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Dad & Design - How Fatherhood Marries with Christian Cole's Furniture Practice 

July 23, 2018
Dad & Design - How Fatherhood Marries with Christian Cole's Furniture Practice

Following our May exploration of Inspirational Mums in Design, we thought it only apt to delve into Dads in Design.

When did you start making furniture? Tell us a bit about your story

I started making furniture at age 16 in year 10 woodwork at Balwyn High School. I wasn't academic but I was good at mathematics and that is very important in my industry. I made 2 timber stools using hard wood timber. I absolutely loved it and I knew from that day forward all I wanted to do was make things using timber! I went on to make my parents a few pieces before deciding to leave school at the end of year 11 to take up an apprenticeship with a furniture and kitchen maker. He worked primarily with Baltic Pine and at 19 I built my parents a kitchen. I actually started my own business at age 20 working from my parents garage. It was hard and I didn't really enjoy being on my own every day. I decided to travel around Australia with a mate and because of a severe white tail spider bite I nearly lost my foot and was forced to return home early. Not knowing what to do I was employed in the construction industry for several years working on large commercial jobs as a joiner. It wasn't until I met my wife just before my 23rd birthday I surprised her with some bedside tables when we were courting. She was blown away and encouraged me to return to my passion. We started our business approximately a year into our relationship and the rest is history. Our business is about 18 years old now.

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Were you attracted to working for yourself as a flexible option for rearing a family?

Not really.

When you're 18 and just want to make furniture and some money so that you can surf and travel, rearing a family is not really at the forefront of your mind.

When my wife and I did have a family it was a massive bonus. I did have the flexibility to come home whenever my wife or kids may have needed me. She could work from home and whilst that had its challenges for her it was still far better than having to juggle kids and daycare and long hours etc. It also meant that we could all be together during the day and I could see every little milestone. It's been brilliant from that point of view.

How do you and your partner split work/life balance?

When we were building the business we worked 7 days per week and juggled the kids on the weekends with our showroom being open etc. We always lived literally walking distance to our showroom so that the kids could come and go and we could be as flexible as possible. When we eventually built our own factory it was customised to be a home away from home. Chooks, vege gardens , sandpits and safe large fences. Inside the factory a large lounge room with TV and kitchen. The lines between work and home were very blurred. When we moved to Torquay 3 years ago

we made the decision to never work on weekends. Weekends are now family time and our own individual down time.

Our business meetings are run from our sofa in front of the fire with a glass of red wine. Very early on in our business life we established the mantra that we work to live... not live to work! Work is a large part of our life but we try to make it not feel like work.

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Are your kids interested in what you do?

When they were little they both spent as much time as they could at the factory with us.

They always had their own projects happening and I was quite confident to let them us tools when they reached certain developmental milestones. They are both extremely creative and very good with their hands. Now being 13 and 16 they are more interested in surfing, skating or being the last survivor on some remote cyber island.

Has having kids influenced your design practice?

Yes in the sense that after having kids I became far more practical in my approach to designing pieces. Table edge profiles and heights of pieces.

Our award winning bedroom collection was designed with solid timber, finger jointed curves preventing bruised shins and bumped heads.

Did your own father have an influence on your career or design principles?

My father is a very talented artist. He studied fine art after completing school but ended up working as a school principal until he retired. He is also a brilliant potter. His design principles not so much, but definitely [he gave me] the encouragement to express myself and using my hands.

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What's the most valuable lesson you've learnt from fatherhood?

Patience and that the world does not revolve around my wants and needs.

What's on your wish list for father's day this year?

Hopefully the surf is great and my youngest son and I can have an early morning surf together before coming home and cooking up a big English style breakfast with my eldest son and wife. Truly - I just want healthy kids with smiles on their faces who want to spend time with me.

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Thanks to Christian and Fiona Cole for sharing their family and furniture stories.


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