Like many creatives in 2020, the pandemic was a double-edged sword for Nick Rennie, Dustin Fritsche and Brett Julian – the co-founders of Alphington-based furniture studio, Oku Space.

On the one hand, it completely disrupted all the work they had lined up for the foreseeable future, and denied them access to their studio spaces for months at a time. On the other, it made them think about how they could work together.

The trio had been sharing the same workshop out the back of the Darebin business centre for years while working on separate projects: Nick on designs for his studio, Nick Rennie; Brett on cabinetry for residential and commercial clients; and Dustin on pieces for his brand, Softer Studio. But the upheavals of last year made them see what was right under their noses – plenty of Nick’s prototypes with nowhere to go, and two cabinet makers with manufacturing capacity but little work to get on with.

They pooled their resources and started Oku Space, which officially launched this week, with an impressive debut collection of eleven designs. Focussed entirely on timber, this first range of products spans everything from storage to seating. Of the elven designs, the OS1 Stacking Chair is a clear staple piece with its clean lines and versatile shape.

Among these everyday pieces like bedside units and dining tables sits a few non-traditional designs, including the Rakii coat rack and the Kooii cabinet – the latter of which you might recognise amongst the finalists in the Furniture Design category of last year’s TDF Design Awards!

‘We chose to focus on solid timber, to both make use of our expertise but also so that every element can be made by us in our factory in Melbourne,’ says Dustin, explaining the combination of traditional joining techniques with modern practices and tools they use to produce the finished products. ‘We try to be as efficient as possible, but there is also value in one person taking a piece from start to finish.’

By using responsibly sourced timber and local manufacturing to create their designs, the Oku Space ethos is naturally small footprint.

‘The idea that something has been designed and manufactured with a considered approach towards creating a beautiful, functional object, while using honest materials,’ says Dustin. ‘It’s this thinking that we hope resonates with people.’

The first collection of Oku Space designs is available to order now. See more here.

From left: Soba side table, Hikoi table, Sunni side table and OS1 chair. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

The OS1 chair. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

The Oku Space team. From left: Nick Rennie, Dustin Fritsche, and Brett Julian. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

From left: OS1 chair, Soba side table, Hikoi table. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

Inside the Kooii cabinet. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

The Kooii cabinet – which was a finalist in the Furniture Design category of the 2020 TDF Design Awards. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

The Perch stools. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

The OS1 chair. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

Rakii coat stand. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

Kakudo bedside table. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

The OS1 chair. Photo – Victoria Zschommler. Styling – Nat Turnbull.

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