Happy Holidays

2019 is almost at an end, and oh what a year it has been!  We are filled with gratitude as we look back on the growth, accomplishments and the forging of new ventures which will continue to fuel our transition into 2020. We are proud to have received the honor of being featured on Australia by Design and being a part of top3bydesign’s curated selection for Home. Grown at Sydney Design Festival— we won the category award for the Good Design Awards for ‘Best in Class Furniture and Lighting’ with the Sway lamp designed by Nick Rennie. We also won the Australian Product of the Year Award at our inaugural DenFair showing and we were featured in a number of Ian Wong’s curated exhibitions.

We are elated by the strides we’ve also made this year with new ventures in New Zealand, and the US. As we go into the next decade we have new products planned with a stronger emphasis on environmental sustainability as our commitment to caring for our planet and our customers deepens.

We must extend our warmest thanks to everyone who helped us on this journey. Thank you to our talented designers, and to the team at Pen – Jaclyn, Steph, Mariel and TJ for putting in countless hours whenever demand required; we are grateful for your dedication. 
 Also, to everyone who has supported us; our founding stockiest top3bydesign, and our current stockiest nationally who support Australian design, we so appreciate you! 

A special thanks to the interior designers, architects and designers that have supported us through their work, and we certainly cannot forget to thank our customers, we love your feedback and fondness of authentic design.

Lastly too, thank you to our husbands and families, without this vital family support network, the Pen wheels wouldn’t have turned so smoothly.

It’s been a massive year for us, and so whilst Pen doors are still open in January we are slowing things down to spend time with our families during the summer break. Please give us additional time to respond to emails, and to deliver orders as we balance the pool days with the kids alongside the business demands. 

It has been our pleasure working with you all in 2019; you have been central to our success.

Best wishes to you and your families over the festive season.  
Amy and Susan


Made by Pen

At Made by Pen, we strive to create unambiguous beautiful designed pieces. We balance innovation with creative flair and translate this to its simplest form. We are a studio that follows the foundation of minimal design. In this blog, we briefly introduce this principle which influences our work.

Minimalism as a trend
Minimalism began as an art movement post World War II in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The movement was most closely associated with visual arts at its core. However as minimal influence grew; music, fashion, writing, and design also became part of its importance. Today, the influence of minimalism has broadened and been adopted as a philosophy, and a way of living. Minimalists resolve to live with only the bare essentials and shun anything else they deem non-essential.

Minimalism influence in Design
For many people who are new to the idea of minimalism, their perception holds misconceptions, picturing half-empty rooms or objects seemingly “incomplete.” In actuality, it’s quite the opposite. Minimalism seeks to do more with less, leading to a seamless, fluid, balanced design. Minimal design leaves space for thinking, and being unobtrusive it blends with its inherent environment.  

Minimalism has three defining characters
1.    Repetition
2.    Formal simplicity
3.    Use of voids

Repetition in this context is a variation in applied design elements. In latent terms, this is a paring back of aesthetics, a simplification in design. This simplification of clutter allows the consumer to comprehend the objects with less cognitive load and for this reason, minimalist design is described as peaceful, nourishing and kind to your soul.

The second characteristic, formal simplicity, refers to the minimalist’s preference for structured and symmetrical shapes – perfect circles, squares and triangles, as well as uninterrupted lines.

The last characteristics use of voids is what gives minimalist design a certain tension. Perhaps one of the best examples to understand this characteristic is to look at this influence within architecture. Here space is the quality of design that is stressed, pairing back the structural design to the bare form you naturally allow more space to remain. Casa AR by Mexican architect Lucio Muniain.

Minimalism in Product Design
Minimalist designed products, express only the essential and necessary elements of an object, getting rid of excess, and not adorning the design with unnecessary components and features. While minimalism by its very nature appears a simple design form from the outset, the visual cleanliness of the outcome can be misleading. It is often hours of skilled practise that goes into achieving a piece. Pairing back an idea to its simplest form, to maintain a visual restraint whilst not compromising on functionality and user experience.

“Our goal is always to pair back the design to its basic form but without losing its purpose and character. In doing this we can appreciate the raw beauty that minimalism is able to bring attention to. Without additions, and nothing to distract from the materials and engineering that go into every object that is produced” – Susan Chung, Director Made by Pen


The Birth of Sway

Sway by Nick Rennie

The award-winning Sway Lamp brought to fruition by Australian designer Nick Rennie has a fascinating story behind it. The Sway Lamp is the brainchild of a studio prepared to challenge the status quo of design, and Sway has set a new benchmark for innovation in lighting and design excellence.


