Slow and Steady

Kate Stokes and Haslett Grounds, of Melbourne-based furniture and lighting design studio Coco Flip, happily create at their own pace – always with sustainability and integrity front of mind.

In many ways, modern life is all about going fast. We have communication at our fingertips, whatever we want virtually one click away and it can feel like the 9-to-5 grind never really stops grinding. In the midst of the madness, it takes guts to go one’s own way. For Kate Stokes, co-director of Melbourne-based furniture and lighting design studio Coco Flip, taking things slow and steady is the cornerstone of her creative process – and it always will be.

As a child growing up in Western Australia, design wasn’t really on Kate’s radar. It wasn’t until she was travelling abroad after school that her affinity for design was ignited. Stints working in Italy, Ireland and backpacking across Scandinavia fanned the flames for the budding designer, she recalls: “I remember … going to some of the big galleries in Stockholm and Copenhagen and [having] that feeling you get when you know you’ve found something that you’re really passionate about. I knew I wanted to investigate that.”

And Kate did, finding her way to a product design course at Curtin University after a detour studying architecture. Later, Kate and co-director, Haslett Grounds (also of design studio Grounds Architecture) moved to Melbourne together in 2008. What Kate describes as “a very small seed of an idea” blossomed into the duo launching Coco Flip in 2010 with the “Coco Pendant”, which was met with success. This was no fluke, mind you: “I’m not a big risk-taker so I like to … make sure a product is really wellresolved before it goes to market and then just … release products as we feel we’re ready to,” Kate shares. “We like to [go] at our own pace.”

When it comes to creating their products, Kate and Haslett consider “where it comes from, how it’s made and where it’s going to end up”, often enlisting the skills of other craftspeople and makers in their work. One such example is the Honey lighting range, handmade in collaboration with Bendigo Pottery, Charles Sandford Woodturning & Joinery and glass artist Amanda Dziedzic. “We want to encourage people to buy less and buy well. It’s not about trends … it’s a long-term purchase,” Kate summarises. “While we’re a tiny team of two, we are part of a really big community of our manufacturers, our retailers and the design industry at large.”

Coco Flip’s creations share a defining youthfulness, emotiveness and elegance, while individual collections possess their own unique character and inspiration. There’s the gentle, glowing forms of the Mayu lighting collection, inspired by Kate and Haslett’s honeymoon camping in Iceland. Or the Puku ottomans, which look to the connection between humans and objects Kate noticed in Japan. Their plump shapes also take cues from the titular character in the classic 1988 Studio Ghibli film, My Neighbor Totoro.

Capturing nostalgia is a talent of the studio’s, one that starts with its very name. Coco Flip is named after Kate’s favourite family pet from childhood, a gosling. “It’s a little bit silly!” she laughs. “… It also combines my interest in contrasting materials and introducing something a little bit unexpected to a product.”

Some of Kate’s highlights from over the years include their 2019 Denfair debut and stand (which they designed together and Haslett built himself “over many, many late nights!”), launching the Jolly collection with nau and always, when new products come to fruition.

In this, its 10th year Kate shares that Coco Flip is in “a stage of growing up” and events, range expansion and a rebrand are in the pipeline. Plus, they recently moved to a new showroom in Northcote shared with fellow furniture designer, Plyroom. But as they say, some things will never change, as Kate adds: “And just keep focusing on slow and steady.”

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