First Look | A Coastal-inspired Collection by Kett
The Australian-inspired ‘Portland’ collection by Kett for Cosh Living celebrates an equally rugged and beautiful place where the land meets the sea.
Kett design director Justin Hutchinson bases his creative philosophy around the significant impact of ‘locale,’ and his furniture brand Kett, unique to Cosh Living, continues its brand identity focused on “inside looking out”. Since its inception in 2017 by Melbourne-based designer Justin Hutchinson, Kett Furniture has been characterised by an inherent appreciation for Australia’s distinctive landscapes, from the eroded coastline to the ancient forest; Kett has always aimed to bridge the gap between consumers and the natural world around us.
In an exclusive conversation with est, Melbourne-based Justin talks us through his latest ‘Portland’ collection. We explore how the ‘essence of place’ inspired the new range that encapsulates the narrative of the southwest maritime township of Portland, Victoria. Adopting the organic shapes found along this unique shoreline, solid timber and gentle curves feature widely across dining tables, seating, and a series of refined coffee tables. ‘Portland’ by Kett is available exclusively through Cosh Living.
You have a long-standing collaboration with Cosh Living, which has led to several prolific collections under the Kett brand. How did your latest collaboration ‘Portland’ come about?
Justin: I have always been fascinated by the history of places – the numerous stories, narratives, myths, and legends that shape our cultural identity. Portland happens to be the oldest European settlement in Victoria, and it holds continuous threads to the Australian identity. These threads, which we subconsciously interact with daily, are informed by our resourceful and resilient pursuit of a better life.
I was intrigued by how this place has evolved, from idyllic terraformed ponds teeming with eels and fish, as managed by the traditional custodians, to a whaling town and eventually into an industrial hub of production. The ‘Portland’ collection references and explores these historical relationships through form, colour, and materials, marking a moment of reflection in our furniture.
The makings of a timber, Arc dining table by Kett in their locally-based workshop.
The Arc dining table by Kett showcases a sweeping organic form inspired by the Portland landscape.
“It is undeniable that the landscape serves as a guiding beacon, helping us navigate toward safe harbors, both figuratively and symbolically.”
– Kett Design Director Justin Hutchinson
The natural landscape of Portland, Victoria served as inspiration for the new collection.
How have your designs for Kett evolved over time?
Justin: We aim to identify how people interact with their surroundings and what distinguishes modern-day home living from 50 years ago. One example is the Frame Living System, designed to address the need for improved technology integration and ease of assembly and disassembly. Another example is the Portland Arc dining table, delivered in parts and assembled into a generous dining table. This ensures it can be conveniently transported via lifts or narrow entry points into homes, even those with more confined spaces.
With an increasing number of people embracing apartment living, a relatively new trend in the Australian concept of home, we have observed certain lifestyle changes as a result. Our furniture is designed to be more responsive to these changes while maintaining an unwavering commitment to quality craft and timeless design.
The Kett design team in their Melbourne-based studio.
When developing a new furniture range, what is your design process?
Justin: Our design methodology is disciplined and chaotic, influenced by the perspectives of numerous creative individuals. We analyse and attempt to weave numerous small ideas and experiments into a cohesive whole. Our objective is to transform our current thinking into products that transcend the sum of their parts. I view myself as the primary advocate while motivating all those involved to discover something more profound. The furniture represents the culmination of this journey.
What were the main sources of inspiration behind ‘Portland’?
Justin: Through the mind’s eye, I attempted to visualise a time when life was more responsive to the rhythms of daily existence – a restrained approach to crafting simple and precise objects, enhancing our daily rituals. Undeniably, the landscape is a guiding beacon, helping us navigate toward safe harbours, both figuratively and symbolically.
A local craftsman shaping the beginnings of a ‘Portland’ furniture piece in Kett’s Melbourne-based workshop.
The Portland coffee table by Kett is available from Cosh Living.
Honouring a sense of place is important in many of your designs for Kett. Can you talk a little more about why this Australian location was influential to your ‘Portland’ collection?
Portland boasts an intriguing history, characterised by its distinctive natural features and, more recently, its role as a centre for industrial production. While it may not conform to the typical picturesque notion, it holds equal importance in terms of shaping the materials we depend on in our daily lives – materials such as paper, aluminium, wood, and leather.
Celebrating the integrity of materiality in your designs is a recurring focus in each of your collections. Can you talk more about why using honest materials is important in the ‘Portland’ collection?
Honest materials are essential in creating timeless pieces. However, we have begun to explore contrasts by introducing new lacquered finishes. While our collection is dominated by our love for timber, watch for our next interpretation, which will extend the narrative from indoors to outdoors.
An Australian-inspired design board located in the Kett studio.
Your designs are crafted locally with a strong focus on sustainability. Could you talk about your relationship with local Australian artisans and the production process with this in mind?
Justin: We view longevity, with designs that transcend fads and fashion, as the ideal approach to ensuring the enduring appeal of our collections. While local craft plays a pivotal role in our development, so does our commitment to seeking the finest producers. This dedication to quality ensures our products can be cherished and passed down from generation to generation.
What do you often consider to be the most overlooked element in crafting a new furniture product?
Justin: The most overlooked aspect of any good design is the joy it brings to the creator. Good design should consistently challenge people’s skills and reward them for their pursuit of excellence. To live well is to cherish this pursuit of excellence; celebrating the artisan is an inherently human instinct. This principle is reflected in the great European cities and explains our deep affection for the emotions these cities evoke. It holds true when we stroll through nature, tantalized by its beauty.
Lastly, is there a furniture piece within the ‘Portland’ collection that you’re most proud of, or that you feel best represents your design philosophy?
Justin: Strength through curvature was a design principle that served as the foundation for numerous successful furniture design projects during my time as a lecturer. It is remarkable how a simple curve shapes the form and provides structure to relatively fine materials.
Imagine a piece of paper that remains soft until you fold it along a ‘spine,’ instantly transforming the material. This principle established the physical parameters for the collection, guiding us in minimizing material usage while delivering exceptional strength and value through reduction. This is most evident in the Arc dining table.
“While local craft plays a pivotal role in our development, so does our commitment to seeking the finest producers. This dedication to quality ensures our products can be cherished and passed down from one generation to the next.”
– Kett Design Director Justin Hutchinson
Designer Justin Hutchinson sketching out designs in his Melbourne-based studio.