The idea of a cordless light started in the lounge room of Made by Pen’s (Pen) founding partners Susan Chung and Michael Mabuti. While renovating and re-designing their home interiors they had placed the couch in the middle of the room. To complete their look, they began sourcing floor lamps. Not satisfied with the only two options available – a long cord running from the power connection on the sidewall, or a floor box interrupting the flooring aesthetic; they birthed the idea to create a cordless floor lamp.

World-Renowned Australian Designer, Nick Rennie

Out of all designers sought to collaborate with Pen, Nick Rennie was always the forerunner. Nick is a patriarch of Australian design having worked for international brands Porro, Ligne Roset and Normann Copenhagen. He possessed the credentials to tackle this highly technical brief. However, for Pen it was Nick’s approach to design and to collaboration which made him first-choice.

“Design is a shared process, the finished product owing equally to the vision of a manufacturer, the needs of a user and our own passion for exploration”, Nick Rennie. “Design to us is the presentation of a problem and the opportunity to offer a solution. On a personal level, however, it is so much more than that. It is the ability to feel emotion the moment you see or interact with something. It can be so simple, but can still just resonate with you on every level. This thinking provides the foundation for the studio’s philosophy. Our fascination with design lies in the possibilities of what’s come before, what is now and of course what is in the future “

With Nick engaged, the brief took shape; design a lamp suitable to be placed anywhere, in any room, inside or out. Be inventive in thinking. Be innovative and unexpected.  Be bound to Pen’s design ethos to deliver something timeless, of quality and that is relevant to the customer’s needs. Do all this with accessibility in mind; the end-game is to provide a value proposition for the buyer. 

Sway birthed

In Nick’s response to the brief, the studio was presented with a number of unique designs, but there was one which immediately stood out. This sketch was similar to how a six-year-old might draw a dumbbell used by a strong man. Two balls on either end of a long stick but presented vertically. The design was incredibly simple in its appearance, its clean-lined contemporary elegance making it unlike any other floor lamp available. 

As the ideation of this design evolved, Nick introduced the idea of movement within the lamp. The spheral base of this ‘dumbbell’ design leaned to this, the idea that it might roll from side-to-side. With a mock-up commissioned, the team was thrilled to see a pendulum effect unveil itself. Suddenly there was a paradigm shift, a cordless lamp beautifully simple as a static object, when knocked transformed into a different entity. This design, a cordless lamp that swayed, Pen knew would be a gamer changer.

Practical Design and Sway

With the idea now even more ambitious than the original brief, what followed for the studio was many months of ‘blood, sweat and tears’ as the functionality of the design progressed. For Sway it was essential to deliver top quality functionality as a go-anywhere lighting system. To add a degree of difficulty, the design had a minimal surface area to encase the lighting system. The ‘sway’ effect also meant the material choice had to be flexible to accommodate and allow for the playful tap and movement. The counter balance to allow for the ‘sway’ added to the technical hurdles, with changes in internal mechanics directly affecting movement. The design also called for something to make it highly durable for any environment, but the end result light enough for consumers to move it about.

Today, the studio is filled with months and months of endless prototypes – dumbbell bases too large to achieve the aesthetic proportions of the lamp design, and too small to be able to accommodate the internal battery which was to be hidden in the base, there are poles of many material types and mock-ups of differing sizing proportions for top and tail. Engineering drawings to calculate the materials, weight, balance and proportions and material samples of considered and rejected choices. It was 12-months after the initial presentation the Sway lamp in its full form was ready to launch.

Sway launch

The Sway Lamp’s initial debut occurred in Paris Maison et Objet 2017 and was a resounding success. However, first users provided insights which further challenged the usability of the design. Customers demanded more mobility. They wanted a truly anywhere lamp – indoors and outdoors. They also requested extended battery life providing even greater flexibility in its function.

Pen was now faced with a cross-road. Many months of hard work had been put into fruition of the lamp and it had been greeted with positive response. So were Pen to launch Sway in its current form, making these suggested improvements for the second production release, or withdraw, risk losing momentum, and supplier channels and deliver on user insight.

The latter path was chosen. The studio knowing that in its current form the requirements of good design weren’t fully met.


