21 years of Koskela

2021 marks Koskela's 21st birthday, which has sparked a sense of nostalgia in the business. From humble beginnings between an eager young designer and former stock exchange lawyer, Koskela has blossomed into a design powerhouse with the ambition to be real change makers in our field. 

As we round out the year, we wanted to celebrate the milestones along the way, showing that even when you're small, you can achieve big things.  

#21 / 2000 / Koskela Is Born

May 2000 – Koskela is born. Two people came together, an interior designer with a passion for furniture design and a former lawyer working at the Stock Exchange who dreamt of creating a company that embodied their values. The motto for our company was enshrined “Follow your heart, trust your judgement, do it with joy”. It embodied our founders’ ethos and is still used today.

#20 / 2000 / Surry Hills Studio

The first article about Koskela appeared in @bellemagazineau, penned by the Design Editor Jean Wright, and photographed on one of his early gigs by Anson Smart who ended up working with us on all of our early shoots. Jean heard wind of Koskela after we had one hell of a launch party in our space we shared with a fashion designer in an old ragtrade warehouse building in Randle St Surry Hills, next door to the infamous Ding Dong Dang club. There were days and nights spent sanding floors and painting walls in preparation for the launch of our first collection. Many of the local Australian manufacturing partners we worked with then are still our partners today.

#19 / 2000 / The K Logo Was Born

Our first catalogue is launched with branding by Dean Hastie. The brief was to stand out from the crowd, we were an Australian minnow competing with the big names of international furniture design and needed to somehow get noticed. The branding won an AGDA award and the mark still looks pretty sharp today.

#18 / 2002 / Our First Photoshoot

“Sure why not take a van load of furniture out to Condobolin in Central NSW and photograph the furniture in paddocks on the farm”. Thanks to Todd Sheldrick who didn’t think the idea was crazy at all and came on board to photograph and film it. With limited budget but big dreams and ambitions, our first range and catalogue was launched.

#17 / 2002 / The Sydney Magazine Sydney's Most Influential People List

The countdown continues, as we find a new home and are listed in Sydney Magazine's Most Influential People list. Our founders had seen the building a year before we could afford to move in, every few nights they’d drive past just to make sure it was still available. The thought of quadrupling our rent to move in led to a few sleepless nights! Luckily for us, we managed to secure the space on the first floor of the beautiful Imperial Slacks Building in Surry Hills and it became our home for the next 6 years. It even helped earn us a spot in The Sydney Magazine Sydney’s Most Influential People list edited by Lisa Hudson.

#16 / 2004 / The Bond Project 

Built to house Lend Lease HQ, The Bond was the first 5 star rated Green Star building in Australia, utilising technology that hadn't been used before, like chilled beams instead of traditional air conditioning and naturally ventilated sunrooms. Designed by PTW Architecture and Interiors it generated 46% less C02 emissions than the average commercial building of its time and the exposed convict hewn sandstone rockwall and adjoining Winter garden still makes it one of the most beautiful spaces in a commercial office building to work in. We were lucky enough to have been awarded the contract to design and deliver a beautiful series of tables which also pioneered materials, finishes and techniques that hadn't been used before. It was the biggest workplace projects we'd delivered at the time - all made with our local manufacturing partners and delivered on time and on budget.

#15 / 2009 / Iconic Carriageworks Photoshoot

The beautiful multi-arts urban cultural precinct located at the former Eveleigh Railway Workshops in Redfern, Carriageworks, was the backdrop for our next photoshoot. The pictures speak for themselves – still one of the most beautiful shoots we’ve done. Photos by Anson Smart. The images were good enough for the Mika table to win the product category at the 2010 IDEA Awards Australia Design Review.

#14 / 2009 / Launch of The Quadrant Soft Sofa

2009 saw the launch of one of our most popular pieces. Still as timeless today as when it was first designed, it perfectly suits the Australian casual lifestyle with its ability to grow and change as your home does. The Quadrant Softs have been featured in homes and workplaces throughout Australia and even made it to Pinterest HQ in the US.

#13 / 2010 / Yuta Badayala [Beautiful Light]

2010 was the year we launched Yuta Badayala (Beautiful Light) our enduring lighting collaboration with the wonderful weavers of #ElchoIslandArts. Huge thanks to Brian Parkes who provided encouragement to our co-founder, Sasha, over the 3 years it took to realise the first collection and invited us to exhibit it at a sell-out show at Object Gallery. This first collection would not have been possible without Dion Teasdale who was managing Elcho Island Arts at the time, helping amplify the talents of the wonderful artists, many of whom we still work with today. This was the beginning of firm friendships and a collaboration which continues 11 years later– somehow surviving cyclones, a multitude of art centre managers, deaths and the births of children and grandchildren.

