Local Manufacturing: Al + Imo Handmade – The Start of a Journey

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Scrolling through Facebook one night, I came across a post on the Melbourne Creative Network from a start-up furniture company looking to work with some photographers for their upcoming projects. I jumped onto their website to investigate further and was stunned at the quality and creative nature of their work. This was my discovery of Al + Imo Handmade, and now that you’ve discovered them too, you’ll want to find out all that you can!

Don’t worry – look no further, I took the time to ask them some questions as they embark on the start of their exciting new journey.

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Words: Catherine Falalis
Photography: Supplied

“It all started around a year ago, we were shopping for a bed frame and couldn’t find something we loved within our budget,” says Imogen – (the ‘Imo’ half of Al + Imo Handmade).

“Al is a carpenter so we thought, why not make our own? The day came that we were going to build the bed, and Al was so hungover! We got up and went out to select timber and he spent the day building our bed (the Gummy Bed). He was sick as a dog but at the end of the day he turned to me and said ‘that was the best day’s work I’ve ever done.’”

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Gummy Bed

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Gummy Bed

It was in that moment Al and Imogen knew this is what Al needed to be doing. They were lucky enough to be asked by Al’s parents to make a bed for them right after their own was complete. This was the inception of their ‘Square Bed’.

“From there, it all happened quite quickly! At the time we were living in a share house in Elwood, Melbourne, so we started to think about moving,” explains Imogen. There was no way they could afford to rent an inner-city house with enough space to create furniture. Not wanting to move to the suburbs, they looked to the Surf Coast.

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“We also didn’t want to be the annoying neighbours always using power tools so when we found this little farmhouse in Freshwater Creek, we knew we’d found our new home. We’ve been here since September and the tree/sea change has been unreal for our creativity, health and productivity. I truly believe our move has really started to help shape our essence as a brand. As we discover our new environment we’re developing our aesthetic and learning new skills,” she says.

Square Bed

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Square Bed

Their life motto is one I believe we should all live by – ‘If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right!’ Certainly, this shows within their work, as Imogen explains that it’s important for them to document the process alongside the finished product – the handmade process being what truly excites them!

So where do Al + Imo source their inspiration? Imogen says it’s a combination of what the clients want out of their custom piece, and ideas spawned over a meeting, usually over coffee or email, with many inspo images being thrown back and forth. Of course, requirements such as storage, or the consideration of being kid friendly will be taken into account and then Al + Imo work together to create a design that suits the client.

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“We’re at the age now where friends are moving into their first homes and wanting a special piece of forever furniture. It’s really cool to see the process from; inspiration – design – make – delivery – install – smiles – Stoked!” explains Imogen.

“The best thing about this is we’ve been able to make things we would never have considered designing ourselves, every piece we make shapes our style. At this stage our overall style is custom furniture, beautifully crafted by hand with locally sourced materials.  If you’re happy, we’re happy!”

Ply Coffee Table
Ply Coffee Table
Bookshelf
Bookshelf

Principles of good design according to Al + Imo Handmade:

  • To suit the purpose of the owner.
  • Quality locally sourced materials.
  • Handmade beautifully.
  • Aesthetically in proportion to fit the space it’s moving into.
  • Easy to put together (most of their beds only require a handful of screws!).
Timber Slatt Bed
Timber Slatt Bed

One particular design gaining quite a bit of attention online is the Bookshelf Bed. “The bookshelf bed was a creation of many emails, sketches and walking around our living room with a tape measure, pretending to get in and out of the bed,” says Imogen.

Bookshelf Bed
Bookshelf Bed

“The brief was to be eco-friendly and have lots of space for books and shelves for plants. The bed is made up of four ‘bookshelves’ which create a large platform for the mattress to sink into and is made up of a mixture of delicious recycled timbers which are locally sourced. We had an absolute ball making this bed! A big thanks to Kyle and Jimmy for supporting our little dream of building furniture by the ocean.”

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Al + Imo have been experimenting with all sorts of materials, from recycled timbers to plywood, and the Gummy Bed in particular has incredible posts reclaimed from a factory. They are currently in the process of making a dining table with legs made out of old train sleepers which they’re very excited about.

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You may be wondering what plans they have over the next five to ten years, and at the moment, while they both still have their day jobs, Al as a carpenter and Imogen a marketing executive, we have a sneaking suspicion that this is soon to change. “The first dream would be for Al + Imo to become our full time jobs. Second, we’d love to create a full collection and have an exhibition.  We’d then like to build our own home. Who knows what will happen? Our goal for this year was 1 piece of furniture a month but we just received 8 orders over two weeks! If it keeps growing at this rate, we’d have to expand! I think we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing and having fun and see where it leads us!” says Imogen.

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Al + Imo would love to hear from you if you have a project in mind as they are always on the lookout for new and exciting opportunities. Be sure to get in touch with them today should you wish to discuss your own creative custom project.

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