Christian and Fiona Cole featured in The Journal of Furnishing, Fabrication and Design – Furnishing International Magazine Winter 2013 edition.
Christian and Fiona Cole have been making hand-crafted timber furniture for 14 years. Both are immensely passionate about the origins of timber and the life of the tree that is embodied in each piece. Christian Cole Furniture has been awarded many times including the 2012 Furniture of the Year Best of the Best Award.
Christian is in a league of his own when it comes to craftsmanship skills. In fact, the couple have trouble finding fully qualified furniture and cabinet makers who have the required skill sets. “We’ve had people come to us as fully qualified cabinet makers who get stressed and actually leave because they’re challenged too much. They don’t have the skills, and they don’t know anything about the timber,” says Fiona. “We’re very passionate about the craft,” she continues. “So we need to take on apprentices because they need to be trained in the school of Christian Cole Furniture.”
The business both designs and manufactures products for architectural commissions, custom made and production pieces which they retail from a small showroom in Brunswick, Melbourne. “The first two are done purely to pay bills, to feed our family,” says Fiona. “The third is more for Christian’s own artistic outlet and fulfilment. He’s a craftsman and an artist. He loves to be able to make his own pieces.”
Through architectural commissions, Christian’s work can be seen in high-end, high-profile places. Projects the company has been involved in include the door jambs at the redevelopment of the Great Southern Stand of the MCG and the refurbished Wynns Coonawarra cellar door where a Christian Cole table sits pride of place. “Our pieces advertise themselves and they’re everywhere,” says Fiona. “And we’ve grown really organically, it’s been a lot of word of mouth.”
However, Christian and Fiona sought out the architectural commissions strategically due to their larger scales. “It’s a lot easier in a lot of ways because everything is given to us, all the plans, and we just follow those directions,” Fiona explains. “There’s definitely more money in big architectural jobs for us.”
As well, one of the strategies that has helped the business weather the recent financial crisis has been to safeguard their timber supplies. “We’ve always bought our timber in advance and stockpiled it to self-preserve for the future,” Fiona says. “So we’ve got timber that is seasoned and ready.”
For the future, the business is looking to the export market. “What we would like to do is sell maybe 50 pieces a year to a beautiful high-end shop in Shanghai,” says Fiona. “And we can do that with just four staff. And that would be great for us.”