Last night I attended the Douglas and Bec Showroom in Auckland to see the launch of their beautiful new collection, Arch. Described by the New Zealand studio as their most ambitious yet, the new furniture and lighting collection marks an impressive ten years in design. Over the last decade father and daughter team, Douglas Snelling and Bec Dowie have created a world-class brand epitomised by immaculately beautiful craftsmanship. Striking a perfect balance between tactility and poetry, their work explores the contrast of natural hand-crafted materials with elegant linear forms. To celebrate the exciting ten year milestone, Douglas and Bec have in addition to launching Arch, undergone a brand refresh and will be opening a new showroom space in Melbourne designed by renowned interior designer Rufus Knight.
Arch Pendant 03, Arch Chair and Arch Side Table
The new collection casts a look back to the late 1920s and ‘30s, a time when key items of furniture were at the heart of daily rituals of living – starting or ending the day at a dressing table, reading in a chair by the light of a lamp, or gathering in the lounge for cocktails. Designer Bec Dowie says she was inspired by the way her grandparents’ generation invested time and appreciation in the furniture they used daily.“As much as this collection is born out of historical personal narrative, it has a modern feel,” she says. “I wanted to use negative detailing and reflections to bring a playful element into the work.”
Arch Vanity Table & Mirror, Arch Side Table and Arch Floor Lamp
The collection draws influence from the curvilinear Parisian design of the time, with echoes of French designer Charlotte Perriand’s clean yet feminine aesthetic apparent. A centrepiece grouping is the Arch Vanity Table, Arch Vanity Mirror and Arch Vanity Chair. The generously sized, tiered three-piece mirror features rattan side- panels, and seems to float like a cloud above the slim-legged vanity table. The companion chair, in muted duck-egg blue or buttery gold velvet, has a sense of solidity even as it glides on rolling caster feet.
“With the table, I wanted to celebrate the beauty of the natural grain of the wood,” says Dowie, “as well as my dad Douglas’ skills of hand-turning.”
Arch Pendant 01 and Arch Vanity Chair
Those skills are also evident in the graceful Arch Cane Chair, with its steam-bent American Ash frame and rattan lining, which call to mind the classic Thonet Chairs that were a popular feature of Parisian brasseries in the 30s.
In the lighting collection, Dowie has reached further than ever before, experimenting with reinventions of the classic pendant, and using custom tooling for every part of the designs. The tripartite design of the pendant shades and table and floor lamp bases evolved from a thought experiment around folding, and the way shadow and negative detailing could be used to emphasise the linear aspects of the design. The lighting tubes use state-of-the-art custom LED bulbs.
Arch Vanity Chair and Arch Floor Lamp
Completing the collection, the Arch Side Tables feature the same tripartite design as the lamps, finished with a double glass top that sandwiches brass coin detailing.
Dowie says that the sense of weightiness in the collection compared to her earlier lighter and finer work is deliberate. Taking a longer-than-usual eight months to work on it, she aimed to juxtapose heavy forms with the use of negative space to give a linear quality to the pieces. From a conceptual viewpoint, she enjoys the way that the laborious, technical process behind the collection has resulted in finished shapes that are still easy and graceful.
The material palette of the collection stays true to the Douglas and Bec signature of pure natural materials played off against clean lines: American Ash, rattan, brass, reflective glass, powder-coated steel and velvet. Likewise, the colour palette of duck-egg blue, gold, off-white and natural wood, sharpened up with the judicious use of black, was inspired by a seascape painting by Dowie’s great-aunt, Helen Brown, a renowned New Zealand artist.
Arch Vanity Table, Arch Table Lamp and Arch Wall Light
The Arch Collection is now available in store. In early September, Douglas and Bec will move their current Melbourne showroom to 15 Bedford St, Collingwood. As mentioned at the start of the post, the new space will be designed by Rufus Knight whose incredible work has been featured here on TDC before. I can’t wait to see the result of this new collaboration!