How great design can elicit joy and defy convention

Apr 24, 2020

Nicole Bittar



Furniture, contemporary lighting and objects designer Ross Gardam’s inspiration is  sustainably sourced wood. “If sourced correctly, timber can be seen as the ultimate renewable,” he says. “We use sustainably sourced timber in all our pieces.”

These include custom designs and a new range of timber pendant lighting that will be unveiled and available for purchase from October 2020. The shapes and grainy, textural appeal are as beautiful to see as they are inspirational in their design.

“Timber is a material I like using, because it becomes more than the sum of its parts,” Ross says.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication from both a creative and aesthetic perspective. “The texture of the grain in isolation is enough to define an object,” he adds. “This means you can use it in a more disciplined way to great effect.”

The natural beauty of wood as a design feature is always used in fresh and surprising designs at the Brunswick, Victoria, studio and showroom: and ultimately, in the finished product.

“I like to use timber in unexpected ways,” Ross says. An earlier range of wood-based pendant lighting shows Ross’s design ethos and distinctive approach to craftsmanship. “We first developed the Oak pendant light in 2012 and, at the time, there were no other timber lights on the market,” he says. “We worked through design and technical issues to bring it to market. The product was our most successful product for many years.”

The duality of original design and visual appreciation is a process that is the basis of his production values. “At the heart of the product is a celebration of the individual variations in timber grain,” Ross says.

A preference for desirable timber types is evident in Ross’s work and recent output, but respect and responsibility for native wood sources also emphasise and enhance design impetus to inspirational effect.

“Oak, walnut, rock maple and blackwood are some materials that I have recently worked with,” he says. “However I usually select timber based on the product requirements.”

With client demand ranging from custom lounges, chairs, tables and lighting to handcrafted objects, adaptability is the key: “As such, Tasmanian timbers are always desirable.”

But this is not to say that timber is necessarily a forgiving or flexible material to craft. “I find timber challenging to work with,” he says. “I often have an idea of how it will behave. However, it usually surprises me.”

Ross’s new lighting range is an example: “The timber lighting we are currently working on uses advanced five-axis computer numerically controlled (CNC) machining. The process places a piece of walnut on the machine and a complete product can be created after half an hour of machining. The surprise factor is the transformation of the timber, that I can appreciate as a block of timber, but that is so different to the delicate, fluid form that emerges from the machining.”

“We use a lot of American white oak as it is readily available and relatively predictable to work with,” he says. The popular Oak Pendant and Half Full collection use this timber to show the natural beauty of the wood.

The simple pleasures of creating, producing and owning a handcrafted, renewable wood-based piece are combined for both designers and owners in Ross Gardam’s business mantra of “experiential objects that elicit joy and defy convention”.

Photography: Haydn Cattach