Balancing creativity with a palette of colour and the juxtaposition of material and finishes, the collaborative works of Lisa Vincitoria and Laelie Berzon forms a strong and inspiring fusion. Their brand, Something Beginning With, boasts a dynamic furniture collection that is timeless in its simplicity and stylistically adaptable for the market.
Words: Jemmah Kelly
Photography: Nicole England
One of the great misgivings many of us face when furnishing our home – perhaps ironically – is choice. From websites and blogs to Pinterest and Instagram, in 2016 there is certainly no shortage of #designinspo as consumers increasingly seekto invest in quality design. But as we all know, quantity doesn’t always equate to quality, and too often we resign ourselves to the ‘fact’ that opting for aesthetic appeal and longevity often means compromising on comfort, functionality, or even the welfare of our environment. Lucky for us, Melbourne-based design studio Something Beginning With (SBW) doesn’t believe in compromise when it comes to unifying functionality with quality materials and finishes, to produce a refined collection of furniture that is enduring and visually captivating.
The brains behind SBW are Designers and company Co-Directors Lisa Vincitorio and Laelie Berzon. With a shared vision to create a furniture range that merged high quality design, visual appeal and local manufacturing, this dynamic duo relish the collaborative process driving SBW, each bringing a plethora of experience, creativity, talent and stylistic flair.
“We bounce ideas off each other like a pinball,” says Laelie. “Lisa is nourished with an abundance of manufacturing experience and knowledge in the industry. I bring to the table a vast understanding of colour, attention to detail from the visual arts perspective and a strong furniture sales background.”
With a background in Interior Design and Visual Arts coupled with a solid grounding of the furniture industry, Laelie adds unique artistic insight to the practicality of everyday items, producing a dynamic furniture collection that has relevance and longevity.
“Growing up I was surrounded by art, sculpture and murals. I started to develop an aptitude for colour and attention to detail at an early age. My grandfather was a major influence and true inspiration. I went against my creative instincts and studied a Bachelor of Commerce at Monash University, which posed a deflated and empty state of mind. Naturally I had to make a change,” Laelie says.
After enrolling into Brighton Bay Art, Design and Photography, Laelie was able to harness her creative skills on a completely new level. She later enrolled into RMIT to study Interior Design where she discovered an affinitive for turning an empty interior into a functionally effective and aesthetically pleasing environment.
“Working in the furniture industry, I always knew that one day I would take the risk and liberty of introducing a fresh and eclectic collection of products tailored towards the architecture and design market. I wasn’t sure how this would occur, or with whom I would take this journey. I just knew I would,” says Laelie.
With twelve years of experience in furniture and homeware design, Lisa Vincitorio made her mark as the youngest Australian designer to partner with design industry heavyweight, Alessi. Her work alongside Alessi received international recognition and won an award at the 2005 Tokyo Designers Block, in addition to a myriad of products in production and supply with Australian distributors; and is commissioned to design furniture for events such as the Flemington Spring Carnival.
“From Year 10 I knew I wanted to be in a creative industry. Initially I thought that would be graphic design but it wasn’t until I went to the RMIT furniture exhibition and met Kjell Grant that I knew I wanted to design furniture. There is something special about creating a functional product that can be enjoyed by its owner as well as be an expression of someone’ personality,” Lisa explains.
“As a designer, being able to translate your personality into a product and have it accepted and enjoyed by someone else is extremely satisfying. Laelie and I decided to create our own brand and distribute our products ourselves because we love to see where things end up and how they are being used on a daily basis.”
In 2011 they did just that, and five years on, they haven’t looked back. Since establishing their first studio space in Collingwood, the brand now works alongside eighteen highly valued and talented individuals in its headquarters, >manufacturing and logistical channels.
“We love Collingwood’s vibe and it’s certainly a great reflection of our business ethos and our diverse and bespoke collection… We feel that having a bricks and mortar location will help to further solidify and legitimise the brand. Now having the amenity to showcase the comprehensive and continually expanding product collection in one space will allow clients to engage with the product,” Laelie explains.
Needless to say, there are many reasons to love SBW’s furniture collection, with each piece staying true to its signature-refined design, exceptional materials and beautiful detailing. Not surprisingly, it wasn’t long before SBW began garnering attention for all the right reasons.
“We’ve been really humbled by the design industry’s response to our wares, which has seen the steadfastly Australian-made designs and high quality products specified in a diversity of project genres by eminent design firms. Arguably one of the biggest compliments has been the specification of SBW pieces in the studios of architect and design firms [and] having a product which is well received and seeing it come to fruition in a public space or commercial installation, with the end user being extremely satisfied with both the result and service provided,” Lisa and Laelie explain.
Within the realms of SBW, both Lisa and Laelie work closely to conceptualise each product. From there Lisa takes care of design development and engineering, while Laelie adeptly manages sales and marketing. There are now twenty-one product ranges in the SBW kitbag and growing. This also provides the freedom for customers to adapt the colour, finish, size or specs from SBW’s existing furniture range.
