There are a lot of details to take in at Robert Plumb’s new Waterloo store: the clean, angular lines of metal-framed sofas; the beautiful simplicity of natural-wood dining tables and their matching benches; the plants in pots so enormous, it beggars belief that any pottery wheel could be that big.
An eagle-eyed visitor might notice the most unassuming piece: a stepped-brass garden-hose hook hanging on the wall.
Most people don’t think much about garden-hose hooks. You need to hang your hose, you go buy the least offensive hanger you can find at Bunnings.
“Typically these products are designed around the manufacturing process. Whether it works well or looks nice is irrelevant,” Robert Plumb co-founder William Dangar tells Broadsheet. “We come from a different perspective. We’re interested in the aesthetic, then we work backwards.”
That approach to form and function is obvious in the store. Peachy terracotta breezeblocks demarcate the polished cement floor space, and timber pool chairs, dining sets, barbeques and outdoor seating are gathered in little vignettes around the room.
Although many Robert Plumb creations could be described as “investment pieces”, a lot of thought has gone into the longevity of the designs, which are both robust and classically stylish.
“We use similar materials and keep finishes common so if you bought something five years ago, you can come in for a new piece and it will fit with what you’ve got,” says creative director David Harrison.
Sometimes the designs are deliberate, and sometimes they come about through what Harrison describes as “luck” but is probably just good design instinct.
“Sometimes as a designer you create a product that’s limited [in its uses]. [But] the 50-millimetre flat-bar frame in the Ribbon range seems to work with anything,” says Harrison. “[It’s used for] a chaise, armchair and sofa. Because of the way the metal wraps, we can use it in other pieces, like tables.”
Many of the pieces around the store are by Robert Plumb (which gets its name from the plumb bob, a weight that was the precursor to the spirit level), but there are also companion items from other designers, including metal sculptures by Caroline Duffy and ceramics by Katherine Mahoney, both based in Sydney.
When Broadsheet visits, a delivery man is wrestling a series of curved, hollow modular furniture by Swisspearl over to one side of the room. As he places each one, it becomes evident that they fit together in an undulating, elegant line.
Originally designed in 1954, the cement, limestone and cellulose pieces appear hard, like smooth stones, but the curves of each seat are ergonomically perfect and suit the minimal aesthetic of the Robert Plumb brand.
Sustainability is another important element of Robert Plumb. Dangar describes a bench he remembers from his parents’ farm.
“We had this Cotswold bench in the garden. When I was a kid it was 80 years old, and it’s still around today. This is the stuff you want to spend your money on.”
He points to a long wooden table. “This is functional, elegant, and in 40 years it’s still going to look good. It’s sustainable by default.”
Shop 8/18 Danks Street, Waterloo
Mon to Fri 9am–5pm