Buster + Punch: Furniture Design’s Cooler Younger Brother

by Becky Hoh in Bespoke stories

Cool isn’t something you can buy, or learn, cool is something you just ‘have’.

It’s safe to say Battersea-based interiors brand Buster + Punch have successfully mixed that certain kind of innate cool, one that is usually associated with music or fashion, but this time it is exuded via interior products.

The company, who’s tagline is ‘Live with Conviction’, is the brainchild of architect Massimo Buster Minale, who first became a scholar at Cambridge University and later studying at the Bartlett School of Architecture. He was a key force in the design teams of both Foster & Partners and Richard Rogers before founding award-winning design agency Minale + Mann in 2001. He also has a self confessed obsession with metalwork, motorcycles and furniture, which led to Buster + Punch being launched last year from a small garage in the East End.

‘We started life making one-off custom pieces for rockstars in East London,’ describes Minale, ‘so we have always had an element of rock’n’roll in our products DNA, however we feel our real inspiration comes more from London as a city and the unique cultures that inhabit it.’

‘We find that with bespoke commissions, we can express ourselves a little more freely and introduce new techniques and materials that have been on our minds.’

Buster + Punch recently exhibited at Clerkenwell design week, with the masculine, raw and ballsy lighting and furniture products displayed in a dark industrial corner on top of what looked like Marshal amps. The brand identity is set by moody photography and fonts with a rock n roll edge and the stand was completely swamped.

The products themselves range from light fittings, furniture, leather jackets and the aforementioned motor cycles, all with a large sense of craftmanship and a creative bespoke outlook. There is plenty of raw metal material as Minale eloquently puts it, ‘We feel that the moment you lacquer a metal you have killed it’s soul.’ This and the warm woods then get finished in more interesting ways such as using whisky, olive oil and smoke.

The set product line includes two lighting pieces – Hero,  made from hand forged 3mm bronzed gun metal, solid knurled brass soaked in olive oil and matte rubber detailing The light pendants can be set in the round or left to hang through the centre and be finished with either teardrop or cabochon bulbs.

And then there is Hooked, a single light pendant, which can come with a small or large shade or is just as striking on it’s own, entitled ‘nude’.  The brass Hook secures into a rubber ceiling rose and allows the light to be raised and lowered at will.

There is also a beautifully made, luxury Whisky Bar, the ultimate in rock n roll furniture products, in fact entitled The Rockstar.

The bar is hand made in the UK from either solid walnut, blackened ash or oak. The quilted back panel comes in grey silk or black leather. To the side sits a knurled brass light fitting with a snake’s heat cage for protection (!) and the bar is opened from the top with two doors on brass butler hinges. The bar is then finished with custom brass buttons and our signature knurled brass furniture handles. It certainly pulled a crowd at CWD.

As well as the sturdy range of door handles in steel and brass, with a heavy resemblance to the knobs found on an amp or guitar, finally there is the Wingback armchair. This is, again, hand made in the UK from either American black walnut or blackened ash. Upholstered in grey silk or black leather pads, with satin brass side panels which also support the Hook light or other hanging reading lights.

All products can be modified in size and finish but the team, which now comprises cabinet makers and blacksmiths, often take on completely bespoke collaborations, from one-off solid gold light fittings to custom motorcycle commissions.

It is definitely something Minale relishes. ‘We use the bespoke process as an incubator for future trends and products,’ he says. ‘We find that with bespoke commissions, we can express ourselves a little more freely and introduce new techniques and materials that have been on our minds. We then cherry pick what works to inform our next seasons look in terms of products.’

A recent bespoke project was for the largest vintage guitar museum in the world, which is based in the North of Sweden in a town called Umea.

‘We used our current product line,’ explains Minale, ‘but finished them in classic ‘guitar’ sunburst finishes and metals, for example the lamp holders were finished in a special brass mix that was used in the infamous Gibson Les Pauls of the 60s.’

They are also currently in the process of building a 7m table which has two original vintage Indian motorcycles as support!

The team work from the Battersea showroom, which is separated from the workshop by full height glass, and they have just opened a showroom in Stockholm too.

Next on the agenda is a light bulb that Minale hopes ‘will change the future landscape of the naked bulb’ and also a limited edition range of Boots, in collaboration with London bootmaker Justin Deakin.

Buster + Punch have emerged onto the design scene, not only as a high end, innovative force but one that is definitely one that appeals to those with an edgier side.

‘We always design our products to be daring, refined and permanent,’ asserts Minale. ‘We see our products like we do a fine whisky, full of character and get’s better with age. We are inspired by fashion, music and those cultures that remain in the shadows of our society.’

In a world of earthy, pared-back, mid-century-esque trends and options this is the tattooed, punkier bit of rough you may have been waiting for. They make furniture design cool, and who doesn’t want to be in that gang?

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