It was another 12-months before Sway 2.0, new and improved with an outdoor IP rating and battery life of 8+ hours, and now five light settings, was ready for market. Released in Australia at the end of 2018 the Sway Lamp received a truly astonishing response in the often-demanding Australian design market. Perhaps the most affirmative response to Sway has been in its enthusiasm by both design peers and consumers. The accolades have been well supported by the market. Winning Denfair Australian Product of the Year, 2019 and a Good Design Award for Design Excellence was a true honour, and consumer praise has been overwhelming.

We are very appreciative of the many kind words Sway has received from our industry peers and customers. We’d like to take the opportunity to thank our colleagues, stockists and our customers for their fabulous support, and we hope to have more to tell as the Sway story evolves.

Cabin fever: why the humble cabin has raised in prominence in Australian architecture & design

Part 2: Materials

Australian hardwoods, corrugated iron and stainless steel fittings. Australian-designed and made cabins are both immediately obvious and appealing. We’re lucky because our natural environment serves up strong and textured set of materials. Our indigenous culture inspires rich colours and our history of pastoral land use has created a classic and evocative Australian bush home. They each inform the architecture and design of the contemporary Australian cabin. 

Today we’re taking a look at just a few from our favourites.

It follows on from our blog from last month, the first in our two-part series on Australian designed cabins. Last month we looked at the use of space. A cabin demonstrates how one small space can serve many functions. We love the flexibility in the design and shared some of our favourite examples here

For blending into the natural landscape nothing compares to the Moonlight Cabin. The design is by Melbourne-based architects Jackson, Clements and Burrows. The cabin is clad in spotted gum and in the words of the architects “acts like a ‘gore-tex jacket’ to protect the cabin from the elements”

Moonlight Cabin by Jackson, Clements, Burrows Image © Jackson, Clements & Burrows.

Permanent Camping by Casey Brown Architects find its place in the natural environment using a different method. It uses the materials of pastoral homes and out-sheds. The structure is a two storey copper clad tower. As with pastoral homes, the internal structure is crafted from local hardwoods, in this case, recycled ironbark.

Permanent Camping, Mudgee by Casey Brown Architecture. Image © Casey Brown Architecture.

Australian history goes back much further than the settler-housing that inspires many bush cabins today. We’re pleased to see indigenous-led architecture and design explored and exhibited in Melbourne today. The Koorie Heritage Trust at Federation Square is a great example and last year showed an exhibition called Blak Design Matters. The exhibition asked the question: what is meaningful Indigenous design and why does it matter?

The Koorie Heritage Trust at Federation Square designed by Lyons Architecture and IADV.
Image © Peter Bennetts

Our survey of cabins wouldn’t be complete without a look at how our bush has inspired materials and form. Cabin 2 by Maddison Architects takes the form of the bushland that surrounds it. The angled Moonah trees find a partner in the curved roofline.  

At Made by Pen although we specialize in product design we are inspired by design in its larger form, in cabins and homes. We’ve got a lot to thank them for in a design sense, for showing us how to use space and how to be creative with materials, but mostly for bringing us closer to our sweeping Australian landscapes. 

Cabin 2 by Maddison Architects. Image © William Watt

Cabin fever: why the humble cabin has raised in prominence in Australian architecture & design

Words by Corinne Roberts

At Made by Pen we know we’re not alone in loving cabins. They have captured zeitgeist. Cabins are usually built from basic but good quality materials and demonstrate to us how one small space can serve many functions.

Australians have embraced small-living partly due to necessity. Big inner city houses on long blocks, dominated by expansive hills hoists, have long been sub-divided and rebuilt as townhouses and apartments.

Eat, sleep and by comforted by an open fire in the Bruny Island Hideaway by Maguire + Devine Architects. Image © Maguire + Devine Architects.


We now need living spaces that are flexible and give us the freedom to be interpreted in many different ways – rather than many rooms cluttered with belongings (see our blog on decluttering).

Perhaps it’s a living room that serves as a home office, a place to watch TV, a reading room and a kids play area all in the one.

This is not just evident in how we live, but in how we holiday. Or at least, what we lust for in a holiday, enter the cabin.

As people interested in design, we love cabins because a lot of thought has been put into how the space will be used. Perhaps the bed is also a place to sit and contemplate. The kitchen is almost always striped back to its bare functionality.

