Leaps and Bounds

A winning combination of foresight, skill and sense stands kitchen manufacturing company Cantilever in good stead.

A clear vision and thorough understanding of design integrity has seen this small local business expand into a sought-after service to both architects and self-managed clients all over Australia. The team at Cantilever in Melbourne has developed a canny knowledge of diverse and changing requirements for Australian families, along with a deep respect for how good design can squeeze the most out of any project.

Company directors Charlie Wilde and Travis Dean were both independent furniture makers and members in a local communal workshop/factory/ studio along with a group of like-minded creatives.

The collaborative environment of painters, ceramicists, guitar makers and other furniture makers resulted in natural collaborations between them; however, the projects were getting bigger and bigger and their exasperated accountant suggested they form a company so there would be only one set of books. In 2006 they formed Cantilever and set about honing their skills, concentrating on kitchens.

With a deep respect for individual client’s requirements – whether they were using an architect or overseeing the project themselves – Travis and Charlie saw the opportunity to offer a range of systems to help with decision-making. They decided to move out of the shared space and get a factory to give them room to create their vision.

In 2010 they designed the first of their kitchen systems, the K1. This system was the result of years of searching for solutions and testing materials and suppliers to get the best quality and a good price. They collaborated with local manufacturers on laminates and because they were using these proven materials for each job, it meant that they could get the most from each sheet and really minimise waste.

Using the same suppliers for hardware and timber creates support for everyone involved. Surety of supply plus surety of work means everyone feels supported and helps keep costs low – which in turn means surety of more projects.

With the room to move and the experience to know exactly what it was trying to achieve, Cantilever was able to install a mezzanine for a planning department, a showroom and then front-of-house consultants joined the team. Kylie Forbes came on board as business manager to oversee the running of the business, giving Travis and Charlie time to focus on products.

The company was able to realise its dream of being able to offer clients a really full and comprehensive service. Each project is carefully considered, made-to-order and fully hand-built in the workshop before being carefully wrapped and sent off to the job. “There are perpetual problems and classic solutions; materially, physically. A handle needs to open a drawer, a door, and it needs to fit a hand. These problems have been resolved again and again,” explains Kylie.

Cantilever’s relationships with specialist manufacturers and suppliers mean that stone work, sinks and appliances are included in the off-site set-up which ensures quality control for each project – they make sure that everything fits together snugly before they send it off.

After the success of the K1 range, Cantilever went on to design another two systems to add to the range, K2 and then K3. Using the tried-and-tested skeletons, Cantilever’s further designs built on the K1, each system holding a basic design aesthetic to work within – inviting clients to incorporate individual colour schemes and surface finishes. Enduring and adaptable design is central to the Cantilever philosophy, elaborates Kylie: “I see designing for longevity as a perspective, a way of ‘seeing’ that can be translated … if we recognise our endeavours are attached to a longer, deeper history. I think this perspective brings depth and excitement – it doesn’t take it away.”

In 2018 Cantilever launched its first collaboration with a new system called Tableau. Working with Melbourne design firm DesignOffice, Cantilever matched its extensive knowledge of working systems with the silky skills of this design company. Tableau is sleek, each component designed to perfectly complement the next.

All good design seems sensible and so obvious in retrospect that it belies the true measure of thought and work that is required to achieve it. Cantilever’s systems are the highest example of considered, collaborative design. Testing and fine tuning is inherent in its methodology, as is seeking advice and expertise from specialists. It is a very clever company.



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