The arrival of a new puppy prompted these owners to commission Josh Carmody to create a bespoke multifunctional furniture piece in American white oak which demonstrates what a skilled designer and craftsman can achieve with a complex brief.
Our spaces need to work for us, functionally but also emotionally. In a recent project for a private Client in Malvern, Victoria, Josh Carmody was set a brief to design a space for relaxing, reading, storage and importantly, to house a new puppy crate. A purposeful piece, but by selecting Carmody for this project the owners were making it clear that they also wanted this design to be beautiful and emotionally enrich their living environment.
Carmody calls it one of his most complex works to date. The dimensions of the piece (more than 4 metres in length and over 2 metres in height) meant that he expected it to be labour intensive. The piece was also to be located on the first floor of the Client’s home, so installation was also a critical early consideration.
The design includes floating shelves and wall units for which Carmody had to design a heavy-duty custom hanging system. Machined steel rods and bushings were fitted into a purpose built structural stud wall. The steel dowels fit the stud wall and penetrate the backing panels and into the wall units and shelves to deliver stability. The bushings were designed to ensure equal spacing from the back panel to the wall units. “Achieving this in the workshop is one thing, but dismantling it and making it all fit back together onsite is another issue altogether” says Carmody. The need for minimal movement and the ability to hide any unsightly fixings meant devising a complex system and order to production that maximised accuracy and mitigated the risk of any misalignments from the structural wall. Once onsite, further detailed liaison with the electrician on the project meant that hiding the power for the softly filtering lighting of the back panels could also be addressed. The ceiling, lined to match the back wall, contains a 4-metre LED strip with dimmer control to alter the mood according to use.
In addition to these complex, structural and functional elements, there had to be an equal focus on the design detail in order for Carmody to be satisfied. The bench seat conceals a storage unit adjacent to a further cupboard. The height and depth of the bench surface was dictated by the size of the puppy crate to house the family’s newest member and gave rise to the project nickname of ‘The Puppy Palace’. Each unit was made with finger joints and through-tenons and a tambour door conceals a TV and speaker. Such complexity required a consistent and reliable material and one which had a strong and attractive grain and character to enhance the variety of uses of the piece to an aesthetic advantage. “My Client and I shared an initial concern about too many large flat surfaces made from only a single timber species might be too much of a good thing. I experimented with different timbers and different combinations,” says Carmody of his material selection.
American walnut, cherry and white oak were all considered and proposed by Carmody. Each had the structural capabilities necessary for the project and each brought a different grain pattern and potential palate to the piece. “As the project developed, opportunities emerged where we could express details and accentuate craftsmanship thereby breaking up the clean, flat surfaces with texture, detail and contrast. And we thought the strongest effect would be achieved with the use of American white oak”. Finger joints allowed for contrast between end and lateral grain to be emphasised which added a level of sophistication and quality to the end result. The tambour’s inherent slatted aesthetics has been referenced in the cupboard and sliding doors and again in the backrest to the seating. To achieve this Carmody and his team re-sawed oak into 3mm veneers and 30mm strips and chamfered the longer edges and then laminated them onto the panels. Once laminated the chamfered edges created a v-joint. This resulted in colour and grain variation, even though all the same timber species, adding texture and depth to the surfaces and piece as a whole.
The end result is simply stunning and a testament to Josh Carmody’s patience, tenacity, and artistic vision. It also demonstrates how versatile skills can result in versatile design.
Josh Carmody is a Melbourne based designer specialising in furniture and product design. Having spent his early career working on large scale commercial architecture by day - while making high end bespoke furniture pieces through his own design studio by night - Josh’s design sense is underpinned by his experience working in different scales and mediums on a daily basis.
Through this broad design experience, Josh has developed a considered approach to ideas from the perspective of the designer, the craftsperson, the manufacturer as well as the end user.His products have netted him multiple awards, and the opportunity to display works around Australia and the world, most notably in New York, Milan, and Amsterdam.
To find out more about American hardwood species visit https://www.americanhardwood.org