Sydney-based designer Tom Fereday was named the winner of the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Design Award on Wednesday evening, at a ceremony at the new Mercedes me concept store in Melbourne.

Now in its third year, the competition’s panel of judges saw a record number of entries. Responding to the brief calling for a design to enhance the dining experience at home, inside or out, Tom Fereday was awarded the prize for his SIA chair, a slim, solid ash-timber and stainless-steel composition with articulating backrest.

Fereday’s winning design will now be manufactured and sold by industry-leading retailer Cult Design under the guidance of the company’s founder and director Richard Munao. Munao will now mentor Fereday through the manufacturing process along with Mercedes-Benz senior manager of product and strategy André Dutkowski, interior designer George Livissianis and industrial designer Adam Goodrum (who’s work is also sold under Cult’s NAU collective). Goodrum was also responsible for the trophy designed especially for the 2017 event.

“Thanks so much to Mercedez-Benz, Broadsheet and obviously Cult Design for creating this opportunity,” said Fereday when receiving his award. “And a big thanks to the mentors for their time improving the product.”

Munao praised all the entries when presenting the award. “I think at the moment there is a movement [in Australian design],” he said. “When you look at the entries, I think it would be fair to say, from a mentor’s perspective, that Australian design is in good hands.” Munao praised Fereday for his winning design. “We loved the combination of solid timber and a metal-framed chair, and the beautiful brass component in the back that gives it adjustability when you sit on it,” said Munao. “His whole presentation told a story really well.”

André Dutkowski of Mercedes-Benz said Fereday’s SIA chair goes beyond the everyday object. “Tom is definitely the well-deserved winner of this year’s competition,” said Dutkowski following the announcement. “He’s designed a beautiful chair. What we loved about his design was he provides a new solution to an everyday problem.”

All four finalists were in attendance. Melbourne-based designer John Grant for his stainless-steel Japanese-inspired flatware; Canberra-based designer Rene Linssesen for his SOLA outdoor coffee table with built-in, removable serving board; and Sydney-based architect Dan Layden for his environmentally conscious HU chair.

After receiving the award Fereday said he was most excited by the chance to work with four leading designers. “The opportunity to actually dissect and ask questions that you would otherwise not really get the opportunity to is really interesting,” Fereday said. “I think for me that’s probably the highlight of the whole award: to be able to be mentored by these leaders in the industry.

The potential for his product to feature as part of Cult’s range is a global opportunity said Fereday. “[Cult’s] known in the industry as being a really outward-focused brand. They sell not just within Australia but look to sell overseas. For any aspiring furniture designers like myself, that means the potential reach is really amazing. To work with Cult and their new brand NAU opens doors that might otherwise have been difficult to achieve. It’s an extremely good opportunity.”

As part of his prize, Fereday will be flown to Stuttgart, Germany to visit the Mercedes-Benz Museum for a closer look at the company’s history and design innovation. “It should be really interesting to see how the company approaches product development and design on a different typology, of cars.”

In the short term, it’s Mercedes-Benz that will be the early beneficiaries of Fereday’s design. “We will definitely buy these beautiful chairs for our Mercedes me store,” said André Dutkowski.

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This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Mercedes-Benz.