Cantilever is a design-focused manufacturing business in Brunswick east that is known for their beautiful hand-crafted kitchens and custom joinery. Their use of high quality and hard-wearing materials are carefully curated and ethos as a brand is environmentally aware. Each Cantilever kitchen presents as simple, elegant, and playful and speaks to a vast array of interior styles making them timeless and adaptable.
We recently caught up with Creative Director Kylie Forbes to talk more about where Cantilever began and their most recent creation EDIT with Australian-designed and made furniture brand Kett.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you came to design bespoke kitchens?
I have worked with Co-Director Travis Dean, who is also my life partner, at Cantilever since inception. We share the responsibility of the business as Managing and Creative Director, respectively. For me, the responsibility of running a company is a deeply value-driven, challenging and interesting way to live. With a background in Fine Art, I have been continually surprised at the grounding the Sculptural Spatial practice I developed; provided for my path. The business began in 2006 and my role evolved from Business Manager to Creative Director as I took more responsibility for the creative arch of the company, including the oversight of marketing, product and interior design. I have loved the evolution of my career at Cantilever, I would never have guessed this would be my destiny. I love the tangible impact our work makes on our clients' lives, the intricacy and creativity required to execute projects; the bounce of the ball between boundaries is never the same.
We have a unique design offer, that is product led. Our breadth of product group caters to our client's varied aesthetic, material and price point perspectives. Each Kitchen System is defined by its own design language, material collection, and detailing. For each project, we apply the design language of the selected System to meet the architectural, functional and design values of the space. This allows our projects to meet a highly resolved design language and consistent quality outcomes. The evolution of the products has taken a divergent path. Our motivation for being a product led business came from the desire to create reliable, robust, fit for purpose and aesthetically resolved Kitchens. With refinement possible only through repetition and material confidence only through testing, the pursuit of a design classic emerged. As designers/makers we create through material exploration, the seed of inspiration though is often the pursuit of a feeling, the creation of mood.
Do you have a favourite system, and do you have one at your own home?
I’m currently waiting for my next Cantilever kitchen, having moved to a new home. I must admit, I’m feeling a little impatient! Travis and I are in the process of planning our own renovation, which does suffer the neglect of our attention, in comparison to our clients! We haven’t pinned down all the details, but EDIT is likely our direction, I love its suppleness! Though to say it is my favourite would be unfair. I love the diversity of application across our product group, and the ability to connect with the aesthetic of a client and flex to meet their needs. Our values of design for longevity embrace the possibility of a design classic, I love the thought this can be met from varied viewpoints.
You have previously said that collaboration is an inherent part of the Cantilever business model and called this the “complete loop design”. How is collaboration woven into the Cantilever story?
The design and construction industry is at its’ best, highly collaborative. The network of trade and design professionals required to execute projects of any scale is without compromise. It is only strong communication; and a bird’s eye view of how one’s own work intersects with the success of another that allows a deepening of knowledge, and seamless results. Likewise with product development. We have developed strong manufacturing and trade relationships that allow the expertise of the myriad material and custom elements that create a Kitchen to cohabit together, repeatedly.
Our service model mimics similar principals, which encompasses the design, manufacture, and installation of our joinery, hence the ‘closed loop system’. We value this approach, as it retains and deepens the knowledge of our team, connecting each of the steps in a chain that feeds back into our product development, which ultimately improves the product for our clients and our design knowledge. The process also offers a high level of accountability for our clients, and detailed support for project trades, which is something that we, and they value. Creating beautifully designed and executed projects is what we want to do.
EDIT Kitchen by Cantilever Designed in collaboration with Kett
Your most recent kitchen system ‘EDIT’ was in collaboration with Australian furniture brand Kett. How did this project differ from your previous ones, and how did the collaboration influence the end result?
We say EDIT is a meeting place, for memories.
When Cosh was designing their new Showroom in Richmond, they were inspired by the concept of meeting place and wanted to create a showroom that felt like a home. As a part of this concept, they invited a selection of complimentary design brands to share their products in the showroom settings, illustrating the design possibilities. You simply can’t have a home without a Kitchen, and we were invited to participate, alongside Rakumba Lighting.
The story of connecting our inside and outside lives is one that Cosh Living have explored through the introduction of their inaugural in-house brand Kett Furniture, and the launch of their Inside / Outside furniture range. Executing a distinctly Australian design offering, the design studio collaborates with craftspeople from Australia, Italy and Indonesia to produce furniture with a timeless quality and technique. Headed up by Justin Hutchinson as design director, we took the opportunity to work together on the development of EDIT, tailored to feel at home amongst Cosh’s brand family.
EDIT Kitchen by Cantilever Designed in collaboration with Kett
Working with Kett has given us at Cantilever a renewed sense that we are experiencing a shift in awareness toward Australia’s design industry strength, capacity and influence. We hope it is a testament to a growing sense of our collective confidence to impact; to acknowledge our unique and valued heritage; place in the world; and influence on its future.
