We had the pleasure of talking to Charlie O’Donovan from Senkki Design recently about his business and the beautiful furniture he’s making out of his Adelaide workshop.
Charlie and his partner in life and business, Monique, run the business together with an employee and contractors. All of their pieces are their own original designs, and they make them onsite, which gives customers the option to customize.
The business started back in 2007, early in the whole Scandi thing. The name chosen for the business, Senkki, means sideboard in Finnish. The initial business plan was to be furniture restorers, giving mid-century pieces new life. The business and the product was very much a case of right place, right time and the demand for the products they were restoring, outstripped Charlie and Monique’s ability to find pieces to restore. The solution, was to become a maker.
Now for many of us, that would be a massive leap of faith, but with Charlie being a boatmaker by trade, he had all the skills needed to build cabinetry and other furniture pieces.
The fledgling business was off to a flying start, and then they secured a contract to supply Matt Blatt with mid-century style sideboards. They set up a production line, and hired a team. But like many, they were knocked around by replica and knock off products. Replicas imported from offshore soon replaced their products. But along the way, Senkki had picked up lots of press and they knew there was a demand for the pieces they were designing and building.
Charlie and Monique had to regroup. They wanted to stay with the overall aesthetic of mid-century, Scandinavian inspired furniture with its clean lines, so they restructured their business away from the production line to focus on custom made pieces.
The range that Senkki has today still has that same philosophy at its core – mid-century design cues at its heart; pieces that are designed with clean lines and simplicity in mind, fitting easily in to homes, without too much visual clutter or detailing.
Their website acts as a look book for their customers. With 70% of their customers looking for pieces for their own homes, they often find a piece that they like, and then customize from there – a different timber, a slightly different size, or configuration.
Charlie explained that “Our customers enjoy the design process, up to a point! Most of them are busy, so they do appreciate direction”. To make it easy for their customers Charlie and Monique will work with the customer to develop a brief, and then from there will give them different options to choose from. As Charlie explains,
“people enjoy working with Senkki knowing that they are going to get something different”.
And its obvious customers do really value the process, the styling and the craftsmanship as the majority of Senkki’s work comes from repeat customers, and word of mouth referrals.
When we asked Charlie about his favourite piece, he nominated the JP200 buffet. He loves the dainty legs, its proportions, and classic styling. He feels its typical of Senkki’s style – a kind of Japanese meets Scandinavian sensibility.
So where to next for Senkki? Well Charlie’s passion for furniture extends beyond just designing and building.
“I’m a collector, and spend a lot of time at auctions. I really love Victorian and Georgian furniture – there’s just so much detail and craftsmanship in each piece.”
So will we see those influences coming through in the next Senkki collection? Unlikely says Charlie, he sees the mid-century inspired aesthetic staying for a while longer, although he can see a shift toward some Quaker and Shaker inspired pieces.
“It’s an interesting time to be designing furniture” says Charlie.
The range keeps evolving, case in point is the Mod Chair. This is a stand out favourite for us combining a continuous piece of bent metal and leather. Simple, clean lines but very contemporary, and one that is now definitely on our wishlist.
We hope you found this article helpful. If you’d like to take a look at all the custom makers and the projects they are creating then be sure to check out our custom makers section.
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