The multi-use living space of the Garden House by Baracco Wright Architects. Image © Baracco Wright Architects.


At Made by Pen we work with designers that push the brief for freedom and flexibility in how we use space. The Sway floor lamp by Nick Rennie and Linea desk organiser by Jim Hannon-Tan are both important contributions in this space. Pushing Australian design forward. Showing us our future. Cabins meanwhile take us back to our past. We can find inspiration from cabins in how we use space today while not compromising on design. Or maybe we just like them for the feeling of nostalgia they give us, for a more simple life

A simple A-frame creates a flexible living and sleeping space in JR’s Hut on Kimo Estate. Image ©Kimo Estate



De-Cluttering Means Choosing Well – Making the Most of Beauty and Space

It’s nearly a full month into the new year, and the cleansing bug has captured us at Pen – this week we completed an essential tidy and reorganisation of our studio. We feel ready to embrace 2019. We know we are not alone, with nearly everyone we have spoken to also furiously decluttering. But, how do we avoid falling into bad habits as the year takes hold, so that come 2020 we are not again surrounded by ‘stuff’? Much like our previous articles where we spoke about ‘good design’, and ‘buying once, buying well’, decluttering allows us to again discover those pieces that hold true value and posses the qualities imbued in good design. Pieces that are impactful and relevant, pieces that are functional, beautiful and evolved. We are reminded of what should always be our benchmark for purchase. Our first blog of 2019 unravels this. Enjoy the read!

De-Cluttering Means Choosing Well – Making the Most of Beauty and Space

It seems that everyone’s interested in decluttering lately. Living sparely..…embracing minimalism. Marie Kondo and her catchphrases are everywhere from Netflix to social media and there’s a lot to be said for following her advice and ensuring that all of the items in your home “spark joy”.

The basics of the Kondo way involve ridding yourself of unnecessary objects; clearing your home of clutter and keeping only those things which bring you happiness or which are strictly necessary. One quote which holds a lot of resonance for many people from Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organising is “The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.” The reason this quote speaks to people is that the majority of us want to improve, to grow and to succeed. Clutter and mess only serve to distract.

Responsibility and clutter – choosing well.

Taking responsibility for the planet on which we live is an important part of minimising our belongings. Shopping is fun of course; most people enjoy acquiring new things and there’s nothing wrong with that, to a point. The problems only begin with over-consumption and thoughtless purchases. The trick to taking responsibility and still enjoying beautiful things is to choose well. Choosing well involves consideration. What do you need? Where will you keep it? Is there space for it? Is it of quality that will last? Does it possess both form and function equally? Asking these questions before any new purchase will help ensure that you choose only what’s needed and that you’ve considered the built environment in which the piece will live.

Clutter clearing and how to begin
If there are certain spaces within your home which fill you with horror because they’re a disorganised mess, then it’s likely that you’re more than overdue for a clear-out. We all have things we love and have kept because they’re souvenirs or keepsakes. Again, the problems start when we keep too many things or store them poorly. Going room-by-room, evaluate the contents of each space. Start with the worst and carry on until you have a list of things you consider might possibly be superfluous to your needs. Good choices for the “get rid list” include things which are broken, things without functionality, and things which you haven’t looked at or used for a year.

Organisation – keeping your things neat.

A good mantra to repeat to yourself as you go about your reorganisation is “a place for everything and everything in its place”. For many people this is the key to a tasteful tidy and peaceful home. If each and every item has a spot reserved for it, then there’s no problem when it comes to keeping your home looking beautifully organised. Storage boxes, shelves, neatly arranged cupboards all play their part in this and so do beautifully designed organisation pieces like Linea by famed Adelaide designer Jim Hannon-Tan. This architectural piece is reminiscent of a streetscape and is beautiful in it’s own right…but it’s also brilliantly useful as a storage component to any room which needs a special place for smaller items. The first set is available with components made from brass, and Carrara marble whilst the second is a contemporary range using coloured silicone. Linea is incredibly versatile finding organisational function bench-side in the bathroom, hallway, in the kitchen or in the home office.

Choosing pieces which will last a lifetime, retain their sense of style is a key part of living a clutter-free life. Beautifully made pieces please the eye, are made well and serve a purpose. This is what you need to bear in mind as you evaluate your home and its contents.


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8 Hilton Street, Clifton Hill, Victoria, Australia, 3068 T: +61 3 9077 9495 E: hello@madebypen.com

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