“Our products are smartly coordinated to offer solutions suited to a wide range of interior situations. Our eclectic mix of side, coffee, dining and bar tables; stools, chairs, easy chairs, ottomans, rugs, storage and more recently a sofa, are designed to talk to each other,” says Laelie.
Each design piece focuses closely on function, simplicity both in form and materials, and importantly, a sophisticated colour palette. In order to cater for its eclectic clientele, SBW offers a plethora of material and finishes across its product ranges, including an assortment of powder coat colours, upholstery and solid timbers.
“We strive to use a colour palette that is sophisticated yet youthful, playful yet considered. We bring to the table a vast understanding and an eclectic mix of understated brights, pale pastels and neutrals,” Laelie explains.
An emphasis on client service from design stages through to on site installation means that the client, the designers and manufacturing team work in unison. While SBW does offer a vast array of standard product ranges, most of its clients take the opportunity to customise a design, even if it’s ever so slightly. The open invitation for clients to work collaboratively with SBW on customisation is a rare and wonderful opportunity.
“When we set out to create a new product we are mindful of our collection, and our clients. We look at what we lack in our assortment and what our clients are calling for. We consider how a new design will sit with the other products in the range, as our intent is to create a concise collection, where different products can sit side by side in a space complementary to each other. When working on a project with our clients, our sole purpose is to facilitate their vision to create a high quality outcome that will encapsulate the SBW ethos,” Lisa says.
SBW offers clients the ability to choose their preferred colour, finish and dimensions along with a leather or fabric of their liking for all upholstered products. Designs such as the Array collection, Oscar chair and sofa, and the Otto family are prime examples of designs that best exemplify SBW.
Another product we’re particularly fond of is the FINN chair. The design is the result of a long development process to create a versatile voluptuous armchair that is both unique and adaptable to a multitude of environments. The base design is constructed from oval tubing, which was purposefully chosen as a shape that would be striking but complementary to the soft curves of the shell. The striking base creates dominance without taking away from the softness in the shape of the shell. The FINN chair, like the entirety of the SBW product range, was manufactured locally in Melbourne. Many of the working relationships SBW has built with local manufacturers have been fostered for close to a decade and they have seen SBW through its conception and development.
“We feel that it is extremely important to foster and support local manufacture for many reasons. It allows us to support this diminishing industry, which still employs many. It also means we can have in-depth involvement in the construction and quality control of our product. We can also offer a customised product to our clients, without a need for mass quantity and with a short lead- time,” Lisa explains.
“SBW is also committed to ensuring our products are manufactured under ethical conditions. Having local manufacturers means we can stay connected with how our products are made, minimising waste and looking after our people. We use timber with Sustainable Forestry certification, use environmentally sustainable, high resilience foam and recycled plastic chair shells for all upholstered chairs.”
Products from SBW’s prolific collection have been specified by some of the country’s most established and innovative architecture and design practices for a wide variety of projects and sectors. Creative firm, Bower Architecture entrusted SBW’s products for the Australian Catholic University project, while the furniture’s adaptability to different design environments has seen its specification for projects by Technē Architects, Woods Bagot, Hot Black Interiors, PTID, Pro Management Group and Studio 103. SBW also work alongside Australian interior designers and architects to provide product, either standard or custom made specifically for their current projects.
“Projects vary but our clientele all have a common thread. They are innovative [and] mindful of their clients to create inspiring spaces that are a joy to be in. Our clients have a natural flare and ability to effortlessly mix beautiful finishes together to create breathtaking environments,” Lisa says.
As you may have guessed, SBW’s namesake harks back to a favourite childhood pastime, ‘I spy with my little eye’. It’s a game Lisa remembers fondly and one that she cites inspired her to use her creativity as a child. “‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with’ remaining a common pastime played as a child to occupy boredom on travels and the like was all about forming a mental picture and using the imagination …
The name resonates in people’s minds, taking them back to their childhood,” says Lisa.
Just as the brand’s name suggests, SBW continues to be a source of beautiful furniture designs that are open to interpretation without any limitations. It is a brand with a vision to inspire by providing a stimulating and refined collection of furniture that continues to grow organically thanks to the tenacity, talent and hard work of two ladies who truly relish the role of designer.
“To be truly alive a designer and/or artist one must be open, curious and courageous and must constantly reinvent oneself. The things that motivate us in life will lead us to do what we want if we are passionate and determined,” says Laelie.
It seems that despite their meteoric rise on the Australian furnishing design scene and the loudening chorus of industry acclaim, both Lisa and Laelie remain focused on creating fresh and inventive product ranges, maintaining strong ties with current manufacturers and clients and fostering new and exciting relationships. The co-directors also have big plans for showroom expansion in various locations. There is little doubt it is simply a matter of time before SBW is a household name in the Australian and international field of design and architecture.