Interview and introduction written by Amy Snoekstra
Plyroom’s latest furniture piece, the Slow Bed, has been four years in the making. Director Elise Heslop has been through many iterations of the design over that time but points to the events of 2020 as really clarifying her ideas for the bed.
On the eve of the launch we sat down in Plyroom’s sunlit Northcote studio to talk about the latest addition to the Plyroom range.
Why did you want to design a bed for the Plyroom range?
I wanted to focus on something locally made and designed and something that had the ethos and the philosophy of Plyroom imbued into the product from the beginning.
It symbolises how I want our business to be. It’s local, it’s small, we’ll have a relationship with our customers, it’s not just a transaction. I think that old fashioned service element is embodied in how this bed has come to be and also the way in which we’ll offer it to our customers.
Can you take me through some of the design elements of the Slow Bed?
The Slow Bed is designed and made locally. It has a low profile so it doesn’t dominate small spaces. The bed has the option to have a bed head or take it away depending on where it sits in your space.
On the whole, it’s been designed to take all the unnecessary detail away. So we tried to just strip away everything, even where the product joins are, everything is concealed to maintain visual simplicity.
The only real detail element that’s added to the bed are the legs. They’re a different material, we’re using Tasmanian Oak. They’re designed to almost look as though they’re floating around the edge of the bed.
It’s a bit of a nod to the day beds from mid century design. I do have a bit of an obsession with day beds, even if they’re not always the most practical piece of furniture, I just love them.
How long have you been working on the design?
The Slow Bed has been in the works for about 4 years. I really wanted to have them made locally, so many of the other iterations of the bed just weren’t going to work.
I would have loved to get on the tools myself but sadly that’s not a part of my skill set! So the next best thing was working with people I trust.
Can you tell me about working with your local production partners?
It’s been a great process working through the various elements of the design and construction of the bed with them. They’re a small, family business that’s been around for a long time in Melbourne.
I can see some crossover with other pieces from Plyroom. Can you talk me through how the Slow Bed fits within the range?
This bed is continuation of some of the design principles that we applied in the Shibui collection. It’s a similar profile. I think it’s clear from some of these gestures that the Slow Bed is part of the Australian Plyroom product family.
It’s designed to be cohesive and work with the other products that we already have. So whilst someone might not deck out their house with every piece of our furniture, it could definitely work with products we’ve designed in the past.
We like to have products that easily sit alongside products that we released five or seven years ago and I feel that the Slow Bed achieves this.
I love the contrast between the two timber products you’ve used. Can you talk a bit about the materials you’ve chosen?
I really considered the materiality of the bed. I chose to use two different timbers that I think hero each other really well. There isn’t one that dominates. They both bring something to it in terms of how they look or what they offer in terms of structural stability.
Rather than using the architectural grade birch ply on the exterior and then just using pine slats or something similar internally, we’re using pressed birch ply for the slats as well. Some people might argue that this is not necessary but I like the simplicity that you’ve just got the one material. Birch ply is incredibly strong and you’ve got the stability and structural element that comes from that material as well.
I love the contrast between that beautiful clean, buttery look of the birch against the more textured and rich tones of the Tassie Oak.
What is your approach to adding a new product to the Plyroom family?
I want to keep things really simple. With the business, but also with the range. My belief is that you don’t buy a piece of furniture and then a few years later you get sick of it and you put it out on the kerb and then go and buy something else that’s going to last two years. Like anything you buy to last, you think about it, you sit on it, you roll it around in your mouth and see if you like how it tastes. And if it works then you commit to the piece that you really love rather than the piece that will do for now.
I think it’s important to stop and think about the impact you’re having on the world, on the environment. I try to do this personally, too. I mean, I’m not perfect but it’s something I’m conscious of and that is echoed in the way that I design and the way that I curate the products that we have at Plyroom.
With people spending more time than ever at home, has the role of design for furniture pieces changed?
Yes I think it has. I think people are want their furniture more to be more flexible, more adaptable to changing situations, especially after the last 12 months! There has definitely has been a shift. I notice it when people come into the showroom. They spend more time and think each purchase through. They’re considering how they’re going to use it. There’s been a shift away from buying something just for how it looks.
I think with people spending more time in their home, they want to be surrounded by things they love and things that are really functional.
And finally, how did you decide on the name ‘Slow Bed?
The name was suggested to me. It was partly based on last year. It felt like time just stood still for 6 months in Melbourne and obviously with the stress and the worry and everything else that went with last year there were also some really nice things that came out of it. The fact that there was a lot more time to spend at home and not be rushing around. It made me stop and think about how I want my home to feel like on a daily basis, not just in the midst of a pandemic!
I explored a few other names that referenced Danish design masters of the mid century. But I wanted the name to be really simple and self explanatory, kind of like the product.
Images by Amy Snoekstra