The making of KittaColin

Like Butter designed the KittaColin for the ‘A Chair For Colin’ exhibition presented by Never Too Small as part of Melbourne Design Week 2022. Inspired by the classic laminate hallway telephone tables of the 1950s, it seeks to reinterpret and reinvent this familiar concept with a flatpack, tool-free, modular design and contemporary aesthetic. It’s also a design that takes that flexibility to the next level with longevity as the ultimate goal.

We sat down with Jem Freeman to discuss the origin story of this original piece of furniture.

Never Too Small: What interested you about the ‘A Chair for Colin’ brief?
Jem Freeman: I loved the hyper specificity of designing for an individual, game enough to name a design event after themselves… I’ve always been attracted to small-format living; even as an almost 40-year-old I still love building cubbies and engaging with small challenging spaces!

NTS: Talk to us about your design process with the KittaColin…
JF: I wanted to take the vocabulary that we had already developed with KittaParts and apply it to this new design challenge of a multifunctional seating piece. I’m very much tied to my tools and materials and the inherent challenges/constraints that they provide. Working within tight constraints is my comfort zone, informed by minutiae like the diameter of cutting tools or the thickness of a standard material. 

NTS: Can you tell us a bit about the materials and why you chose them, including the wool?

JF: We are doubling down on only using Australian-grown timbers as we transition away from imported materials. A desire to use remnant fabric and be informed by the colours and textures available in the leftover bin is an incredibly attractive idea in terms of letting the materials and processes speak through the piece.

NTS: What makes the KittaColin so well suited to small-footprint homes?

JF: It’s flexible and adaptable, it will grow with you, adapt to your life as you change, as your needs change in your domestic space, turn it into a bookshelf, pull it apart, and rebuild it into numerous forms and pieces of furniture.

NTS: We love the flatpack and tool-free assembly elements of KittaColin, was this specifically what you were setting to achieve when you started designing the KittaParts system, or more of a happy unintended result?

JF: Flatpack can be a dirty word at times, but when used responsibly, it is the future! We cannot afford to be shipping bulk volumes of half-empty cartons around the country; even when the courier fleet transitions to all-electric it’s still a form of waste.

NTS: Tell us more about your idea of ‘heirloom flatpack’ furniture…

JF: We are trying to design and make furniture that will last an absolute minimum of 10 years. More like 30 to 50 and beyond. Furniture can be designed for long-term use and adaptability to changes in the built environment, ownership and function.

NTS: Versatility, flexibility and sustainably seem to be threads that run through a lot of your designs and products, not just KittaColin – what draws you to these themes?

It’s our responsibility as makers, and consumers of raw materials to use those materials responsibly in a way that creates value for the end user whilst giving back to the environment that produces these precious resources.

NTS: Luke, on our team,  is jealous that you designed a chair for Colin. What can you design for Luke?

It’s a delightfully pretentious concept, but with the right approach and humour Colin pulled it off. Show us your stuff, Luke. Where’s your Panda head? No, I jest; call me.