The language of EDIT is drawn from the meeting of curve, and line. Born of a design process reminiscent of a tide, a process tracing possibility and reduction, and repetition, to create refinement. It is inspired by the concept of meeting place, expressed through detail, and form.
A photographic series has informed the texture, colour and form of EDIT, capturing refined materiality in a finely balanced palette array. Inspired by Kett’s design approach, and influence of the unique character of our Australian landscape, EDIT harnesses natural stone, steel and ceramic bench material, veneer and solid timber touchpoints, waterbased finishes and glass.
EDIT is a kitchen inspired by place, material and craftsmanship.
Timber and natural stone detail of the EDIT Kitchen in the Cosh Living Richmond showroom
Kett has partnered with Cantilever to manufacture the Frame Living System, and the soon-to-be-released Frame Office & Bedroom. The Frame collections use a product Evenex, which is environmentally friendly & locally made. Can you tell us more about what it’s like using materials like this?
We have enjoyed our involvement in the evolution of Frame Living System, it is a beauty! I am especially excited to see the release of Frame Office & Bedroom, the materiality and detailing Kett developed are stunning, with the characteristic refinement of functionality. Evenex is a great material to work with, it displays strong consistency of colour and pattern, and requires no additional finishing, which makes it production friendly. Australian made, from pure wood fibre sourced from managed forests, it also has an E0 rating, which means the glues used to create the board have no formaldehyde, unlike other board products. The colourways achieve an exceptionally realistic ‘timber look’ - hence easy to complement with additional or existing furnishings.
Cantilever celebrates plywood, as seen in the amazing K3 system which highlights the edge layers as a design feature. Can you tell us a little more about the use of ply in your designs and other materials Cantilever loves to work with?
K3 Kitchen System is our third child, born in 2014. The development of the product responded to our growing interest in plywood as a material of conscious-design credibility, through its cross-laid character that enhances the structural integrity of the otherwise soft plantation timber. Prone to bowing, we explored approaches that would stabilise the material. The outcome combined plantation FSC Birch plywood, which provides the best integrity and strength, locally pressed in high-pressure laminate to create the custom board finish that defines the design language of the product. Testament to our ethos of Design for Longevity, it brings together material durability, fabrication integrity and longevity of style; key strategies that improve the sustainability of our products.
K3 Kitchen system refined our use of laminate on ply, expressed by the square cut out handle, finished with lacquer and sanding, by hand. The material expresses a playful nod to mid-century modern, the pared-back design of the square cut out handle harnesses crisp clean lines, exposing hints of timber warmth. We have recently released a curated palette group that extends the product from its white and timber classic to a series of colours; combined with locally made coloured concrete benchtops by Hatch Concrete. The series is called Forage + Find, testament that it is only those that seek, that find.
A ‘local mindset’ is the productive centre of the Cantilever spirit. Wherever possible we design and make our product using locally sourced materials, often designing alternatives to imported products for local manufacture. An example is our exploration into the production of our own Sink and Handles, which are made in Thomastown in collaboration with a local stainless steel fabricator. The product celebrates local manufacturing skillset retention, with each piece made by hand, rather than mould-pressed from thin sheet metal like mass-produced sinks. It regularly surprises people that it is locally made, it seems our culture has forgotten we can make things ourselves.
Sustainability and local production are some of Cantilevers' core values. As a small business in Brunswick, how do you prioritise these values in a world fuelled by mass production? What are some of the biggest challenges small businesses face while providing sustainable products?
The key influencer in our ability to control our impact is our choice to be a product based business. This decision enables a strong hold on the appropriateness and source of the materials and finishes we are using, the reduction of waste on an economy scale, and the specification of best-available hardware that we know works. Custom joinery, by comparison, is bound to work with whatever an architect, builder, client or interior designer specifies. In our experience, this leads to more wastage, less assurance of design function, and decreased accountability along the chain. I guess we wanted to create an alternative, for our business, team and clients, prioritising source, reduction of toxicity, and fit-for-purpose design. The challenges we face are communicating the value of our approach in a price-driven industry, where concepts of design for longevity, and investment in quality are marginalised. That said, we are seeing a growing like mindedness emerging amongst the industry, which is catching up to our client base, and is very satisfying.
Cantilever's Brunswick East Workshop
Lastly, Wanda and Shelf are versatile display systems that go beyond the kitchen. Is Cantilever moving to other areas of the home? What can we expect next?
Yes! We have been offering Whole Home Joinery solutions for some time now, which has seen the development of our Product Systems to cater every room of the home. When teamed with our Interiors Service, we are designing whole home renovation projects, enhancing the integrated aesthetic of the Cantilever design language.