Feature Interview

Form Follows Function - Solid Timber Door Furniture by TIRAR

Sydney, NSW, Australia

The threshold has long been recognised as a place of significance in architecture and interior design. For TIRAR, founder and designer Felice Carlino, the act of entering a space begins with the tactile experience of opening the door – the hand grasping the handle receives all manner of sensory information that forms the initial tangible opinion of the space to be entered.

An interior designer by profession, it was the understanding of the importance of this first impression, combined with his keen love of detail, that prompted Felice to found TIRAR, an elegant range of Australian-made solid timber door furniture.

TIRAR door pulls in the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.

The Walnut Lever in the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge. Photography by Michael Wee.

Working in interior design for the past 30 years, including several years as a project director at Woods Bagot and eight years running his own practice Sumu Design, Felice has been involved in a number of of high-end projects locally and around the world. Exceptionally detail-oriented, he says he became accustomed to modifying existing products or working with manufacturers on custom products to achieve the perfect finish for a particular project. ‘I’ve always been very technically-minded on the interior design side, so I’ve always designed products to get the solution I need’, he says. It was natural, therefore, that when he was unable to find the right handle for a project, Felice would design his own. What began as the search for a timber door pull with no visible metal fixings became the Tirar range of solid timber door furniture, developed over the past four years.

Styling by David Harrison.

The TIRAR solid timber door furniture is highly tactile, providing an immediate sensory experience.

For something so ostensibly simple, the handles and levers in fact respond to a wide range of needs, both aesthetic and functional. The name ‘Tirar’ is derived from the word ‘to pull’ in Felice’s family’s Italian dialect, and the name captures a sense of the active nature of the products – they are not merely a static aesthetic object, but something to be used and experienced. For the initial design, Felice created a shape that he was happy with visually, and which felt right in the hand. ‘People don’t think about the highly sensory aspect’, he says. Timber is comfortable, smooth and warm to touch, and also conveys a sense of strength and solid materiality. TIRAR work with small local craftspeople to achieve the refined, elegant forms. ‘Our aim is to find the people with the best skills, small makers, not necessarily the big names’, says Felice. ‘It’s about tapping in to local talent.’

Felice Carlino, interior designer, and founder of TIRAR.

Styling by David Harrison.

The designs are also created to be functional from an installation perspective, and to have a long life in-situ. ‘Any problems I’ve had in my projects with product installation I’ve ironed out with the TIRAR designs’, he says. With Felice working on the interiors for the Qantas First Class Lounges, Qantas Singapore and Hong Kong Lounges, and the Qantas Chairman’s Lounges in Brisbane, Sydney, Perth and Canberra, high quality was a priority. TIRAR sourced a hesso spindle from Switzerland and worked with local manufacturers to make a brass unit for the lever’s screw housing. This internal mechanism allows the products to be incredibly strong, while hiding all metal from view.

The TIRAR products are incredibly strong, and the only solid timber door furniture available on the market.

Developing TIRAR while also running his interior design practice, Sumu Design, meant it was a slower iterative process. The care and time that has gone in to the designs is clear – each is exquisitely crafted, beautifully balanced and understated yet luxurious. The response at a recent trade fair in Europe highlights the rare and coveted nature of the products. Italian and Japanese designers in particular (both countries renowned for their design, quality and attention to detail) were extremely enthusiastic with the simplicity, quality and style of the TIRAR range. This response, and the level of interest from stockists in Europe, the US and Asia, highlights Felice’s pride in Australian design and manufacturing – ‘TIRAR is Australian, designed and made for the world’, he says.

The TIRAR handles showcased in the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge.

Styling by David Harrison.

As an interior designer, Felice understands the need for customisation and diversity in the range. TIRAR currently offer custom timber options, and have begun working with Axolotl in Sydney to offer custom patterns. Meanwhile, the next generation of products are currently in the prototyping phase. A range of handles for cabinetry in timber and marble is planned for release by mid-2019, and door pulls and levers in metal and marble, a range of bathroomware and coat hooks are all in the works. Felice is also passionate about creating disability-compliant products, which, at present, tend toward the utilitarian with little consideration for the aesthetic or sensory aspects of the design.

Photography by Michael Wee.

With these exciting plans underway and the current range receiving such acclaim locally and internationally, the future looks bright. TIRAR’s success shows the appetite for design that is grounded in the maxim of form follows function – deeply considered, aesthetically beautiful, highly ergonomic and tactile.

A timber TIRAR towel rail in the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge bathroom.

Photography by Michael Wee.

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