TuckBox design


Words: Manuela Millan
Photos: DAMIEN KOOK

I first came across the work of Tuckbox Design on Instagram a few years ago, and I was thrilled to finally meet Dan and Anthony at their workshop in Campbellfield last week to learn a bit more about how they got into design and what inspires them to create their unique and beautiful range.

 Dan and Anthony De Groot and Rex the labrador.

Dan and Anthony De Groot and Rex the labrador.

 

Brothers Dan and Anthony have taken different paths towards their current passion. They grew up in Queensland, where they developed a love of tinkering and experimenting – fixing and building cars and motorcycles together in their youth. They then took different paths, with Anthony going into IT (with a bit of flying on the side) and Dan moving to the UK after completing a post-graduate degree in Industrial Design. After some time in their respective careers, the two brothers decided to come back together and pursue a shared passion for manufacturing and design.

A: I always loved working with my hands, same with Dan. It felt like a really good opportunity to have a go at something before getting too stuck in my ways.

D: We had some ideas, we were both looking to do something different at that time, and we just got a little bit of space here in Melbourne and started up. We put some things out to market and there was interest in what we were doing.

 Cassini shelf above with paper chair in white

Cassini shelf above with paper chair in white

 Springboard side table

Springboard side table

 Navigator table

Navigator table

 Process sketching 

Process sketching 

 

What has always struck me about Tuckbox’s design aesthetic is its lightness, balance and the precise attention to detail. I had expected this to be achieved with high-tech and computerised manufacturing equipment, so I was somewhat surprised to see their workshop humming with old- school machinery, hand tools and workbenches full of sketches drawn directly onto the wooden surface. Their passion and love for the process of making, and willingness to take the time to do things by hand is something which I really value and admire.

We both love old-school manufacturing so we did a lot of research into a lot of old techniques which have subsequently been lost due to changes in industry after it became fully mechanised and taken over by mass production.

Their curiosity lead them to explore and master more traditional techniques, which ironically they now use to create truly contemporary designs which can be found in a wide range of cafes, hotels and private homes.

Another element which makes Tuckbox’s designs interesting is that they don’t follow design trends, they pull their inspiration from a range of different sources. They then develop and experiment with these ideas and work them into unique and thoughtful pieces. One example of this is their popular REX stool which takes inspiration from the Latin, meaning King, and resembles an upside down crown. The initial inspiration for the REX stool was actually their adorable Labrador named Rex, who is often found hanging out in their workshop floor, supervising their work.

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 REX stool in timber 

REX stool in timber 

 REX stool in tan leather 

REX stool in tan leather 

 Statement shelving with Rex stool in leather

Statement shelving with Rex stool in leather

 Cassini shelf above with paper chair in white

Cassini shelf above with paper chair in white

 

Another example is their gorgeous Cassini shelf, which was dreamt up by Dan as he was following the final leg of the Cassini space probe as it came to the end of its mission to Saturn. The shelf is simple and elegant and evokes both the delicate probe design and of course the spectacular rings of Saturn itself.

D: I just thought it was amazing, this incredible little bit of technology that man and womankind managed to develop, send it out to millions and millions of miles away from here, and to be able to control it, focus it and do the math that’s required to keep it in place for at least a decade, taking photographs and sending them all the way back.

I think that part of the reason that their work has been so popular is that they offer simple and honest designs, with a real flexibility to change and customise bits and pieces to fit the needs of architects and designers looking to specify something different for their projects. One big advantage which Tuckbox has on their side, is that they design and make their products in Melbourne, and their experimental style allows for flexible development of ideas and quick turnaround times for prototypes.

With custom work I guess it’s based on conversations with end clients as well as designers and architects. We also muck around with our own ideas and they turn into products. When you get down to the nitty gritty of it, the amount of ideas and things that you can experiment with is really just endless. It’s just nice that every now and then out of an experiment comes some piece of gold, a nugget which is great, and we take that and develop it and push it further, and then try to put it to market and see what happens.

 

MM: What do you do to relax?

A: My partner’s got a property down in Eildon which is about an hour and 25 mins away from here. I just escape the city and switch off, hang out with cows and get out hiking or on motorbikes. The wildlife up there is just ridiculous. The other weekend we found a couple of wombats that have moved in, with a great big burrow for Mr and Mrs Wombat.

D: I’ve got two little kids, so any downtime I have I spend with them. They’re 2 and 4, boy and a girl, and they are just so much fun. It’s nice to just take your mind away, you’ve got no choice but to just become a little kid again when you’re around them.

MM: What does a typical day look like at Tuckbox?

Our days are super varied, whether it’s going into the city to speak with designers or architects, or sometimes it’s other brands, going to talk to them about making other products as well, and advise them on the best methods. A lot of our stuff ends up being custom at the end of the day, so we take a standard object or a standard thing, and then make it applicable to a specific interior or a specific need. It makes for a long day, but it makes for an interesting day.

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 Anthony working

Anthony working

 Anthony working

Anthony working