Melbourne-based Dowel Jones is a furniture and design company we’ve been long-time followers of, due to their approach to good quality design coupled with a sense of fun, alongside with their engaging attitude towards social media.
We are excited to add the Big Friendly statement lounge and armchair to the Pampa offering, designed and produced in collaboration between Australian designer CJ Anderson and furniture makers Dowel Jones.
We talk with Dale Hardiman and Adam Lynch, co-founders who started Dowel Jones in a bid to create a furniture and design company with a sense of playfulness and an attitude of anything but ordinary. We also gain insight into the creative process behind designing the Big Friendly from designer CJ Anderson.
Dowel Jones | In Focus
You met at university, what inspired you to embark on creating Dowel Jones together and how has Dowel Jones evolved since its inception?
We were only 19 and 21 years old when we first talked about starting Dowel Jones, so as the company has grown, so have we as we’re now 33 and 31. The impetus for starting Dowel Jones was that as we were finishing up our studies at university, we came to the quick realisation that there weren’t many jobs in what we were interested in doing. 10 years ago, the local furniture and design industry was a lot different, as it was pre-social media and the access to promoting your work to millions of people digitally. We never thought that naming our business a pun on the Dow Jones stock exchange on a whim that years later we’d still be going by that name!
Tell us about your relationship with CJ Anderson and how your collaboration came to life.
In 2020 we began our now annual design competition called Design From Home. Its purpose was to keep people feeling creative during lockdowns, and in 2021 CJ submitted the design for the Big Friendly. We had met CJ before and knew he was a great designer, so we called him right after receiving the submission and asked if we could make the design. Due to lockdowns, it took around 2 years working with CJ and our upholsterer to prototype and finalise the design of the Big Friendly.
You inject a sense of fun into your pieces and collaborations, while still keeping the integrity of good, quality design. What goes into curating your specific aesthetic?
Our vision for Dowel Jones has changed over time, but our emphasis on colour and playful language has endured. So much of design can be over-articulated. We like to think sometimes we’re graphic designers who produce furniture, as so much of what we produce focuses on the graphic qualities of furniture and lighting. At the very beginning of the business we made the conscious decision to use colour throughout all of our pieces, we realised that the production costs would be the same to make a grey chair with a black frame, as it would be to make a pink chair with a neon green frame.
We feel a strong synergy between Pampa rugs and the Big Friendly’s emphasis on form and simple, striking design. How do you feel about the partnership?
Like with any good collaboration or partnership, there are always qualities of both groups visible. Prior to partnering with Pampa, we had not thought to upholster the Big Friendly pieces in linen, as we mostly use local wools. Having Pampa take the shape of the Big Friendly and select a soft and warm natural linen gives the pieces an entirely new personality.
We love to follow your progressive and playful socials, tell us about the relationship you have with your online audience and how you encourage engagement.
Up until 2019 we ran our social media much like any other brand, presenting new products, interiors, and projects we were working on. Once we were all stuck in our homes, the monotony of companies on social media became visible and there didn’t seem to be much authentic personality being represented. We made the decision to stop pretending to be the company, and instead be ourselves on social media, which is the truest representation of the business.
More often than not the best posts or stories we share have absolutely nothing to do with furniture and design in general, and are more aligned with day-to-day existence. We don’t plan or strategise what we’re going to post, but instead allow it to happen in real-time as it happens authentically (as we are real people and not one person called Dowel Jones as a lot of people assume). We like to think we’ve created a really pleasant space where people can also feel like themselves, and not be bombarded with regular social media advertising. Now if we ask people to send us a photo of their pet, you’re very likely going to see the maximum number (or as our people call them ‘ants’ – the dots get so small you can’t make them out anymore) of stories being posted of people’s pets. The key to our social media and more broadly our business has been the motto we came up with over a decade ago, ‘Anything but Ordinary’. Whenever we see a situation where we can look outside the ordinary, we will explore it!
CJ Anderson | In Focus
We love the childlike lens you apply to your work, playing with scale and materiality to create dynamic pieces. What can you tell us about your process?
My process is very informed by the world around me. I have 2 young sons and use the energy they bring into the world as an influence. I am also highly engaged in the making processes of all different types of materials, so when designing try and challenge the boundaries of how things are made.
How do you balance creativity and functionality in your designs?
Functionality comes quite naturally to me and my process, I am always trying to push the creative envelope whether that’s through the concept of my work or being creative and pushing manufacturing techniques.
Where did you find the inspiration for the Big Friendly and what do you think this design will bring to people’s homes?
The work I create looks at bringing the scale that children experience furniture to adults, this is seen as a highlight in the scale of the Big Friendly. In people’s homes, I feel the Big Friendly will add character as well as a piece that feels like a big hug.
What design trends are most inspiring to you at the moment?
I am really loving the use of raw metal at the moment and the way all materials are being left uncoated and allowed to patina!
Workshop Photos: Abigail Varney