Established in 2007, Auckland-based father-daughter design studio Douglas and Bec became internationally sought after for its expertly crafted, made-to-order furniture, lighting and artful objects.
The multidisciplinary studio is now known as Snelling. After the elder namesake stepped back to retire, it underwent a complete overhaul and relaunched in July 2021. “Snelling is the grown-up iteration,” says Bec Snelling. “It seemed natural to use our last name, to pay homage to [Douglas] as he departs, and to take it in this new direction.”
Bec herself went through an epic crossroads, both personally and professionally, another catalyst for the new chapter. She was just 30 days into a newfound sobriety when an ember was sucked out of the workshop incinerator and into a highly flammable area of the space.
“The factory burnt to the ground, and I burnt to the ground,” Bec says. “I looked at it as a starting point, not an ending.”
The events allowed Bec to gain a fresh perspective on the business, which came from a drive to create – and make a living out of it. She realised the pressure to perform and grow the brand had taken away from its founders’ original calling.
“We got sucked into this factory void of responding to [the] market; we ended up losing our voice completely,” she says. “We had to unlearn what we’d learnt.”
New Snelling designs are now even less trend-based than before – but the same quality remains, with the company specialising in investments that appeal to individuals seeking an heirloom. It incorporates shades such as bronze green and materials including clear acrylic, glass, brass and dark-grained wood.
“We’re about making beautiful things with authenticity and a story,” says Bec, who still talks of the brand as a “we” despite now being at the helm solo. “[The pieces we make] don’t just come in for a season.”
She’s tapped back into her formal fine art training, allowing this to influence her design technique even further, with each piece offering more than meets the eye and taking inspiration from personal experiences.
Lens, Bec’s first collection under the Snelling name, is a series of sculptural pieces that arose from blind contour drawings of yoga poses – like rabbit and camel – after she took up hot yoga.
Those who practice will recognise the silhouettes in the collection. Each piece blurs the line between form and function, while embodying the meditative practice and its balance between physicality and mindfulness.
A fan favourite so far is the Lens Block Lumen, a warm lightbulb in a transparent rectangular casing that takes its proportions directly from a yoga block.
Continuing with its staged-release collections, Snelling will launch a Lens table and floor lamp in October, and a second collection will drop in early 2023.
Douglas isn’t very good at retirement, though. He’s a “jack of all trades”, the maker of the pair (despite not having formal training), and he continues to make specialty pieces for Snelling, such as the Arch Cane Chair.
“He always says it’s better to wear out than rust out,” Bec says.
The whole outfit has been pared back. Most of the company’s pieces are made by a small in-house team in East Tāmaki, Auckland. This includes an engineer, an electrical technician and an industrial designer, with a few specialised contractors.
Snelling is sold online both locally and internationally, or by appointment at its studio. The bones of the customer base are interior designers and architects across the globe – alongside day-to-day fans (especially in Australia) who can see the pieces in person at exhibitions like Design Show Australia (formerly Denfair) in Sydney this year.