherhood.

    It’s an intense juggle but with unbelievable rewards. We (Kate, my wife and I) take the view that all of the tasks that come with parenting are shared as we both have careers. We need to share the load as much as possible and try to be flexible when needed. Its not easy though! Watching three such different little people grow and develop is such a joy …. when you remember to look.

    7.  Do the influences, insights and disciplines from the world of architecture shape how you approach parenting?

    They probably do without me knowing. I think patience and being in it for the long haul are things you require on big architecture projects, as they are for parenting. My interest in design and art are also things I try to share with my children (when they listen).

    8. What values and skills have you learnt from your career that you hope to pass on to your children?

    One of the things that architecture has taught me is to seek out and understand how things have been made and put together. Architecture teaches you to look at the world around you, and I hope I can pass on that ability to my children. I hope they become aware of their environment and find inspiration in it.

    9. What have you got lined up for Father’s day this year?

    You’ll have to ask my wife. I’m sure it will involve some attempt at breakfast in bed at some ungodly hour! And, then time with the kids and family.


  • What everyone ought to know about design

    Designers of innovative, popular, and beautiful products are—unfortunately—well aware of the modern phenomenon of knock-offs that is prevalent these days.

    Decades ago, when a designer created a fashion item, piece of furniture, textile print, or other creative item, admirers would purchase the actual item at its deserved market price—and enjoy it for years. Today however, low-priced imitations flood the market, some are brazenly sold without apology whilst others dupe the consumer it convincing they are somehow ok by promoting them as a branded-replica.

    While knock-offs continue to pour into the consumer market, a discerning eye will always be able to tell an original from an imitation. Why? The answer lies in design integrity, which is the artistry, the design foundation, form and principals, that defines an item from its very inception, and is impossible to fake.

    We at Made By Pen were recently made aware firsthand just how important design integrity is to our products. To our surprise, we discovered that a major retail chain has imitated our inaugural product—The Dog Room, an original, designed dog kennel —and is selling it at a fraction of the cost.

    While both items feature a clean-lined shape and lightweight construction that might initially please the eye in either format, the integrity is present in our innovative design in a way that the retail chain could not copy. Let’s take a look at why this is so.

    First, Made By Pen’s principal philosophy rests on collaborative efforts with leading designers and architects. The Dog Room design was conceived by award-winning architect Michael Ong, a professional with extensive experience in residential architecture which fueled his ideation process. Furthermore, Michael Ong did not simply come up with a design for the kennel, he applied his many years of structural training, design insights and intellect and continuous inquisitive observations of design principals, into the blueprint.  Made By Pen expertly guided the collaboration through drawing on the team’s expertise in identifying the market opportunity, the research and interogration of the idea prior to the deliberate joining with Michael Ong as the principle talent. It is only then, with this considered partnership of expertise, did the Dog Room birth.

    The Dog Room by Michael Ong & Pen

    Moving past ideation, research, and design procedures, a quality original will go through a number of stages before it’s ready for you to admire and use in your home. A prototype of the design will be tested, with as many subsequent refinements as necessary executed to make it perfect. Materials will be carefully selected to best suit the construction’s purpose. The item will go through consumer testing, and there is also a process of determining pricing and an appropriate marketing plan.

    Contrast this with an inexpensive dupe. Whether we are discussing a handbag, sunglasses, an evening gown, or The Dog Room—the cheaper duplicate will not have any of this integrity. Since it is simply a copy, there is no original thought to the design (save a desire to create a “look” at a lower cost). Likely the materials will be sourced for price, not function. There is no concern for the longevity of the item, nor any effort to refine it to make sure it’s the best possible iteration of the initial concept. In last week’s blog we spoke about buying once and buying well. Imitations or poor-quality knock-offs only confirm our position that we must stem the throw-away attitude of the society we live in today.

    At Made By Pen we advocate for, and will continue to champion and educate on integrity of design. It is in every product we offer. We believe that integrity is visible to even an untrained eye, and creates a refined and distinctive impact that is impossible to “knock off.”

  • Buy Once and Buy Well

    Without a doubt, there is a great argument to be made for buying a product once and well.  To consider quality as primary motivator in your purchase decision and buy the best possible product that you can afford at the time. After all, poor quality products don’t last, discarded as waste they are detrimental to the environment. Today, however, instead of considering the life cycle of products, many people have grown accustomed to accepting that consumer products will eventually fall apart and need to be replaced. Re-purchase is acceptable and consumerism in developed nations is prevalent.

    However, if we re-address our principles for product choice, and begin to support the realm of well-designed and articulated products, where quality, aesthetic and functionality are measured equally in design, we can all begin to more responsibly acquire beautiful things.

    At Made By Pen we believe in sustainable design, one that encourages consumers against buying short-lived products – to buy once, and buy well. This is the design philosophy that is highlighted in our signature product Field by Helen Kontouriss A tiered ‘lazy susan’ serving tray, Field possesses all of these important qualities.

    Why Wood for the Long Term?

    Great Design
    Wooden kitchen consumer items often boast of a sophisticated, elegant and beautiful design.  Truly functional works of art, they add a unique look to the home and are perfect for both entertaining and day to day use.

    Exceptional Durability
    As long as you take proper care of any wooden kitchen products, you can be assured that these tools will last a lifetime.

    Resists Bacteria and Germs
    According to research, wood possesses innate germ-killing characteristics.  In fact, bacteria and germs can grow faster on metal and plastic than wood. Ideal as a material for to use to host to your get-together food.

    An Environmentally Friendly Choice
    When sourced responsibly compared to plastic and other materials, wood is a more environmentally conscientious choice as it is a natural, non-toxic, renewable resource.

    How to Take Care of Wooden Kitchen Boards
    For optimal use, wooden serving trays including Field, need to be cleaned in the appropriate manner.  For instance, it is a good idea to clean your Field or other wooden boards with soapy water after each use. Remember not to soak any wooden kitchen products though as this practice can lead to warping and cracking.

    Here are a few simple steps you can take to more effectively preserve your Field:

    1:  Clean the Field or wooden board thoroughly.  Using a half lemon and coarse salt can be helpful – just remember to clean off and let it dry completely.
    2:  Next oil each tier /board. Our preference is to use a good quality grapeseed oil bought from a health food store. Apply this oil evenly on the wood with a paper towel or soft cloth.
    3:  Let the oil soak into the wood for a few hours or ideally overnight.
    4:  Clean up the excess oil again with a soft cloth or paper towel – making sure that the Field surface is not sticky nor damp.

    For best result we recommend doing this monthly. The process is quick and the wooden surfaces will respond beautifully to their maintenance.

    An additional tip in preserving the longevity of your serving board is to include a food grade paper (or baking paper) under meats, soft cheeses or any other oily products each time you use your Field to serve food.

    About the Field by Helen Kontouris:

    Buy Once and Buy Well, wooden products such as Field by Helen Kontouris offer exceptional design and sustainability in one great product that will be sure to bring you a lifetime of both joy and use.

    Field design inspiration is borne from the thousand-year-old history of agriculture carved into cultivated landscapes. From an aerial view, the natural timber grains the crafted tiered centrepiece expresses stratum forms of landscape terrains.

    A Made By Pen signature product Field breaks the mould of traditional static serving platters incorporating movement akin to the ‘lazy susan’, each layer swivels to allow access all sides. The whirling tiers elicit an emotional response from the user, inviting them in and fostering a tradition of sharing food and bringing people together.

    Field is available in Oak and Walnut. For more information on this design, please visit www.madebypen.com/product/field/


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