#12 / 2011 / Potts Point Pop Up

In October 2011, we had an unexpected little 6 month sojourn in Potts Point before the Rosebery behemoth was ready for us to move into. Funny how things work out, as it was actually a wonderful way for us to test our new concept in The Yellow House in Potts Point. Our temporary home came complete with a retractable ceiling and fish pond and an impressive history as a significant site for Australia’s contemporary art movement. It was originally an art gallery, before contemporary illustrator Martin Sharp inhabited the space in the early 1970s and began a collaborative artist’s movement called The Yellow House Artists Collective. Artists such as Brett Whiteley, George Gittoes, Bruce Goold, Peter Weir, Philip Noyce, Albie Thoms, Aggie Read and more collaborated and displayed work here ranging from paintings to sculptures, films and interactive art projects. Yellow Trace described our pop-up as “one of the most beautiful and “permanent looking” pop-up retail space I’ve ever seen”. Sometimes things all work out the way they were meant to, even if not going to plan!

#11 / 2012 / Rosebery is born

We knew the moment we looked at the Rosebery building after 9 months of searching that this beautiful, rather unloved 100-year-old saw tooth warehouse was indeed our perfect next home. Thankfully, not yet renovated it had lain empty for 2 years after the GFC hit and its paperbark-lined, wide, deserted streets were the perfect spot on weekends for learner drivers to practice reverse parking. Sounds like the ideal place to set up a purpose driven furniture and homewares store with our neighbouring restaurant and The Studio and The School by Megan Morton. We transformed a huge concrete parking lot into an outdoor dining space and edible garden, built and set up a restaurant, ran creative workshops, set up a gallery space and helped build a precinct of like-minded companies. It wasn’t long before Rosebery was declared by Monocle Subscriber as the next area to watch in Sydney. There were definitely many sleepless nights that went into building what we imagined, and we look back now and think about the optimism and courage it took to do what we did. But we did it - and even though there have been bumps in the road, we’ve loved the journey.

#10 / 2013 / Cockatoo Island Photoshoot

If you’ve ever been to Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour you’ve probably been as intrigued by its history and impressed by the scale of the cavernous buildings on the Island as we were. It’s Dharug name is Wareahmah. ‘War’ means women while ‘eahmah’ means land, suggesting the island may have been a site for women’s ceremonies. It is the largest of several islands that were originally heavily timbered sandstone knolls in the harbour and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognising its convict history. The beautiful convict-built sandstone buildings and the huge turbine halls constructed during the island’s shipbuilding and submarine building days in the war formed the backdrop of our photoshoot in 2013. A barge transported the furniture to the Island and we spent 2 days with Andrew Cowen shooting the furniture among the tunnels and buildings on the island.

#9 / 2015 / NGV Exhibition

Koskela with the weavers from Elcho Island Arts was one of 7 Australian designers selected to enter a significant body of work in the 2015 Rigg Design Prize exhibited at NVG Melbourne. It was an honour to be in the company of 6 amazing Australian designers. Tears were certainly shed by us and the amazing artists from Elcho when we walked into the area where our work was exhibited. It was breathtaking to see Yolngu woven work on such a scale and placed in a contemporary design context. A great honour and milestone.

#8 / 2017 / We Achieved Our B Corporation Certification

We achieved our B Corporation certification in 2017, joining the likes of one of our all-time idol companies, Patagonia. What is a B Corporation you might ask? B Corporations are companies that have been verified as being purpose driven and creating benefit for all stakeholders - people, planet, our suppliers - not just shareholders. We have a set of beliefs we aspire to: That we must be the change we seek in the world. That all business ought to be conducted as if people and place mattered. That, through their products, practices, and profits, businesses should aspire to do no harm and benefit all. To do so requires that we act with the understanding that we are each dependent upon another and responsible for each other and future generations. Sounds like the kind of companies we need more of doesn’t it?

