David Moreland: Marketable Design
Through his own company and as head of 3-D design at Città, David Moreland designs everything from dining chairs and sofas to homeware accessories and ceramics. He explained to Michael Smith about his emphasis on minimal componentry, simplicity of form and manufacturing excellence.
Framed armchair: made from solid American white oak and eminently suitable for the residential and commercial markets. Photo: © David Moreland Design
Upon graduating with a major in 3-D design from Unitec, Moreland spent some three years working for David Trubridge’s studio in the Hawkes Bay. “I will always look back very fondly on my time spent steam bending and making David’s rafts that were destined for all parts of the world.”
Concurrently, Moreland designed and produced his Framed range of furniture, effectively his first design series. He would move on to become head of production at Simon James Design and eventually start his own business – David Moreland Design.
“Simon is quite simply one of the best we have, so I feel very lucky to have spent time with him and David, and learnt so much from them both.”
Moreland says a major motivating factor in establishing his own company came after he regained the rights to the Framed range – following the closure of the Eon Design store in 2008. “I was working for Simon at the time and he was keen to sell the range, so my company was created as a means to keep the product on the market.”
L dining table: available in a variety of sizes and finishes that make it “a versatile option for the home or workplace”. Photo: © David Moreland Design
In more recent times, Moreland has been working for design house/retailer Città. “I have been the head of 3-D design at Città for three years now. Initially they asked me to design a range of furniture, but that conversation eventually turned into an employment opportunity.
“Traditionally they had only sourced and imported furniture, but now they offer a complete range of pieces designed by myself and Nikolai Sorensen, with all the sofas and upholstery made in New Zealand.
“I get to design everything from dining chairs and sofas right through to homeware accessories and ceramics. We’re also working on some projects in collaboration with a few external designers – these are going to be really exciting and I’m looking forward to the results.”
Moreland is a great admirer of Scandinavian design – “A lot of it is quite minimal while still retaining a softness that has always been appealing. Their use of materials, textures and colours is always so well thought through and naturally beautiful that I’ve always been a fan.”
His emphasis on minimal componentry, attention to detail and product finish is exemplified by his streamlined S2 stool. “It started out as 100 per cent steel, and when I added an American white oak seated version it became imperative to create a seamless connection between the frame and seat – with no visible fixings. This apparent simplicity is often difficult to achieve, but I believe it gives the product a real grace that only a well-resolved piece of design can obtain.”
S2 stool: a simplicity of design that is often difficult to achieve. Photo: © David Moreland Design
The white oak is a personal favourite. “It has become an industry standard among interior designers and architects for the majority of their commercial fit-outs. And it makes sense to be able to pair, say, your dining table with another supplier’s dining chairs.
“It takes staining really well … and with all my furniture being made to order this makes custom colours and finishes easy to produce with great results.
“I also find walnut really beautiful. Its natural dark brown colourings give it a more traditional feel than oak and it finishes superbly. On the other hand, native timbers can be expensive, so price point is always an issue when contemplating wood choice for a product.”
Basis for success
Moreland says his design, manufacturing and production management experience serves him well in targeting his market and determining set-up costs for any new product. “And in all aspects of business, relationships are the key to success. I’ve been working with some of my suppliers for over a decade and there’s a real sense of trust built up.
“Specialist capabilities are also important and it pays to use the best. There are often cheaper options available but you get what you pay for. Furniture is similar to other consumer goods like clothes, electronics and homeware – you know when you buy something cheap that it isn’t going to last. I would like to think that you’re investing in a piece for the future when you buy something from DMD [David Moreland Design].”
Everything he offers is in full production with outsourced manufacturing, which has give him the capability to complete large commercial roll-outs – notably for Air New Zealand, the BNZ, AMI Insurance and ANZ. There is flexibility in terms of colour, size and materials, and occasionally specifications need to be altered.
“One example I can think of is a project for Air New Zealand. They were specifying my Framed armchair in their members’ lounges and we quickly realised that an airport is the harshest environment for a product bar none.
“I amended the design so the frame was not only dowelled and glued, but also bolted together. In this instance I finished the countersunk bolts with glued-in wooden plugs so the chair looked almost identical to the original design.”
Elevation tables: practical and robust design in dining, coffee and side table sizes. Photo: © David Moreland Design
Moreland says locally made design has a marketing advantage in that it’s mostly made to order and therefore customisable. “Whether it be size, finish or material, you can meet a client’s needs – something imported product can’t do. Dealing with an engineer in Penrose is far easier than a factory in Italy or China. Also, lead times can be flexible – in New Zealand a six-week lead time is acceptable and almost always faster than shipping something in from overseas.
“However when selling abroad you have to allow for shipping as well, so the lead time extends and the price goes up, which makes the process a little more difficult for the customer.
“These are the things you have to make the most of and be prepared to use to your advantage.”
He adds that our isolation makes exhibiting at international design/furniture fairs a difficult process. “The Milan fair takes about two days to get to … and becomes an expensive exercise very quickly. Companies like Resident, David Trubridge and Well Groomed Fox have been doing really well at these fairs recently so it is possible, but it is a lot of hard work. DENFAIR is a trade show in Australia that is really good and being closer to home is more achievable. My Australian retailer [District] exhibits at it regularly.”
Moreland relies on a tight network of manufacturers in New Zealand and Australia – and while the market for him is strictly Australasia at this stage, it’s one that he’s very happy with. “If you have solid, reliable design and good retailer support, you can comfortably run a successful business based in New Zealand.”
He says that, as with most businesses, you have to be offering something different or unique to remain relevant. “The furniture market is more saturated now than it has ever been and for me designing and producing everything in New Zealand is my point of difference.”