A crowd of designers, guests and industry professionals gathered in Tait outdoor furniture’s light-filled Fitzroy showroom on Thursday evening to see Melbourne-based designer Nancy Ji named winner of the 2016 Mercedes-Benz Design Award by Broadsheet.

Chosen by a panel of judges from Tait, Mercedes-Benz, and Broadsheet, Ji claimed the award for the Lily, a novel tray-table that takes its cues from nature.

Ji was presented the award by Mercedes-Benz’s head of campaign and retail marketing, Emma Longden, Broadsheet editorial director Tim Fisher, and Tait co-founder Gordon Tait. She will have her winning design added to the Tait range, and will be mentored by the Tait team to see it into production.

“I’m just so grateful to be here,” said Ji as she collected her award. “Thanks so much to Gordon and Susan Tait, Broadsheet, Mercedes-Benz and all the people that made this possible. It’s really encouraging.”

When presenting the award, Longden said Ji’s entry was chosen for its originality and striking design. “Her submission really delivered on the brief of enhancing the outdoor living space for exceptional design,” she said. “Her ability to fuse practicality with a sophisticated aesthetic and knowledge of materials was incredibly impressive.”

Tait co-founders Gordon and Susan Tait, who were celebrating the seven-year anniversary of their Fitzroy showroom on the night, were also impressed with the portability of Ji’s table.

“The transportation of drinks and food to the garden to share with friends and family is such a great idea,” said Gordon Tait. “We loved the lily-pad design and the possibility of the different sizes and finishes, meaning the product could be very versatile.”

Also in attendance were co-finalists: Melbourne-based designers Adele Winteridge and Jason Nogoy, who’s modern interpretation of the retro lawn chair impressed judges, and Sydney-based Marcus Piper for his contemporary version of the Lazy Susan. Finalist Joshua Flowers, who was shortlisted for his reimagining of the ubiquitous Aussie barbeque, is currently based in Copenhagen.

“The Mercedes-Benz Design Award really came into its own this year,” said Broadsheet’s Tim Fisher during the ceremony. “What really excited us was the depth of thought that went into the entries we received and the inspiration and ideas behind them. The standard caught us by surprise and was something we were really excited about.”

After the presentation Ji said she was thrilled to see the Lily added to the Tait range.

“It’s amazing to be recognised and have people want to make it into a product,” said Ji. “It gives me a lot of confidence to keep doing what I do. To [be able to] translate an idea into real life, that’s almost as exciting as the idea itself.”

Ji said she was especially excited to have the opportunity to work with an experienced company such as Tait. “They have so much for me to learn from,” she said. “I’m really looking forward to getting to know them as people, as well as how they turned a passion into a sustainable business. Which is what I want to do eventually. I’m just really happy. It’s so nice for the award to recognise little people like me, it means a lot.”

Register your interest in purchasing the Lily table below.

Update: The Lily Tray Table is now available to purchase from Tait showrooms and online

This article presented in partnership with the Mercedes-Benz Design Award by Broadsheet.