It seems that after many years of steady decline in homegrown furniture, Australia is experiencing something of a renaissance with a number exciting new brands launching in just the last 18 months. We have seen One / Third, Anomaly, Dessein and most recently, Nomi, hit the ground running with fully realized collections by some of the best young designers the country has to offer. Over the course of the next four weeks Design Daily will take you on a guided tour of a few of these new brands and reveal who is behind them. First cab off the rank is Nomi - mainly because it’s the newest, having only launched at the end of October - but also because it’s the only one headed by a former chart-topping musician.
Tomek Archer is a SOYA Award winning young architect and highly talented industrial designer who founded Tomahawk design studio while still studying at university. His ‘Campfire’ coffee table design is in production with prestigious Swiss brand Roethlisberger and several of his earlier designs are sold through Australia’s long-term Artek distributor, Anibou. He was also a founding member of the successful synth outfit Van She - something I’m sure Archer is getting bored of seeing in print - until he decided that despite all the success his first love was design. Quitting the band for good a little over a year ago Archer has wasted no time in designing a collection and launching a furniture label with two other Sydney-siders, Henry Gresson and Michael Grassi. Despite their relative youth, both Gresson and Grassi have been successful entrepreneurs in other fields and bring the necessary business know-how to launch a new furniture brand in a country with high labour and material costs and an out-of-date transport network. Not an enviable task but one that they are more than happy to take on.
“We wanted to offer something special and unique, something that hadn’t been seen in the furniture space before. Our vision was to provide affordable designer furniture and create a place where people could interact with our products in new and exciting ways”, says Grassi.
Aiming to redefine the flat-pack, Archer has designed a concise range of furniture essentials - two chairs, three tables, two benches, a coffee table and a modular shelving system. “The collection has been conceived as a range of basics, informed by a series of studies into fundamental furniture types” says Archer. “Constructed from solid timber, the adaptable series of chairs, tables and storage each have timeless and enduring qualities that are equally suited to blending in or standing out, depending on the customizer’s efforts”.
Each design allows for a certain level of customer involvement, with the tables, benches and storage furniture being offered in a range of predetermined sizes and all items coming in a range of three semi-transparent stains and seven denser painted colours - along with a natural timber option. What is particularly unusual is that Nomi allow the customer to specify up to three colours on the one product (with a small increase in cost per additional colour). This allows the creative customer to have a bit of fun or pull back and keep it simple and classic by adding a small amount of colour to natural timber. The tables can also be specified with tops in either timber or high-pressure laminate. All the items are manufactured in Melbourne in solid American oak using Archer’s intelligent peg, lock and wedge joinery system that enables the items to be transported as flat packs but easily assembled without any tools - just a coin. Not only does this particular screw-less variation of the flat-pack concept ensure that those with a morbid fear of Ikea-style DIY can happily put it together but it also means that the furniture can be disassembled and moved easily - something that can be very useful to young students and renters who typically move every 6-12 months.
The brand has chosen to offer their products only in American oak as it’s a quality furniture timber with a nice open grain that takes stain beautifully. It’s also plantation grown rather than from native forests so fits with the brand’s environmentally friendly approach. To this end, all Nomi’s timber is Forest Stewardship Council accredited. In addition to Archer’s impressive design skills, the brand is offering something of a first for Australian made product of this type - free door-to-door delivery to any postcode within the cities of Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. Those outside these areas will have to pay for delivery but at rates heavily subsidized by Nomi.
Even the purchase prices are startling good, starting at $1199 for dining tables, $319 for chairs and $240 for small storage items.
Beyond the fact that Nomi has well made product at very competitive prices, the brand has also set a new standard with their simple-to-use online sales website. Everything is laid out for the customer to see and understand. Customers can ‘design’ their own colour schemes online and then click order with the price finalized then and there and with only 28 days to wait before their product is ready for delivery. Looking at the website, the brand’s youthful origins and target audience are very much on display with pushbikes and low cost Scandinavian accessories from Muuto and Hay forming the basis of the styling. Possibly inspired by movies like Juno, the hand drawn graphics that feature on the site are a million miles away from what we normally see from large corporate companies. Nomi’s brand image is as you would expect more in tune with the creative end of the alternative music industry. Nomi is a fantastic addition to the local furniture market and a real wake up call to some well-known Australian furniture brands who have relied on rehashed designs and poorly made product from China for too long.
For a playful look into how the Nomi online design and ordering system works, check out the video below. The music has a definite Van She ring to it......