#7 / 2018 / The Reflection Pods at Westpac

In 2018 we delivered one of our most inspiring projects to date at Westpac HQ in Sydney. The concept and design of the Reflection Pods was developed by Lucy Simpson (@gmiyay), a proud Yuwaalaraay woman and the Director of Gaawaa Miyay Designs. She conceived three immense handwoven structures to provide sanctuary in the bustling open-plan workplace. Geyer Design, who designed the Westpac fit out, approached Koskela to bring Simpson’s concept to life. Koskela designed the structures and artists from Elcho Island Arts and Milingimbi Art and Culture wove the steel frames. In total 21 First Nations artists worked on the project, harvesting the raw materials from the bush, treating them, and weaving by hand. The process took three months to complete. Now the centrepiece of the workplace, the Reflection Pods function exactly as intended while also being an incredible piece of art that celebrates culture and community.

#6 / 2019 / Ngalya

In 2019, to celebrate a decade of First Nations design collaboration, Koskela embarked on an ambitious lighting project with six Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art centres. Called Ngalaya, which is the Dharug language word for together, the project involved Bula Bula Arts, Durrmu Arts, Milingimbi Art and Culture, Moa Arts, Tjanpi Desert Weavers and the Ngarrindjeri Cultural Weavers. The lighting designs highlighted the incredible fibre artistry of First Nations weavers, who have embraced applying their traditional cultural practices to new and modern mediums. Ngalaya was selected from over 4,500 total entries from 87 countries to be in the top five shortlist for the Dezeen Awards 2019! Many of the lights are available as part of Koskela’s permanent lighting collection today.

#5 / 2019 / Climate Active Carbon Neutral Certified

December 2019, saw us take the first formal step of our carbon elimination strategy with our Climate Active Carbon Neutral certification. This is considered one of the most rigorous carbon neutral certifications in the world, backed by the Australian Federal Government. To measure our carbon footprint, we worked with Pangolin Associates, a fellow Certified B Corporation. After establishing an accurate measurement of our carbon footprint for scopes 1, 2 and 3 (meaning we included emissions generated by our business, the products we create and the transport used to get our products to customers) we chose two carbon offset programs: Aboriginal Carbon Fund, Northern Territory, Australia and Nuziveedu Seeds Wind Power Projects, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, India. This was just the very first step, stay tuned for more news about our emissions eliminations strategy. At Koskela we see ourselves as change makers and want to demonstrate how better business can create a better world.

#4 / 2019 / Learn Wins Design Files Award

The lack of locally made, environmentally conscious and design driven classroom furniture was the motivation behind Koskela's new classroom furniture venture, Learn by Koskela. We took out the Furniture Design Award at the inaugural The Design Files Design Awards! “The design is well thought through and the commitment to engaging children’s needs in schools is clearly evident,” commented one of the judges, Grazia Materia of Grazia and Co.

#3 / 2020 / Over $1 Mil Returned to Community

One of our greatest milestones yet, in 2020 we tallied over $1 million returned to First Nations organisations and communities since beginning our Social Impact work in 2009. Koskela is constantly striving to expand our commitment to celebrate the diversity of First Nations arts and cultures, forging new partnerships with NSW First Nations artists as well as strengthening long-standing relationships with art centres from throughout Arnhem Land. This is the just the beginning, as we grow so do our ambitions, proving that better business can create a better world!

#2 / 2021 / WorkHub Launch

For many of us, it’s the last working day of the year. Something the Koskela team is incredibly proud to have achieved this year is the creation of the WorkHub collection. Developed and launched in the wake of the pandemic, this suite of products is a game-changer for the workplace. Hybrid working is the new reality, where we split our time between collaborating in the office and focusing at home. WorkHub, which comprises of two ranges: the Boobook screens and Jacob booths, facilitates this new reality, transforming the office into collaboration hubs that make it easy to connect with colleagues remotely. Look out for these products in your workplace in future!

#1 / 2021 / Goodbye Rosebery

For the final day of the year we have reached the final milestone in our countdown of Koskela's major milestones to celebrate our 21-year history. It's fitting then, that #1 is saying goodbye to the Rosebery warehouse, our home for the past decade, which we vacated in October. We are so incredibly pumped for the next chapter, which starts with the opening of our new location in the New Year. We are SO CLOSE to revealing where, just a little longer to wait. In the meantime enjoy this carousel of some of our favourite moments in Rosebery. Thank you to our loyal audience for following us on this countdown journey and for sticking with us while we are without a storefront. We promise the wait will be worth it and heralds an exciting new era for Koskela!