Tell me the story of how Mr Bigglesworthy came to be?
The history of Mr Bigglesworthy definitely centres around Dan, who has always been a collector. It started early with pretty harmless collections like antique bottles and coins. He was very dedicated to the cause, crawling under houses to find rare and unusual bottles with cool markings. Each object connects to a time. We love that designed objects help people to engage with history.
After university Dan became interested in modern furniture design. He liked Storkline chairs (still a website staple) and bought 70 of them from a Scout hall. From $7 a piece to purchase he was sometimes selling them on TradeMe for $120 each. That was a different chapter that's closed now but it was heaps of fun finding and selling things really quickly with no overheads! People still tell us they remember the furniture he sold from his flat. We got a bit over it with TradeMe though. It was quite stressful trying to sell an expensive Danish sideboard which wasn't perfect because it's vintage and trying to take care of the whole sales process with limited communication. It didn't make sense to keep trying to do things that way. We wanted to create a brand which offered a considered series of experiences from an online store to a physical space and designed communication material.
Dan setting up his babies for a photo shoot.
Choose your all-time favourite piece from a New Zealand designer (whether you own it or not).
Dan - The Contour Chair by Bob Roukema for Jon Jansen.
The first time I saw this chair I wanted to own it. It's inspired by the Featherston chair but it's such a unique interpretation. I like it better actually. Featherston chairs are quite rounded and happy but this chair has more of an edgy look which appeals to me. If a Featherston chair is a cloud shape, the Roukema interpretation is a stealth fighter plane. It's more masculine and sharp.
The Jon Jansen Contour Chair. New Zealand, I love you.
Emma - Backhouse Dining Suite
We have eclectic taste but we do collect pieces by Backhouse. Our dining suite has the 1960s corporate modernist look about it with an exaggerated edge on the short end and chairs inspired by Danish firm Moller. All of the Backhouse pieces are pretty fabulous actually - almost always in teak. We have a Grete Jalk sofa by Backhouse too which we've put into black leather. She's definitely a favourite designer of mine.
Pieces by Backhouse. Argh, I'm getting all patriotic over here. You?
Have you been lucky enough to meet any of the designers whose work you love?
We'd definitely love to meet more mid-century designers! Most of our favourite designers have passed away sadly. We do get to connect to the ideas that they had through the furniture that they created and the details we pick up from original owners. There are some possibilities for contacting designers we admire - Backhouse is still going in Wellington, Michael Payne is another leading light based in Wanganui and we've purchased an Eames Lounger and Ottoman recently which was originally owned by Ray Reesby of Nova Interiors in Wellington.
How do you think New Zealand furniture design and the design community has evolved since the 50's?
Early on, New Zealand was a conservative audience in a remote country. Most manufacturers followed international trends rather than develop new designs. In spite of that, there was still a unique and talented few which emerged like Garth Chester or John Crichton, who produced work which was up there internationally. Now we have more of a history to build on and specialised designers creating for manufacturers and consumers willing to take more risks. Of course, it's still challenging to sell large quantities to a small audience, but people like David Trubridge or Tim Webber are excelling on the world stage, speaking with a more sophisticated New Zealand design language.
An original advertisement for Airest, and an stunning Airest piece restored by Dan and Emma.
What was the last thing you saw that really inspired you?
We'd been hoping to see 'The Visual Acoustics of Julius Schulman' for quite a while when it popped up at the Architecture and Design Film Festival. It was amazing to see this elderly guy still able to achieve such amazing images and speak with such conviction about his ideas in his 90s. All these now-famous architects like Richard Neutra had created their work but he caught it on film. Schulman popularised modern design to the masses and brought the architecture alive. That inspires us - it was creating a new imagined reality for people.
Ah, G-Plan. Let's be really close friends.
What's next on the Mr Bigglesworthy journey?
We're inspired to create as well as restoring and reselling. We'd definitely like to create furniture ourselves and keep learning. It seems like there are heaps of places in the home where cool furniture isn't an option. Either it's a price issue or otherwise the choices don't offer anything appealing or modern. There are also plans to create more opportunities and events in the design area.
Mr Bigglesworthy's gallery in Mt Eden. Go and see them, they're the loveliest people.