The Weekend Australian - Review - - Australian Furniture Awards -

WHETHER you slave away sit­ting at it, sit on it or watch cable- TV while ly­ing on it, Aus­tralian furniture stacks up against the world’s best. That’s the view of the judges of the 12th An­nual Aus­tralian Furniture of Year Awards, which were an­nounced at a gala event at the Perth Con­ven­tion Cen­tre last Satur­day.

The Best of the Best award, a cul­mi­na­tion of all 12 cat­e­gories, was won by In­ter­na­tional Cab­i­nets with a ta­ble de­sign ( see sep­a­rate story).

En­trants from all over Aus­tralia com­peted in the 12 awards, which in­cluded na­tive/ plan­ta­tion tim­ber, leather, fab­ric, sleep sets, din­ing furniture, bed­room furniture, re­con­sti­tuted tim­ber, man­u­fac­tur­ing/ mar­ket­ing and re­tail­ing.

Queens­land man­u­fac­turer Lyon Furniture of Aus­tralia won two cat­e­gories, ex­cel­lence in us­ing na­tive tim­ber and also plan­ta­tion tim­ber, for the in­no­va­tive use of dif­fer­ent wood to high­light their de­signs - which the judges de­cided were both prac­ti­cal and mod­ern.

The highly an­tic­i­pated Stu­dent De­sign Award, which fea­tures a prize to study de­sign over­seas, was won by Trinh Duy Dao, a stu­dent at Lid­combe TAFE in Syd­ney’s west for the Rolla chair.

The awards recog­nise out­stand­ing achieve­ments in in­no­va­tion, de­sign, man­u­fac­tur­ing and work­man­ship.

The Aus­tralian furniture in­dus­try em­ploys over 80,000 peo­ple and con­trib­utes over $ 8 bil­lion a year to the na­tion’s econ­omy.

Ian Hearn, CEO of the FIAA in West­ern Aus­tralia, says the awards are grow­ing faster as the in­dus­try re­alises the sig­nif­i­cance of Aus­tralian made.

The awards, ‘‘ recog­nise and re­wards qual­ity and ex­cel­lence in the Aus­tralian fur­nish­ing in­dus­try’’, he says. ‘‘ The stan­dard of en­tries in this year’s awards made the judges’ de­ci­sions ex­tremely dif­fi­cult.

‘‘ The qual­ity of de­sign, work­man­ship and ma­te­ri­als show­case the world stan­dards of Aus­tralian furniture.’’

Aus­tralia has a rich his­tory of furniture de­sign, in­clud­ing the likes of Marc New­son, who is the cur­rent toast of the de­sign world.

The stu­dent win­ner has a choice of a two- week furniture de­sign course in Mi­lan, Paris or Lon­don.

The judges of the Aus­tralian Furniture of the Year Awards are Carlo Gosatti, win­ner of the 2005 Best of the Best, Pa­trick Beale, for­mer Dean of the Ar­chi­tec­ture fa­cil­ity at Univer­sity of West­ern Aus­tralia, and furniture in­dus­try iden­tity Rod McLean.

Other de­signs that make you want to reach for the credit cards in­clude the Mis­cha sofa, arm­chair and wine chair by Queens­land’s Con­tour Furniture. The furniture is tai­lored in Aus­tralian- made fleur fab­ric with match­ing arm­chair and or­di­nated wine chair, say the man­u­fac­tur­ers.

‘‘ The Mis­cha lends a feel­ing of warmth and com­fort to any room,’’ they add. ‘‘ Avail­able in seven colours this suite can be co- or­di­nated with any decor.

‘‘ With Dun­lop stamina foam seats and lux­u­ri­ous poly- fi­bre back cush­ions the Mis­cha will of­fer gen­er­ous cush­ion com­fort for many years to come.’’

Then there’s the Roll­top writ­ing desk, made from solid areu­caria or Queens­land hoop pine by Lyon Furniture.

Lyon have been build­ing roll­tops since 1985 in­creas­ingly for com­puter use. ‘‘ This desk is for those who like to sit, read and write in­stead,’’ say the mak­ers.

West­ern Aus­tralian man­u­fac­turer Obelli De­sign Stu­dio also won for its hi- tech Bella Bianca sixseater cor­ner sofa and ot­toman.

‘‘ This hand- crafted de­sign shows off its char­ac­ter with­out square edges or cor­ners,’’ says the maker. ‘‘ A clever com­bi­na­tion of pure white leather and hand­made steel legs high­lights the de­sign lines of to­mor­row.

‘‘ In­ten­tional creas­ing of the seat and back is a fea­ture cre­ated by feath­ers and the latest in seat­ing tech­nol­ogy: Astro Gel Cush­ion­ing.

‘‘ This de­sign is dis­played as a six- seater cor­ner unit with ot­toman which can be con­verted into a bed with ease.’’

Last year’s West­ern Aus­tralian Furniture Award stu­dent de­sign win­ner, Aaron Thred­gold, re­cently com­mented on the boost the award has given him in the in­dus­try.

He ini­tially im­pressed the judges with his out­door/ com­mer­cial bench Fallen Gi­ants, which used brushed stain­less steel and off- cuts of re­cy­cled jar­rah and karri re­trieved from lo­cal sal­vage yards.

Now in the process of set­ting up his own busi­ness as a de­signer and maker of furniture, Aaron says the award has been pos­i­tive for his ca­reer and hopes it will en­cour­age other young de­sign­ers into the Aus­tralian furniture in­dus­try.

Aus­tralian furniture de­liv­ers bet­ter qual­ity, con­struc­tion and ma­te­ri­als to the con­sumer, Thred­gold said af­ter win­ning last year.

‘‘ Lo­cal prod­ucts are de­signed and made to last and can be passed down through gen­er­a­tions, not like the short- term fix of cheap im­ports,’’ he said.


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