Dan, Prue & Anthony of TUCKBOX

Words by Mel Hasic & Aidan Anderson
TUCKBOX - Designer Profile Image - Melbourne North, Australia

Dan de Groot, his wife Prue and brother Anthony came up with TUCKBOX during a long lunch at the end of 2013. They took on a workshop space in Melbourne’s north that allowed for their designs to come to life. TUCKBOX celebrates the locally sourced materials and resources they’re surrounded with in the manufacturing suburb of Campbellfield. At the studio, they produce furniture, custom pieces and experimental prototypes- all with simple, thoughtful design in mind. Dan comes from a background in industrial design and has over 20 years experience in Australia as well as Europe- where in the UK he worked for an architectural firm designing furniture, signage graphics and branding from retail and hospitality clients.

In 2008, Dan and Prue moved to Melbourne in what was a turning point that saw Dan take a break from the office and start work on his own designs. Dan and Anthony design the entire TUCKBOX collection to ensure that all pieces are sourced and crafted sustainably.

Gather Table - Designed & Made by Melbourne-based TUCKBOX - Dining & Multi-Purpose Table - Photo Gallerie Images

Tell us about your design studio; where are you based and do you have a signature style?

Our workshop is based in Campbellfield, in the northern manufacturing belt of Melbourne. Anthony, Prue and myself have been here for three years now. Our designs have a strong graphical element or idea and a lightly engineered structure. We like our work to be minimal, and only add parts when necessary.

Klein Stool - Low-Stool Designed & Made By Melbourne-based TUCKBOX - Gem or Lozenge Shape - Image For Gallerie

What was the inspiration behind the TUCKBOX collection and how did you incorporate this into the design?

Our pieces are made from timber, metal and leather, really honest materials that can be turned into interesting things. I like having lots of these materials around the workshop to play with and we try to experiment with them whenever there is a spare moment.

Do you have any specific techniques that you apply to the design process?

There’s always something new to try. It’s hard to describe without sounding silly but the more we work and experiment with these materials, the more we’ve come to regard them as characters with their own little quirks and personalities. Experimenting is a big part of our design process, that and lots of creative pondering, talking and drawing. Put me on a deserted island and I’d be happy with just a sketchbook and some pencils.

MJ Hallway Console - TUCKBOX - Melbourne, Australia - Furniture Design - Image 1

What’s your favourite aspect of being a designer/maker? Are there many challenges?

We design and make almost every element of our pieces from the ground up, without incorporating off-the-shelf solutions. That means we tinker and produce a lot of our own fixings, cushioning feet, brackets, sleeved connections and everything else. Being a designer and actually creating my ideas- right down to the details- without compromising is really enjoyable. The biggest challenge is finding a way to make some of the more difficult designs.

Place Coffee Table - TUCKBOX Furniture Design - Meblourne, Victoria, Australia - Photo Gallery Image

What are your inspirations when creating new pieces? Do you have a favourite designer that influences you?

I find inspiration in simple, rational solutions to design problems. Nature provides the best examples of simple solutions with elegant results. I think inspiration also comes from a broader creative base and how the arts mix with technological development.

I enjoy listening to Glenn Murcutt talk about his designs. That intuitive ability he has to understand people and the environment. His houses capture simplicity and elegance in such a beautifully humble way. Other designers I’m a fan of are Christopher Boots and Supermundane.

How do you see the furniture design industry right now, are there any shifts or changes that you’ve noticed? And how do you feel mass media and social platforms are influencing the furniture industry, or even your own designs?

The industry looks really rich at the moment. There’s a growing interest in finding new and unique designs. Our audience is now international and we could never have really effectively reached that far before without social media platforms. Designers and makers can easily reach a customer now and the industry is really vibrant because of it. Copying is still a big issue but it’s reassuring to see the Authentic Design Alliance working on this one.

Klein Stool - Low-Stool Designed & Made By Melbourne-based TUCKBOX - Gem or Lozenge Shape - Image For Gallerie

How important to you is the relationship between furniture and interactivity?

I like the subtle suggestions designed into furniture that hint at their use. Sometimes a handle can be replaced by a slight groove or change in texture at the edge of a drawer front. A backrest on a chair can be shaped to comfortably wrap your fingers around to push and pull from a table. It might be the material; leather, which wants to be touched; timber, which wants to be used in and around dining tables, steel; cafe and outdoors. Materials, shapes and details all provide ways of hinting at the way we can interact with a piece of furniture.

Our surroundings have a really big impact on the way we act and how effective we are. We naturally fall into a state of mind based on our direct surroundings, be it relaxed, aware, frustrated or excited. Understanding this allows us to find or make places that can be far more purposeful for the activities that we engage in.

MJ Hallway Console - TUCKBOX - Melbourne, Australia - Furniture Design - Image 2

What materials do you enjoy working with and why?

Timber, metals and leather offer a lot of flexibility to work with. We can experiment with loads of different production processes and finishing treatments without the need to leave our workshop. Even in their raw form, these materials are wonderful.

How does manufacturing locally affect your design process and final product?

Local manufacture means we can control the development and production standards for all of our pieces from start to finish. It allows our designs to be more readily modified as we progress through testing and the finished products are all the better for it.

Truss Table - TUCKBOX - Victoria, Australia - The Local Project - Custom Design - Image 2

Why is furniture important to our daily lives?

Good furniture makes sense in its context, providing order, efficiency and comfort to our lives. Adding to that, well-designed pieces can add a little man made beauty and inspiration to our daily routines. I also like the way furniture can be used to bring natural materials into a space and inject a feeling of warmth. This material thinking finds its way into some of our design work.

Place Coffee Table - TUCKBOX Furniture Design - Meblourne, Victoria, Australia - Photo Gallery Image

What can we expect from TUCKBOX this year?

Working on a few new pieces to release later this year, we are really excited to be feeling a bit pregnant with ideas and possibilities…!