& Haslett Grounds
“We believe in buying less and buying well, and hope that our products bring a lot of joy to people and their environments for many years.”
Kate Stokes is one half of the duo that makes up Coco Flip, a design studio specialising in furniture and lighting design, that was established in 2010. Originally hailing from Perth, Kate was introduced to the world of design through her studies at Curtin University, where she majored in Industrial Design. Following an illuminating experience displaying a piece of her furniture design at Milan’s SaloneSatellite in her final year at university and several years of work experience in creative management, she was awarded a government-funded ArtStart grant in 2010, allowing her to take the leap into starting her own business, which she now runs with husband Haslett Grounds in Melbourne.
Furniture and lighting
Kate saw early success for Coco Flip when their product ‘Coco Pendant’, a piece of lighting design inspired by Scandinavian and Japanese aesthetics, was selected for a number of awards at Fringe Furniture in 2011. Director Richard Munao of designer furniture provider Cult was introduced to Kate’s work through her entry of Coco Pendant into their Design Journey competition, and has since introduced much of Coco Flip’s range of designs into their own catalogue.
IDEA 14 Product Design Category, Winner (Roy Table)
Emerging Designer Award, Temple & Webster / Inside Out
SOYA, Craft & Object Design Category, Highly Commended
IDEA 11, Product Design Category, Highly Commended (Coco Pendant)
New Work Grant, Australia Council for the Arts
Home Beautiful Product of the Year Award, Lighting category (Coco Pendant)
Fringe Furniture 'Best Lighting Design' (Coco Pendant)
Fringe Furniture 'Market Ready Design' (Coco Pendant)
Fringe Furniture 'Best Design for Commercial Application' (Coco Pendant)
ArtStart Grant, Australia Council for the Arts
Quick Response Grant, ArtsWA
Furniture Design Graduate Award, Curtin University
Kate aims to “create thoughtful, considered products that last a lifetime”; pieces that “become part of the family and work in a variety of settings without dating”. Through designing unique pieces of furniture and lighting with an emphasis on simplicity, she hopes to create works that “balance simplicity without being too cold or formal” - a quality, she says, that Danish and Japanese designers have achieved for a long time, and a trend that Australian designers have been following.
Traveling, she says, gives us “a unique ability to change the way we look at everyday things” - and even at times when travelling long distances is too impractical, a trip to the Heide Museum of Art or the NGV provides her with adequate “space to think”.
One of Kate's favourite places to visit – “I love to visit Heide Museum of Modern Art and always leave inspired to create”heide.com.au
Indeed, Kate draws a lot of inspiration from abroad. She states that travel influences a lot of her design ideas - trips to Scandinavia have helped shape her overall design aesthetic, and visiting Japan inspired the “playful character” of her Puku Ottoman.
The Puku's playful shape – Inspired by Japanese cartoon characters.Read more about Puku
Kate’s exposure to nature from a young age helps drive her inspiration, “we did a lot of camping growing up” – “The environment I was raised in gave me a great appreciation for nature and simplicity”. To capture some quiet, occasionally she’ll choose to walk along the Yarra river in Melbourne – “ It’s so important to give your brain space to think – it’s such a busy world we live in and I find I need to give myself time and space to feel creative”.
The Yarra River in Melbourne, where Kate visits to get some quiet time.
Kate cites Australian design contemporaries Henry Wilson, Ross Gardam, Keith Melbourne, Adam Goodrum, Trent Jansen, Sarah Gibson and Nicholas Karlovasitis as some of her main inspirations, as well as international designers such as Ronan and Erwan Bouroullec, and Patricia Urquiola. In addition, mentors such as Ross Hines - owner of retailer Tongue and Groove - and Miles Hull and Howard Cearn at Little Creatures Brewing in Fremantle, where Kate worked as a Creative Development Manager, provided a lot of support on her journey toward running her own design company.
Ross Gardam's range of lighting. Ross Gardam from Melbourne, Australia focuses on hand crafted furniture and lighting.rossgardam.com.au
Sconce Lamps by Henry Wilson for Aesophenrywilson.com.au
Kate's Design process
When designing new products, Kate endeavors not to be tied down by too many restrictions. For her, solid ideas often form from a pattern that emerges through sketches she’s made over an extended period of time - and she always has a sketchbook handy: “good old fashioned pen and paper is always where it starts for me,” she says. Free from the distractions of her studio, Kate prefers to sit down in a cafe with her sketchbook, and draw freely from scratch - a routine she practices regularly. She refers to this process as “slow design” - whilst she takes into account feasibility in terms of budget constraints and manufacturing possibilities, she feels that it’s important not to impose too many restrictions.
When she feels that she’s found an idea worth pursuing, the next step is narrowing it down to a brief: a “mood and tone” is specified, as well as a material and production technique, followed by a “function”. The design is then refined through model making and more sketching, followed by the removal of unnecessary elements. After researching potential manufacturers in Melbourne, the design is fleshed out using 3D modeling and technical drawing, which is communicated to the manufacturers in order to receive any feedback and get an idea of cost. Kate finds importance in the people and materials used in her products, “We work with local craftspeople and always use the best quality materials available to us” and “hope that our products bring a lot of joy to people and their environments for many years”. All that’s left after that is prototyping, and the refinement of details until they arrive at a finished product.
The idea for the Puku ottoman’s design first came to Kate in 2012, following a trip to Japan. Kate set out to create a product “an upholstered product with real character”, something that was “cute and playful” in both its design and functionality.
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