MmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmMmCoco Flip is a multidisciplinary design studio established in 2010 by Kate Stokes who, together with her husband Haslett (also an architect), takes on projects in the creative fields of furniture, interior and graphic design. Taking its philosophy from the Swedish word ‘lagom’, which translates roughly as ‘not too much and not too little’, Coco Flip balances a largely conceptual evolution of ideas with a more pragmatic and technical approach to create products that provoke thought and conversation, engaging their audiences and encouraging an escape from the every day.
The story starts where soon after finishing school, Kate left Australia to travel and subsequently live in Europe. Hardly a surprise then that she cites Danish furniture designers of the 1950s – Hans Wegner and Arne Jacobsen in particular – as being extremely influential in her decision to start her career. Despite such travels, Kate still regards Melbourne as one of the world’s leading design destinations. “It’s a fantastic place to be based as a designer – there is such a strong furniture design community, incredibly talented architects and a lot of design-related events, with the public becoming more and more educated about the importance of design.” When considered as a whole, Kate puts Australia’s creative output down to its lifestyle and how casual the country is compared to Europe, a quality she believes comes through in her designs for Coco Flip. “We celebrate simplicity and natural materials and try to design products that aren’t ostentatious. We’re incredibly lucky to have such beautiful beaches, forests and national parks in Australia, and I find spending time in these natural environments very inspiring. I think of Australian design as fresh, youthful and optimistic. Design is a huge component of Melbourne’s identity, more so than any other Australian city I believe.”
Kate is pragmatic when the topic of design is broached, “Design is simply ideas represented in a physical entity. It is communication. Everything is designed, just sometimes not very well.” It’s this simplicity that makes Coco Flip shine, in terms of results and also ethic. Kate believes that there’s a very fine line between design and over-design, advocating ‘slow design’ as a means of fighting the commercialism that can overfeed supply and demand to produce more and more, quicker and quicker, just because we can. One of the biggest clues to this is the materials she uses for her products – she favours materials in their raw state to convey their natural beauty, rather than mass-produced synthetics. Timber, copper, plywood, brass and wool are some of her favourites, as is evident in the Rocker or the Puku ottoman. Kate reveals that she has recently enjoyed working with a composite material made from fly ash [a waste product of coal burning] and resin; evident in the Bucket coffee table that contrasts a lightweight concrete top with a delicate solid-brass frame, incorporating a ‘bucket’ on one side for hiding unwanted clutter. The table’s form and choice of material references the Austalian modernist architecture of the 1950s, and is one of Kate’s many fascinating design pieces.
In the meantime, Kate continues to work her magic from her Melbourne studio, based in a big, old industrial warehouse in the suburb of Collingwood, to live in what she calls a tiny inner-city apartment in Melbourne’s Fitzroy – “It has lovely big windows to watch the world go by, with some of the best bars and restaurants on our doorstep.”
Though she’s already transfixed the design world left, right and centre, fortunately for Australia and unfortunately for us, it doesn’t look like Kate will be leaving Melbourne any time soon.
Who makes up the Coco Flip team?
The Coco Flip team consists of my husband Haslett, who is also an architect, and myself. Then there are all of the manufacturers and retailers who we work very closely with and consider part of our larger team.
Describe your place of work...
We work in a big old industrial warehouse in the suburb of Collingwood in Melbourne’s North. The space is shared with around 10 other creative businesses. It’s bitterly cold in winter and horrifically hot in summer, but we love it.
Where else in the world could you live in in terms of inspiring design?
I absolutely love both Stockholm and Copenhagen as cities but I don’t know how I’d cope in the winter. I could also very happily live in Amsterdam on a canal boat for some time.
What’s in store for 2014?
We’re looking forward to developing some new products in the new year and slowly growing the business. 2013 has been a very busy year of production for us so we’d like to spend more time designing in 2014 and find time to experiment with some new materials.
If you weren’t working in design, what do you think you would be doing?
It’s terribly boring but all of the other professions I can see myself in are design related in some way; architect, ceramicist, art director...
When will Coco Flip be finally stocked in London?!
We are really keen to begin stocking our products in London, but we need to find the right distributer to work with. Things have been so busy in Australia that it hasn’t been a huge priority lately, but we are on the look out for someone to import our products.
How often do you come to London for your work?
Not often! It’s quite a journey! We were in London last September for a week during London Design Festival and that is the first time I’ve been back since the early 2000s.
What do you think of London as a design city?
There seems to be a lot of interesting work coming out of London at the moment and a very strong design culture. I see it as the hub of northern European design. The access to museums and galleries in London is incredibly inspiring and it must be fantastic to have schools like the Royal College of Art encouraging new design thinking.
What inspires you daily?
People who do one thing well and with a lot of heart inspire me. There are so many wonderful small businesses thriving in Melbourne and I really admire people who build their lives around their passion.
Where do you live?
I live in a tiny inner-city apartment in the suburb of Fitzroy with my husband. It has lovely big windows to watch the world go by, and we have some of the best bars and restaurants on our doorstep.
How do you relax?
We often get out of the city on weekends and head down the coast for camping and surfing adventures. We’ll be spending this Christmas in our favourite beach side town Wye River on the Great Ocean Road. I’ll be reading books, taking some long walks in the forest, swimming, cooking, and enjoying some gin and tonics on the balcony. In the city I love to go bike riding and jogging to unwind.
Discover Coco Flip on the Domus Nova International Guide
Coco Flip; cocoflip.com.au