Are you looking for sustainable Australian bespoke furniture? Christopher Scott Duncombe, of Christopher Scott Furniture in Longwarry Victoria, 95 KM East of Melbourne, is one of a growing tide of Aussie woodworkers making a name for themselves in the bespoke furniture industry. He is also the kind of person who can send their passion down the telephone line. I connected with him over our upcoming “Working With Wood” event where he is one of the Exhibitors, and as soon as he started telling me the stories of the timber that he has found to create his pieces of furniture, I knew he was a true artist. He told me stories of rescued trees and his love of the woodworking craft, and in our first conversation I learned things about the way timber is harvested and used, that I had not known before.
Christopher creates hand crafted furniture and joinery as one offs or small production. He specialises in solid timber furniture using traditional joinery with modern designs, using mostly furniture timbers Blackwood, American oak, Messmate, Jarrah and Walnut.
All of his furniture is built for life, and a lifetime of everyday family use, which is one of the principles of sustainable design. “Our ideals that furniture is passed down through generations is important to us. The materials we use would be able to grow and be harvested again before our furniture needs to be retired” explains Christopher. Restoring his first piece at 8 years old he, started his apprenticeship in furniture restoration at just 15 years old, and opened the business 3 years ago.
He now has a total of 17 years experience in the furniture industry.
Who are you? Tell us about the people behind the business.
We are a small family business with myself, my wife Lauren and two daughters Emily 5 and Sophie 4 months. Living in Gippsland, in the leafy town of Drouin we initially ran the business from a small studio on our property. Last November we moved to a large workshop in Longwarry. I grew up in the antiques industry and from a young age I spent a lot of time at auctions, markets, estates and most importantly in the workshop with my father. It would be best said that sawdust runs through my veins.
Timber, Furniture and Design is all consuming (just ask Lauren). It was a passion for making things and for quality, which has gotten me to this point in my life – never content unless there is an exciting project going on.
What made you fall in love with the idea?
The antique industry has a lot to answer for. Every piece is different with its own story being older than most of us. I love to know we are starting so many of these stories with our own new piece.
What are your thoughts on sustainability and how is this part of your business and own home?
It can be a very simple idea of use only what is needed, make quality and don’t waste the off cuts/sawdust – the “nose to tail” principle can be applied to so many industries. If one tree is removed for a quality use and 20 trees are planted of the same species, we would never have to worry about sustainability. It would right itself. Simple ideas usually work the best.
Do you have any tips for other people wanting to create a sustainable home?
Save up and buy the best you can afford, quality products you love and look after always bring the most joy over their lifetime of use. Go without or buy recycled/vintage until you can get the piece you lust for.
I always love to create my own designs, smart pieces with a mix of heart and head are a favorite around here. Our Grace dressing table, the Melbourne lamp and Jindivick bed are just a couple that I often think about.
Biggest Challenge in setting up and running your business?
As a bespoke furniture maker I need large machinery and that means a large space. The capital invested before you make the first piece is verging on stupid. Then becoming known as a reputable craftsman is the next challenge. As with all small business, cash flow is hard and materials expensive. This is all before the emotional part of being an artist. It’s a challenge but I love what I do and that’s worth fighting for.
It’s never about what people say, but the body language. If they cannot stop touching the piece, I’ve done my job right. Most people are shocked to find small Australian makers.
Do you recommend any particular materials, processes or ideas for people wanting to create a more sustainable and mindful home?
Traditional solid timber joinery is timeless and will outlast most of us. Buy quality first time and pass it on.
What do you do to relax and unwind at home? No joke I usually design furniture or carve spoons. With a beer and some music of course.
Would you like to share a favourite piece of furniture you have made?
I couldn’t lock it into one piece. But my 360 table is the most functional piece of furniture that every home should have. I always have customers come back to me asking how they had done without one.
Anything you want to add?
We’re really excited about Furnitex this year, we have an exhibition piece coming along and it will definitely be a talking point of the show.
Christopher will be exhibiting at our Working with Wood event with Barry Du Bois and Michael Hayes – you can book here but tickets are almost booked out so be quick! You can also find out more at his website here
Do you have a piece of furniture that has been passed down in your family?