Tane Design, launching at Design Made Trade

Tane Design are one of the groups I am keen to see this Friday at Decoration and Design. They officially started in June 2012, when Gary Pennington quit a full time design role to follow his dream of starting a design studio, specialising in the development of commercial furniture. The first ten months were spent designing new products for display in the emerging designers section of the Milan Furniture Fair, April 2013. The Australian launch of the Tane Design studio will be at this year’s Design Made Trade, exciting!



The unofficial launch was in Gary’s head 14 years ago, when he graduated as a “wide eyed Industrial Designer”. Gary has worked in many varied roles, soaking up experience from each, including in-house furniture design developer, Industrial Designer at the Adelaide Zoo, several design agencies, lecturer of design at Universities and Tafe institutions, web designer, and exhibition designer… the list goes on! He is talking with us today about the upcoming official launch and his beautiful designs. 

The name Tane Design has a beautiful history; can you share this with our readers?

On a trip around New Zealand in 2003, I came across Tane Mahuta (God of the Forest) a giant kauri tree in the Waipoua Forest of Northland Region and was instantly struck by the size and significance of the tree within the forest. Personally it was a great experience being so close to this ancient giant, very humbling, making me realize how insignificant and relatively short our time as human beings is on this earth.

The name ‘Tane’ just felt a good fit for a business with strong ethical values. We are not claiming to be ‘Gods of the forest’ but are trying to do our bit!

Tane Mahuta - image via Wikipedia

Tane Mahuta – image via Wikipedia

Tane Furniture Design was formed through a strong desire to be part of a sustainable business producing designs that don’t compromise on quality, materials or excitement. Can you explain more to us about what this means and what is your design process to ensure you meet these things?

Everything we do within the company and indeed our personal lives needs be questioned. Is this item necessary? What impact will it have when I come to dispose of it? How can I make it better, with more responsibly selected materials that have less impact on our natural resources?

These sorts of questions are not immediately easy to answer when you think of them on a global scale, but when you start to break them down and think about “what can I do”, they become more manageable. This is where the furniture design studio fits into the market; we are a small company with the ambition to make a big change. This change starts with the smallest things, which might seem insignificant but as we all know ‘God is in the detail’.

Groove Chair

Groove Chair

Do you work alone or in collaboration with other local designers?

I would say collaboratively-alone! I’m currently a ‘one man band’ but I’m trying to build strong connections within Victoria. One example of this sustainable design community, is my connection with Ink and Spindle, they produce fantastic hand printed designs on organic cotton and hemp fabrics which I use for my Re-Loved collection of vintage furniture.

The goal for the business is to expand and start to employ like minded designers; a recent grant from the Melbourne City council will hopefully accelerate the time frame.

When did you become interested in this philosophy of sustainability and why? What drew you to it?

I would say I’m a late bloomer and really feel even though I’ve been involved in the design industry for nearly 15 years that I’m at the start of my sustainable career. During nearly three years at the Adelaide Zoo as their in house Industrial Designer I really became tuned into environmental issues and how I could use my design skills to influence what is happening in the wider world.

This experience really cemented my desire to make a difference through the work that I love; design and creating.

Groove Kids Stool

Groove Kids Stool

You say that when you start to break the questions around sustainability down and think about “what can I do”, then they become more manageable, how do you think the every day person can do this when making choices in their home decorating and design? 

I think questions before you make the purchase are essential… How long will this last? If I pay $50 more will the product last me 30 years instead of 3? What will happen to this product once it is broken, damaged or worn out? Where has this product been produced?

These kinds of questions often result in a more expensive answer but with a bit of foresight overtime the choice will be cheaper and more beneficial potentially to your health and the environment.

What is your main goal and hope for your work and the way you design?

The main goal for the studio is “to make things better”; in whatever shape or form this takes! Even if we can influence just one person to think differently about design and the items they surround themselves with we will be on the right track. My hope however, is that I can influence many people to think differently.

