Australian Design, American Hardwood

May 1, 2013
  • Article by Online Editor
  • Designer

Above (in order of appearance): Mode by David Cummins; white oak Lounge Room by Zuster; American oak Jade lamp tables by Zuster; Mode by David Cummins; American oak Sabrina Chair by Zuster [Zuster photos by Tony Neilson; David Cummins photos by Anthony Fretwell]

The American Hardwood Export Council (AHEC) has a history of supporting furniture designers. In recent years they have collaborated with the likes of Sebastian Wrong and Martino Gamper from Europe and with students from London’s Royal College of Art. AHEC provided these designers with materials, technical advice and promotion which enabled them to realise their creative visions and, for the less well known, provided the chance for their work to be seen in prestigious contexts, including the London Design Festival and Salone del Mobile.

Now AHEC is turning its attention to Australia. “There is some exciting design taking place there” commented AHEC Director for Oceania Rod Wiles “but given the location and production costs it’s hard for designers to gain recognition beyond Australian shores”.

According to Wiles, Australian furniture designers have a good understanding of wood given the range of indigenous species in Australia. “They are acutely aware of the environmental credentials of  materials and well placed to evaluate the benefits of American hardwoods”.

One company who caught AHEC’s attention was Melbourne’s Zuster, who have recently opened a showroom in Sydney. American white oak has played a key role in their burgeoning success. “We are proudly Australian and would like to source a suitable local species, but nothing we have tried comes close to American white oak” says MD Fleur Sibbel. “We think it is the premier timber choice for furniture and interior design – the combination of its attractive and superior grain quality, strength and consistency is not easily found in other timbers”.

Former architect David Cummins is currently working on designs created from American hardwood lumber supplied by Speciality Timber Traders and facilitated by AHEC.  Cummins uses traditional techniques alongside modern technologies to produce high quality bespoke contemporary furniture. Of his collaboration with AHEC, Cummins states “To have such a open brief free from commercial constraints is liberating. For me this project is about showcasing my skills while working with some of the most beautiful hardwood in the world”.

“We are looking to forge links with talented designers in Australia and support them where we can” says Wiles. “By helping them gain exposure for their work  we also benefit, as their designs demonstrate the beauty and variety of American hardwoods to design communities worldwide”.

AHEC will be showing furniture made by Australian designers from American hardwoods at Saturday in Design in August.

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