Unlike the other new Australian brands Design Daily has been featuring of late, Dessein Furniture is not made in Australia but Thailand. The idea behind Dessein was to use the wealth of design talent that exists in Australia to create interesting contemporary and cost effective products that utilise rubberwood - a sustainable material the brand's founder, Michele Chow, now knows very well. Chow, who has a degree in Interior Architecture from Curtin University, has a fine understanding of design and sought out Jon Goulder, Adam Goodrum and Justin Hutchinson to design pieces for Dessein's first collection, 'TAP'. Launched in August 2013 at Sydney InDesign, the collection consists of a dining table, stool, dining chair, bench and several small tables.
Dessein is a French word that translates in English to 'aim' , 'target' or 'purpose' - all of which seem entirely appropriate for a brand that has set out to make full use of a material that is more commonly found in practical household objects rather than in furniture. A plantation tree grown across large areas of Asia, it is a member of the maple family and like maple, produces a prodigious amount of sap. The natural sap from Rubberwood is ‘latex’, a whitish liquid that is the basis of all natural rubber products. Native to South America the largest rubberwood plantations are now found in Thailand and Malaysia. The timber has a similar colouration to ash and oak although it's grain patterns are more restrained.
Chow recognises the demand for original, contemporary and locally-designed furniture at affordable prices, and is dedicated to providing Australian designers with an means to achieve this. She also hopes to prove that with the right approach Asian made goods can compete with Europe in terms of consistancy and craftsmanship.
The products designed by Goulder, Goodrum and Hutchinson for Dessein are open, interconnecting structures that are offered in white, black or natural wood or lacquered in colours like old fashioned red, a lichen green or a bold, smurf-like blue. Designed to fit in the middle of the market - neither expensive, nor cheap, the pieces have a strong brand personality that is youthful but also highly practical. The pricing is very competitive with the dining table costing just a little over $2000.
Justin Hutchinson, a Melbourne based designer and lecturer in Sustainability and Product Design Engineering at Swinburne and RMIT, contributed three pieces to the collection - all of which used a skeletal multi-part base made from rubberwood. All are called 'Flow' - a rectangular dining table, a round coffee table and a taller, smaller side table. It was Hutchinson who suggested using rubberwood due to it's sustainable qualities. Despite the name it is not rubbery but a true tropical hardwood, which if carefully handled works perfectly as a furniture timber. The Thai manufacturer was chosen due to their ability to handle the unusual sap producing qualities of the material as it's being machined.
Jon Goulder, one of Australia's best know designers has also designed a couple of pieces for the TAP collection. Recently announced as the new Creative Director of Adelaide's Jam Factory, he is a fourth generation craftsman with an an exacting eye for detail. His 'Spool' stool for Dessein Furniture takes an abstract look at the traditional cotton-reel shape - slicing it up into vertical ribs. The resulting design is incredibly inexpensive - retailing for as little as $250. Due to it's combination of lightness and strength it also forms the base of Goulder's 'Plank' bench.
Well known for his folding aluminium 'Stitch' chair for Cappellini, Adam Goodrum has contributed a far more conventional chair design called 'Para' to the TAP collection. Available as a stacking chair without arms or in a non-stacking form with arms, the chair uses moulded plywood made from rubber trees.
Like the other new brands that Design Daily has been featuring in this series, Dessein Furniture is attempting to shake up what had become a very sleepy industry here in Australia. The fact that the brand successfully combines manufacturing in Thailand with good Australian design is a real win-win for consumers. Cost effective good design is what the majority of people want after all. It remains to be seen whether the public embrace rubberwood as much as they do oak or other established furniture timbers but Dessein Furniture is another interesting addition to the Australian furniture scene. Still very much in it's infancy, the brand has the potential for significant growth as it expands it's range and positions itself to supply a much larger market in Asia and beyond. For more information go to the Dessein Furniture website.