Sustainability is the main under-pining of everything you do and is what underpins Recycled Interiors; can you describe the process from the start to end of designing a piece of furniture? To give us some concept of how this works?

The pieces that are set to be release at this year’s Furnitex exhibition, are mainly self funded and all very different. The designs were chosen to be developed for different reasons and to appeal to different markets but all with a sustainable underpinning. They are designed to display the company’s ethical approach to design in the hope to gain contracts to design for like minded manufacturers.

The ‘Groove’ range for example started off as a prototype designed and developed for an exhibition at the Adelaide Zoo. After seven or eight revisions to the design it has developed into the range consisting of chair, children’s stool and lamp. The whole process can take many months; from sketch pad, I take the design onto the computer then into the workshop, then back to the sketch pad, computer and repeat this process many times over. Some designs come very easily and just work others need a little bit of TLC to tease the best out of them.

I always know when I have nailed it though; it is a feeling like no other that you can’t explain you just know that what you have come up with is the right solution.

I LOVE your Re-Loved collection of refurbished mid-century furniture! Can you tell us about the process for “re-loving” these pieces?

The process for Re-Loving the vintage furniture is not for the faint hearted, it usually takes a lot of time and patience. The pieces that you can see on the Tane Reloved website are there to show what I can do (you can also purchase them), so that clients can approach me with their broken and battered but beloved furniture and hopefully I can help get them back on the straight and narrow!

Depending on the project, it might mean stripping the wooden frame of a thick varnish (usually applied to hide something!) and stripping fabric. The wooden frames are brought back to life with a lot of love and various oils, the seats and backs re-upholstered in Ink and Spindle fabrics or customers own choice.

Groove Lamp

Groove Lamp


What do you hope for with your work? For example do you aim to inspire other people to think about the way we use materials in our everyday life? Do you want them to be drawn to the beauty or functionality of a piece?

I’m currently in the process of opening up a new space, in which I aim to get the community involved in thinking about materials and the products they surround themselves with, by having a go at making their own furniture. In this way I feel a greater connection will be made between owner and object which will hopefully lead to more fixing of products and less on the nature strip after a year or two of use.

The focus of Recycled Interiors is to encourage people to think about how we furnish and decorate our homes – to consider beauty and art in design and at the same time environment, sustainability, ethical practice, recycling and impact on other people and our world. What do you think about the “Ikea-isation” (my word!) of our interiors?

I’m going to sound really hypocritical here (as I currently have my Ikea desk lamp switched on!) but I am as guilty as many on occasions, it is so easy to get sucked into the ‘fast food’ way of purchasing furniture, the ‘Ikea-isation’ as you put it! We might think… ‘well we are only going to rent for a year or two so let’s just go to Ikea and buy everything in one hit at a cheap price’, it’s an easy trap to fall into and as I say I’m also guilty. A great alternative in our sometime transient lives is cardboard furniture, Karton offer everything from beds to desks produced from recycled cardboard. A perfect solution for short term leases, after use it can go into the recycling bin and start a new life. 

I think we all need to look at ourselves and think more about our purchasing decisions, how will it affect local community, environment and economy? What are the alternatives? (Note – we have all purchased in a non ethical or sustainable manner Gary, me as well! I agree. I think it is about going forward as sustainably as we can but not trying to make people or ourselves feel guilty when we step outside of this! – Helen)

What is a favourite piece/s you are creating right now and how do you see your pieces fitting into contemporary interiors?

I’ve actually just finished a range of seating and lighting called ‘Groove’. The furniture is produced from cardboard sections and bamboo frames. The products are inspired by exploring the alternative use of everyday materials. The nesting design ensures there is minimal material waste in the production process. The cardboard sections can be easily removed, recycled and replaced.

Even though the material choices are alternative the design is very contemporary and would fit very well into modern interiors with an ethical twist.

Groove Lamp

Groove Lamp

Jive by Tane designs

Jive by Tane designs


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